Fast-casual is sweeping the dining landscape across the country, though seemingly nowhere more aggressively than San Francisco. Now hometown chef Jonathan Waxman has joined the fray, which is increasingly stocked with rotisserie chicken and delivery-only efforts. Luckily, Waxman’s J Bird is really just another way for diners go get their hands on his signature roast chicken dish, which is served in all of his restaurants.
J Bird is Waxman’s first true fast-casual effort, though it’s something the team has been wanting to do for a long time, culinary director Travis McShane told Eater. With the closure of Waxman’s for remodeling, it made sense to test the concept next door, taking over part of the former cafe space and using the back of the house infrastructure that’s already in place; though it’s a pop-up in some sense, it could stay in perpetuity.
Designed by Jon de la Cruz (Leo’s Oyster Bar), J Bird features a small interior with a few high-top tables, and a cafeteria-style line where customers can choose their meal components and pay a cashier. Custom, multi-colored gingham will adorn all tabletops and the walls. Meanwhile, the main seating areas are located on the patio, and in the “rosé garden,” a soon-to-be tented outdoor enclave filled with plants and string lights.
The menu is short and sweet, and focused on the bird. Chicken comes two ways: half or whole roast JW chicken, or fried thighs ($3 each). The chicken is marinated in a brine of buttermilk, hot sauce, and herbs overnight, then roasted or battered and fried. Waxman’s classic kale salad is on the menu, as well as rotating seasonal sides like a cold farro salad with apricots and almonds, roast summer vegetables, and a cherry tomato and melon salad with feta. The best deal is the “picnic basket,” with a whole chicken roasted or fried, with two hot and two cold sides for $35. And for dessert: a seasonable cobbler, brimming with fruit and topped with crunchy crumble. See the full menu below.
Everything will be available via Caviar and Postmates, naturally, since roast chicken is the hottest delivery item of the summer in San Francisco. There’s even talk of a “chicken valet” for pickup, once Waxman’s reopens.
At opening on August 8, hours are tentatively 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday, and 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.