People lined up as early as 7 a.m. on opening day and the lines continued through the weekend at chef Matt Horn’s ballyhooed new chicken sandwich spot Kowbird.
The question “Would you wait in line multiple hours for a chicken sandwich?” was already answered affirmatively during the Popeye’s chicken sandwich craze of 2019. Yet for all the hype (and yes I had one and yes it was good), that fast-food specimen was factory-farmed chicken on a substandard bun, seasoned with squirts from an industrial vat of alleged spicy mayonnaise.
The hype was higher for Friday’s opening new fried chicken sandwich spot Kowbird in West Oakland, the latest spinoff from Horn Barbecue chef Matt Horn. Horn’s reputation as a Michelin- and Food & Wine-honored chef preceded the opening, where on Friday people waited four hours in line, and started lining up prior to 7 a.m. before the 11 a.m. official opening.
“I had warned the team to be ready for lines, but we were in complete awe of just how many people came out to support,” Horn tells SFist. “We started to realize just how busy it was going to be when people started to get in line before 7 a.m., then we saw the lines wrap around for blocks, and it didn’t stop until 9 p.m. at night. We are just beyond grateful to our community and supporters.”
just as expected. that line is ridiculously long. kowbird, will have to try you another time.— ✨ s t a c k b e e z y ✨ (@STACKbeezy) January 14, 2022
(Staff tells SFist that on Saturday, people were lining up with folding chairs in tow at 9 a.m.)
You probably won’t wait for multiple hours any more now that the grand opening is out of the way, and Kowbird’s hours show they’re not even open on Mondays or Tuesdays anyway. And there are other early growing pains in effect. It was takeout-only this past weekend, with no indoor seating, and several of the very innovative-sounding side dishes are not yet available. That said, every restaurant I’ve visited in the last six months has a menu item or five that aren't available at that particular time.
But is the flagship chicken sandwich menu item worth the wait? Oh yes. Horn has a supplier providing a vastly higher quality of chicken breast that is immensely filling and flavorful. And this is not a “comeback” for Matt Horn, who now has two successful Oakland restaurants and a third on the way. But the wildly popular first weekend for Kowbird felt like a comeback, or at least a salve, for an Oakland food community that just lost Luka’s Taproom and Brown Sugar Kitchen in a span of just four days.
Related: Horn Barbecue and State Bird Chefs Named to Food & Wine's Prestigious Best New Chefs List [SFist]
Images: Joe Kukura, SFist