A 'leveled-up fast-casual' eatery, Half Bird is focused on the beauty of a simple but perfectly roasted chicken
The duality of man isn’t often a concept invoked by a great restaurant or menu, but Spaghetti on the Wall (SotW), a local hospitality company, knows exactly how to celebrate it.
SotW has a proven track record of elevated dishes in the form of multicultural comfort foods. Mixing elegant fusion with abject maverick ambition allows a deeper understanding that brings something delicious to every palate.
“Sparrow + Wolf [Neighborhood Cookery and Libations], our first restaurant, is based on the idea that I have both inside me,” said Brian Howard, chef and artist behind SotW hospitality. That he can feel the lightness, swiftness and delicacy of the sparrow alongside the animal ferocity of the wolf is where he finds balance. “There’s always a special convergence of various drivers within us that make us who we are as people and chefs.”
Enter Half Bird Chicken and Beer, the name is all at once a nod to the Sparrow half of Sparrow + Wolf, the pull of busy lives and a work-life balance, and also to the concept of a main menu item: half a roasted bird. The concept is found smack-dab in the middle of the Venn diagram that is fine dining, a casual neighborhood eatery, cuisine with a wide audience appeal, and uncomplicated, quality “fast” food.
‘So Cluckin’ Good!’
A “leveled-up fast-casual” eatery, Half Bird is focused on the beauty of a simple but perfectly roasted chicken, specifically, rotisserie chicken. According to their Facebook page, “You’ve had rotisserie chicken before, but not like this. Half Bird is your old favorite, jacked up on delectable flavors from around the world.”
Inspired in large part by his love for a good roast chicken, Howard harkens back to fast-food jobs he held as a kid and roasting birds at fine-dining mecca Bouchon. “It’s really a feeling of coming full circle. You work everywhere, you work in fine dining, and you take what you have learned and get back to your roots.”
He also wanted something healthier in a city with a glut of new fried chicken restaurants that have opened up over the past two years. “Fried chicken is good, of course, but I need more options, and I need some vegetables.”
Do not despair, crispy chicken lovers. They have a fried chicken sandwich on the menu: Half Bird’s nod to the wildly popular Nashville Hot Chicken will be the Spring Mountain Hot Chicken Sando using one of Howard’s favorite spices, the Sichuan peppercorn. Taskforce chef Anthony La Mantia has also crafted the “best damn chicken nuggets [Howard has] ever tasted.”
In fact, La Mantia “is the driving force behind the recipes at Half Bird,” testing concepts and ideas with the team at length to find just the right spices, flavor combinations and portions to make the menu approachable and scalable.
Both Howard and La Mantia want Half Bird to be something for everyone–employing their fine-dining quality standards to create something delicious that is still casual and widely enjoyed. “Whether it’s here in Las Vegas or the middle of Nebraska or somewhere else, we want to build on this, and bring it to as many people as possible.”
Those high standards mean that Half Bird is creating as much as possible in-house, including the bread, sauces, pickles and other condiments. If they can make it themselves, they will. It’s a matter of pride, say the chefs, knowing that they can stand behind every dish knowing exactly what’s in it and how it’s made. “It has to be the best,” said Howard, “and what [chef La Mantia] is creating is nothing less than chicken porn.”
In addition to the main event, the rotisserie chicken, Half Bird offers a vegetarian sandwich and some vegetable-based side dishes including a broccoli rabe.
Rotisserie Fries are also a featured menu item, with slow-cooked rotisserie potatoes roasted in the chicken fat from the rotisserie, cut into wedges and covered in an umami gravy. An homage to Howard’s hometown, Detroit, Michigan, where a south-of-the-border take on Canada’s poutine dish was enjoyed in the form of “gravy fries, but no cheese curds.”
Howard’s son Brix even has a menu item, Brix’s Mac and Cheese, made with furikake seasoning and SPAM, a concept tested and perfected in their home kitchen. He was so excited about the idea he wanted to tell all his YouTube followers. He does not yet have his own YouTube channel, but we applaud his ambition.
Family Dining, Evening Drinks and the Only Patio on Spring Mountain
Keeping with the something-for-everyone concept, Half Bird offers family dining. The food haven is a place to watch sports with friends, an after-work meetup spot, and take-out. Boasting two patios for enjoying the Las Vegas weather while you eat, Half Bird offers the only true patio dining on Spring Mountain Road. Television screens are positioned for sporting and other events. They also have mentioned a selfie station for those anticipated social media shares.
What about the beer portion of Half Bird Chicken and Beer? On offer are local craft beers, a focused effort to buy from and support local businesses, as well as other curated selections and wine and cocktails, all in cans.
Or, in the case of a half-bottle of champagne, served in red party cups. “It’s part of the casual concept, sure, but we are also focusing on keeping things simple and fast, uncomplicated. We want you to feel like you can go if you need to, take it with you.”
Bonus: No backup at the well of a bar on a busy night. Grab and go.
Speaking of grab and go, Howard speaks of “Chicken After Dark,” serving late-night eats out of a walk-up window facing one of the patios. Located in and among Chinatown plazas with a lot of bars, Half Bird is positioned nicely to serve snacks and to-go meals to pedestrians needing food after a night of drinks. He also mentions Japanese-style food vending machines and hot food lockers for pre-orders as possible additions.
Howard and his team, including partner John Anthony and chef La Mantia, are anticipating a Spring 2022 opening of Half Bird Chicken and Beer on the corner of Spring Mountain Road and Wynn Road.
Preview the Menu April 28 – May 1
Popping up downtown at Vegas Test Kitchen (1020 E Fremont St., #120), Half Bird will be offering a preview of its menu for four days, open to the public. From April 28 through May 1 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Half Bird will be serving their Classic Chicken Sandwich, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, and Vegan Chicken Sandwich, as well as offering their Cubano, Chicken Nuggz, Tingling Chicken Salad, broccoli, and the Rotisserie Fries.
Half Bird Chicken and Beer
3500 Wynn Road, Las Vegas, NV 89103;
on the corner of Spring Mountain Road
Read Lost Spirits 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Dinner: An Immersive Dining Journey