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Fans of Salt Lake City’s Pretty Bird restaurant — and its Nashville-style hot chicken — have a few things to crow about.
On March 14, chef-owner Viet Pham officially opened a larger, second restaurant in Sugar House.
Located in the Plaza 7-21 strip mall — on the corner of 700 East and 2100 South — the remodeled space boasts a sleek, modern interior, new menu items, more seating and parking than the original downtown location, a takeout window and other pandemic-friendly amenities.
Let’s just say the 3,400 square feet of space looks nothing like its predecessor, Sampan Asian Cuisine.
With the opening of Pretty Bird 2, Pham said the original location at 146 S. Regent St., behind the Eccles Theater, soon will close temporarily for a remodel. Crews will turn the 525-square-foot location into a takeout-only eatery with a walk-up window similar to the one in Sugar House.
And if that’s not enough, Pham along with his wife and co-owner, Alexis Furkioti Pham, said, they plan to open a third Pretty Bird restaurant in Park City. While they wouldn’t reveal the exact location, they did say, it won’t be on Main Street.
Since opening the original eatery in February 2018, Pretty Bird’s hot chicken — available in a sandwich or as a quarter bird — has become legendary in Utah food circles.
Still, not everyone was happy with the limited menu. Pham said customers frequently asked for a boneless, white meat option and smaller portions for children. He has addressed both requests with the addition of chicken tenders.
Adults can enjoy the deep-fried strips inside a specialty roll topped with the house slaw — Pretty Bird’s version of a lobster roll. Kids can get just the pieces and dip them in one of the restaurant’s two new sauces: a white barbecue sauce (think ranch dressing) or a salted hot honey.
Just like the other chicken items on the menu, they come in one of four spice levels: mild, medium, hot and hot “behind” — the latter is a nod to the phrase used in kitchens when carrying hot food.
The restaurant has a limited-service alcohol license, which allows it to serve beer and wine.
While remodeling during the pandemic took longer than expected, Pham said it gave him time to adapt to new customer trends — such as a pickup window for those who have placed online orders.
Patrons who go inside also will place their order from a kiosk and pay with a credit card. The restaurant is cashless, and the drinks are no longer self-serve.
Unlike many hot-chicken restaurants across the nation that Pham said “have picnic decor and are loud and in your face,” Pretty Bird has a high-end feel with tiled walls (easy for cleaning), a quartz counter and original artwork.
There is seating for 45 diners inside and about 20 on the patio, but it’s limited right now to meet social distancing guidelines.
With an eye on expanding the brand, Pham said he bought “the Ferrari” of deep fryers. They use less oil and will cook four times more chicken than the fryers downtown.
The larger space also serves as a central kitchen and office for all the current — and future — locations of the wildly popular eatery.