Shy Bird

By Jacqueline Cain · 04/13/2023    Cambridge (+) · American · Cafe · $$

Which came first, the (roast) chicken or the egg (sandwich)? We can’t say for sure at Shy Bird, an all-day rotisserie, bar, and cafe in Cambridge and Boston. Every meal ranks with equal import when it comes to quality of ingredients and easy-going hospitality. Whether we’re stopping by for breakfast and espresso to-go or sharing a bottle of Beaujolais over a whole-rotisserie dinner, Shy Bird meets the moment with inviting aplomb.

Both locations—in Kendall Square and South Boston—are part of neighborhood-changing redevelopment projects, and cater to the area’s young professionals by offering reservations, walk-in seating, plus seasonal outdoor dining. Emerald-green tiles, orb lighting, and a hanging wrought-iron bar in each restaurant go from sun-dappled by day to sophisticated sparkle. Bar-height communal tables are an awesome alternative work desk, while cozy booths and bar seats are perfect for a date or catch-up dinner with friends.

Shy Bird | Best Restaurants around Kendall Square

Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

Named for an ancestor of our familiar domesticated fowl, chicken certainly anchors the menu. It’s not only spit-roasted but also expertly fried, even at breakfast (see: Fried Chicken & Egg on a squishy Hawaiian roll with pepper jack cheese and hot honey). Weekend brunch, everyday lunch, and dinner add more poultry-centric sandwiches and salads to the mix, but Shy Bird is by no means limited to chicken. Arrive after 3 p.m. for wine bar-ready seasonal appetizers like Buffalo Mozzarella & Spring Fava pullman toast dressed with Lustau sherry cask-olive oil and Espelette pepper; and entrees such as Creamy Mac & Cheese and steak au poivre with irresistibly herby fries.

The all-day concept was hatched by Andrew Holden, who co-founded Branch Line in Watertown, a spot similarly known for juicy, herb-crusted poultry, with James Beard Award-nominated restaurateur Garrett Harker. So you might be inclined to suggest the chicken came first. But consider that, for more than a decade, Holden ran Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, Harker’s illustrious Kenmore Square hotel restaurant that (until its untimely closure in 2020) was busy from morning till night, basically 365.

“We tend to be a little humble in our restaurants,” says Holden, who works closely at Shy Bird with operations partner Eli Feldman, senior general manager Shaun Brideau, and executive chef Andrew Robinson. Consider it an unassuming confidence that has evolved—much like the eponymous junglefowl’s—over years and years of contact with a hungry humankind.

Where to Find the Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches in Boston

Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

As an all-day kind of place, Shy Bird has a range of beverage options, including food-friendly cocktails and mocktails.

Need a change of scenery for the workday? Both Shy Bird locations welcome workers. The Southie spot takes remote work to another level by offering access to a printer, magazines and newspapers, office supplies, and more.

Dip in to Shy Bird Southie on a “Tender” Tuesday to try experimental sauces and sommelier-selected wine pairings along with your SB Dunks. 

Must Haves

  • Buttermilk-brined bites of fried chicken are irresistible and great for sharing—especially alongside the full range of house-made dipping sauces, like honey mustard and chipotle BBQ.

  • The crunchy piece of poultry is moist and tender, but this sando is a star thanks to the generous application of pecorino ranch sauce. It also features fresh shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, and just enough pepper relish for a sweet-and-sour contrast.

  • Whether or not you make it a double-stack (or even opt for Impossible meat), this burger hits the right notes with a crusty edge on the patties, melty American cheese, and a signature sauce.

  • The brined, spice-rubbed bird is available by the half or whole (enough to feed at least two people).

Fun Fact

Before joining the Branch Line team in 2017 (and eventually opening Shy Bird), senior general manager Shaun Brideau was a barista obsessed with direct-trade coffee. No wonder the espresso program at Shy Bird is buzzin’.

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