ADDRESS: 240 North Virgil Avenue, Suite 5, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Ever since trying a Szechuan hot chicken sandwich for the first time on a trip to D.C. about two years ago, I’ve been passively looking for another place that serves it. The “tingling numbing” sensation that you get with the Szechuan peppercorns is different than a hot sauce that might immediately start to set your tongue on fire. I came to prefer the dry seasoning for heat in a hot chicken sandwich over one with the chicken tossed in sauce.
As it turns out, chef Mei Lin, who I know from her appearance on Top Chef, opened up a fast-casual Szechuan hot chicken sandwich place near the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. I’ve had it saved on my list of places to go ever since I saw her promoting the opening of the restaurant on her Instagram page. This past weekend, my friend Emily and I drove down over there to give the place a try.
If you’re trying to spot the restaurant, keep an eye out for a yellow building exterior and a neon sign of a chicken head. Apart from that, there really isn’t much else to go on. There isn’t any text that identifies it as the restaurant, so if you don’t know what to look out for, you might miss it. Two other things to make note of for your visit is that the parking lot in front of the place is rather small and the restaurant is, at the time of this posting, operating as takeout only.
The menu is relatively straightforward: hot chicken sandwich with varying degrees of spice level, chicken tenders, sauces, sides (fries, pickles, or cole slaw), and then drinks. We both got a hot chicken sandwich each, where she went with medium spice level and I went with mild spice level.
We weren’t waiting very long before our name was called to pick up our chicken sandwiches (it felt like it was no more than maybe five minutes). Since it was takeout only, we decided to sit on a brick wall behind the car to enjoy our sandwiches. At first glance, it really is a massive piece of Jidori chicken thigh that is sticking out of the sandwich. If you look at the sandwich from a side view, it’s almost to the point that half of the chicken thigh makes up what is past the bun.
A nice crunch on the outside and moist on the inside, with a flavorful bite overall. That was my first impression as I took a bite of the large chunk of chicken protruding out of the sandwich. The Szechuan peppercorns helped to give it that bit of heat, and I think that was also complemented by some Chinese Five Spice as well. It was a spicy and savory flavor, with a really subtle sweet aftertaste. The mild heat level wasn’t too bad for me; I got a chance to try the medium heat level from Emily’s sandwich, and I think that would have been just the right amount of heat for me.
As you work your way down the sandwich closer towards the bun and the slaw, that starts to add in some more layers of flavor to things. The slaw itself contained cilantro as well as some pickled chillies, so that also helped to give some bites a bit of an edge. The one downside of the potato roll, however, was that it began to absorb some of the moisture of the slaw and got pretty soft. Perhaps toasting the bun a bit more or putting a light layer of sauce on there could help to provide a barrier to prevent that from happening.
With a pretty low-key exterior, Daybird is a place that you might miss if you were just walking by on the street, not knowing what it’s about. But with a pretty significant portion size and nice, layered flavors with every bite, this hot chicken sando is definitely worth taking a stop to check out and taste for yourself.
Let’s now take a look at the Daybird Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Szechuan Hot Chicken Sando **
Jidori chicken thigh fried and seasoned with Szechuan peppercorns, Chinese Five Spice, and other spices. Served on a potato bun with slaw.
And finally, here are my rankings for Daybird:
Food: 4.75 / 5
The chicken sandwich is good, with the seasoning providing a nice, layered flavor profile and the breading providing just enough crunch without being too dense. The chicken itself was also pretty moist as well; I think using the chicken thigh was a good choice in that regard.
Since the place is operating as takeout only at the moment, there wasn’t an experience to be able to rate their atmosphere on.
Service: 4.75 / 5
I felt like we didn’t have to wait long at all, probably no more than five minutes or so. Our two sandwiches were ready in no time.
Price: 4 / 5
The sandwich itself clocks in at $16, which was a bit on the high end in my opinion. It is a pretty large portion, but I thought that a price point of $13 or $14 would be more reasonable.