Love Bird was one of those rare pandemic silver linings—a small, roadside fried chicken shack on Route 209 in Accord between a tire shop and a timber lot that quickly became the talk of the town.
When Brooklyn-based caterer Holly Sheppard's wedding season dried up in 2020, she relinquished her kitchen in the city and retreated to her house upstate. Eventually, she rented a building on Route 209, most recently the casual burger spot Mama Boyz, to serve as her new base of operations for her company Fig & Pig Catering. Yet, mid 2020, in-person events were largely still suspended.
"I thought, 'Well, what am I going to do up here?'" Sheppard recalls thinking. Her event planner suggested she revive Love Bird, the fried chicken pop-up Sheppard had done years earlier in Brooklyn. It was a relatively easy lift to get going. Sheppard put together a menu, bought an ad on Instagram, and people started coming in droves.
The chicken was crispy and the timing was right. "At that time, lots of people were moving upstate, there weren't a lot of things open, and it just sort of took off," Sheppard says. "It was just me and two other people doing it, it was kind of crazy. Eventually we thought, 'Maybe we should keep doing this?'" They slowly added to the number of picnic tables out front as the payroll got longer and so did the menu. All of a sudden, they had what Sheppard calls a "real restaurant," but without any of the reserve funds, clear plan, or even the original intention to do so. When wedding season came roaring back with a vengeance in 2021, something had to give.
"There were so many people waiting to get married. It was too much to do both," Sheppard says simply. She shuttered Love Bird with a promise to do regular pop-ups. "The community was kind of devastated," she says. "Like, God—fried chicken, people get really emotional. It was awful closing it." The pop-ups never materialized as the 2022 wedding season proved to be even wilder than the year before.
A Fried RevivalBut last month, as the chill set in and the rhythm of weddings died down, Sheppard launched a five-week revival of Love Bird, running through December 17. "I have an amazing team of chefs this year and I want to keep them busy," she says. "Before, I just had too many things going on. But now, I have great staff and we can really focus on all the things that make Love Bird awesome."
Fans of Love Bird will be happy to hear that the original menu is largely back and intact. The all-star is the three-piece fried chicken box ($16) served with cornbread and hot honey. The fist-sized, deboned hunks of chicken arrive at the table still crackling hot, and it's hard not to burn your tongue as you devour the juicy meat with its perfectly crunchy exterior.
This year for the first time, Love Bird is also offering a grilled, boneless half-chicken option ($20), with grilled pita and a special sauce. ("It is just so good," Sheppard says of the new offering. "Me and my other chef are freaking out about how good this grilled chicken is.") Just a hint of char on the exterior imbues the meat with a smokey flavor. It's a bit more expensive, but could easily feed two with a side.
Or, opt for a sandwich. The Southern breaks no molds but offers Sheppard's take on the classic, with fried or grilled chicken, remoulade, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and white sauce ($15). There is also the One Night in Saigon, featuring chicken, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, cilantro, a spicy-sweet Vietnamese chili sauce, and white sauce ($15). The Saigon Bowl offers a deconstructed take on the same sandwich over a bowl of garlic rice. Choose from crispy tofu or fried or grilled chicken ($15).
To round out your meal, pick from the a la carte list of classic Southern barbecue sides like mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, sticky Brussels sprouts, and smoky cheddar grits ($6). To the okra-averse: leave your biases at the door. Sheppard's grilled okras look like blistered shishitos and come with a creamy miso dipping sauce that will convert even the most reluctant of believers. If you want something green to balance that fried food, the house salad leans Greek, served with feta, cucumber, cherry tomato, red onion, and champagne vinaigrette ($15). Top it with tofu or chicken to turn it into a proper meal (+$5).
If you forgot your appetite at home, shame on you. Still, the snacks section offers two affordable, unpretentious bites: deviled eggs with tin mustard, dill, and lemon ($6) and a classic Southern pimento cheese spread served with Ritz crackers ($7).
Of course, you'll need to wash it all down. With a temporary liquor license, Sheppard is able to serve beer, wine, and spirits. There are wines by the glass, a margarita, and a bourbon sour (all $8) as well as canned soda and beer. And don't skip dessert. The chocolate chip cookie is as big as your face and does honor to its name, salty and sweet, with a crispy edge, and just the right amount of give in the middle ($3). ("Chocolate chip cookies and fried chicken are two things I put a lot of research and experimentation into," Sheppard says. It shows.) There are also double chocolate peanut butter cookies ($3), chocolate cupcakes ($4), and an indulgent banana pudding topped with lemon wafers ($7).
In the future, as the team gets up and running, Sheppard hopes to add back pork belly bao buns and other favorites from the blue plate specials program she ran at Love Bird previously. "I want to be super organized before I add anything past what we already have," she says.
For the Love of ChickenLove Bird exclusively serves hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken from Pennsylvania-based Free Bird. The fried chicken is brined, twice-dredged in flour, and soaked in buttermilk. "That chicken goes through a lot of steps before it hits the fryer," Sheppard says.
Growing up in the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida, Sheppard ate a lot of fried chicken. Her truck driver father called himself a "fried chicken connoisseur," and claimed that the best he'd ever had was from a place in South Florida. "He brought it home one day, and I thought, "Uhhh...I can do better than that," Sheppard recalls. "Fried chicken is like putting a burger on your menu—there is no point doing it unless you do it really well. I also love chicken. So much. You can so often have mediocre chicken. And I think we make some pretty damn good fried chicken."
The interior of Love Bird feels a lot like someone's house. Aside from the open kitchen with its oversized hood and sizzling fryer baskets, there is a bright orange couch with coffee table, a six-seat communal table, and another four-top next to a tall bookshelf of cookbooks. If you're lucky enough to arrive in a lull, you can snag one of these indoor spots, and there are a couple of picnic tables on the porch, for those willing to brave the cold, but this is largely a take-out business. Call ahead or order online to have your chicken waiting for you.
Love Bird will pop up in Accord through December 17, with another stint tentatively planned for late winter/early spring. Current hours of operation are Wednesday and Thursday, 4-8pm, and Friday and Saturday, 12-8pm.
4728 Route 209, Accord