The new fast-casual Las Vegas restaurant is now open
The long-awaited Half Bird Chicken and Beer opened Monday, August 8, supported by a large contingent of local chefs and foodies alike. Success seems a foregone conclusion given the first day; they were sold out before posted closing hours.
Even before the official 11 a.m. opening, the restaurant was filling fast with customers in and out of the dining room, some checking out both patio spaces available, one on each side of the building. The dining room is bright and inviting, surrounded by large windows, with a mainly red and white theme accented with black, metallics and matching neon lights. The overhead lighting is white neon inside red, chicken-feet shaped lamps.
The music is vibrant and a “selfie station” and both bathrooms are decorated in bright and upbeat colors, lighting and accents.
A cashless business, the restaurant offers guests two ways to order: from a touchscreen at the counter or online via QR codes found on each table. Our order was confirmed at 11:00:53 a.m. and the kitchen was already buzzing with activity.
At the helm are chef Brian Howard, business partner John Anthony and taskforce chef Brian Lhee. Half Bird’s pedigree is appreciably strong given the team and their background. Chef Howard has been called the Most Ambitious Chef in Las Vegas and his Sparrow + Wolf Restaurant—located just down Spring Mountain Road from Half Bird—is proof positive of his creativity and dedication to his craft. All three men were in the kitchen and at the counter on Monday.
Across the joy and celebration of the day, there was a shine of the bittersweet. Chef Anthony “Tony” LaMantia, Howard’s right-hand man, a well-known face among the Las Vegas culinary world, taskforce chef for Spaghetti on the Wall Hospitality, and a centerpiece to the building of Half Bird and much of the menu, died suddenly on June 5.
LaMantia touches are all over the menu, including the “best [damn] chicken nuggets” Chef Howard has ever had.
Speaking of food, here is everything we ate and drank on opening day:
- The main event, the Half Bird: Brined for 12 hours in oil with lemon, garlic, thyme, Sichuan peppercorns, coriander, and other herbs and spices. We ordered half a rotisserie chicken with choice of dipping sauce—we chose the scallion ginger. It is rotisserie cooked for over an hour for a juicy, crispy and delicious meal.
- Butcher’s Wings: large wings with tips, brined and cooked as above and super crispy.
- Nuggs: No sauce needed for these tender, savory, spiced-but-not-spicy flavor bombs. (That said, get all the sauces. We were partial to the Green Curry Ranch, Ginger Scallion, and Yuzu Hot Honey.)
- Sandos include the Classic Chicken, the Spring Mountain Hot Chicken with Asian spice flavors, and the surprisingly meaty No Bird, a vegan take so good that this carnivore thought she got the wrong sando.
- Broccoli Rabe: Chili crunch and garlic give this perfectly cooked veg a toothsome, bright, slightly spicy, crunchy taste.
- The Rotisserie Fries with gravy are a lesson in umami flavors, and Brix’s Mac n’ Cheese–a creation of Howard’s son, Brix–is a celebration of spam and furikake. PRO TIP: Add the chili garlic crunch sauce for a revelatory bite.
- Tingling Chicken Salad: That slightly spicy, numbing sensation is called “ma” and comes from Sichuan peppercorn. A delicious mix of salad, slaw and pulled rotisserie chicken.
- The Shiso Lemonade is a tad sweet but not cloying, fresh and tart and the shiso leaf gives it great herbal notes.
- The Cockfight Pilsner, a collaboration beer made with local brewery HUDL in the Arts District, is a nod to the brine used for the chicken: coriander, sichuan and other herbs and spices. Great out of the can or in a cup, we found it refreshing, light and flavorful.
Half Bird Chicken and Beer
3500 Wynn Road
on the corner of Spring Mountain Road