Whiskey Bird hatches sister business: Little Bird

A Whiskey Bird burger, plated at home, came with okonomiyaki fries. In the back: the Korean fried chicken bowl, Little Bird Caesar and a half-dozen chocolate-chip cookies. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

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A Whiskey Bird burger, plated at home, came with okonomiyaki fries. In the back: the Korean fried chicken bowl, Little Bird Caesar and a half-dozen chocolate-chip cookies. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Whiskey Bird launches Little Bird, with a focus on meals to go.

When the COVID-19 outbreak transformed the restaurant business, some owners resisted takeout. Others embraced it — and learned to love it.

Falling into the second category is Whiskey Bird, founded three years ago by General Manager Anthony Vipond and Executive Chef Chad Crete on a Morningside block that historically has been home to a vibrant dining scene (Alon’s Bakery, Doc Chey’s, the late Partners and Indigo). When the pandemic caused the partners to pivot from in-house dining to takeout-only in mid-March, “it was like opening a whole new restaurant overnight,” Vipond recalled.

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Anthony Vipond and Chad Crete are the founders of Whiskey Bird and a new takeout operation, Little Bird. Vipond is general manager; Crete is executive chef. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTINA KWAN

Anthony Vipond and Chad Crete are the founders of Whiskey Bird and a new takeout operation, Little Bird. Vipond is general manager; Crete is executive chef. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTINA KWAN

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Anthony Vipond and Chad Crete are the founders of Whiskey Bird and a new takeout operation, Little Bird. Vipond is general manager; Crete is executive chef. CONTRIBUTED BY CHRISTINA KWAN

For a stylish restaurant that began as a yakitori joint with a lively cocktail presence, the sudden switch meant new dishes had to be concocted that could travel well. The staff had to adapt to new roles, familiarize themselves with safety protocols, and learn to package food quickly and attractively.

There were glitches, naturally. But, several weeks in, the menu of fresh, appealing, wallet-friendly takeout dishes and wine slushies was such a hit that the owners decided it suggested a rebranding.

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Flanking Whiskey Bird’s Little Bird Caesar are the Korean fried chicken bowl (left) and the okonomiyaki fries. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Flanking Whiskey Bird’s Little Bird Caesar are the Korean fried chicken bowl (left) and the okonomiyaki fries. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

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Flanking Whiskey Bird’s Little Bird Caesar are the Korean fried chicken bowl (left) and the okonomiyaki fries. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Say hello to Whiskey Bird’s new hatchling, Little Bird. A permanent sister restaurant, with a takeout and neighborhood-delivery focus, Little Bird already has a menu; soon, it will add a designated carryout window to the North Highland storefront. The original Whiskey Bird will reopen when the owners deem it safe. Crete then will get to spread his chef ’s wings once again with more ambitious fare.

Because Little Bird takes flight at a time when many restaurant industry workers are jobless and hungry, the owners felt it important to give back. In announcing their new venture, Vipond and Crete said they will donate 1% of sales to ATL Family Meala new nonprofit designed to feed out-of-work hospitality-industry workers. Founded by Michael Lennox, CEO of Electric Hospitality Co. (Lady Bird, Golden Eagle, Muchacho), ATL Family Meal currently utilizes seven Atlanta restaurant kitchens to prepare and deliver 6,000 meals a week.

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The Korean fried chicken bowl from Whiskey Bird came drenched in a sweet sauce and paired with sushi rice and pickled veggies. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

The Korean fried chicken bowl from Whiskey Bird came drenched in a sweet sauce and paired with sushi rice and pickled veggies. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

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The Korean fried chicken bowl from Whiskey Bird came drenched in a sweet sauce and paired with sushi rice and pickled veggies. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Though Whiskey Bird has had to lay off about half of its 35-member team, it hopes to bring them back when operations restart.

Stopping by for curbside takeout Saturday, I could feel the special energy of Whiskey Bird. Good-natured staffers — you could see the smiles through the masks — approached my passenger window to get my name and fetch my order. Arriving early, I strolled the block with my dog, and noticed bags of takeout, labeled and ready to go, on a table by the front entrance. I even spotted the name of a friend on one package, and peevishly texted him that his Whiskey Bird dinner was ready for pickup.

Who says takeout can’t be fun?

Is there a restaurant you want to see featured? Send your suggestions to ligaya.figueras@ajc.com.

WHISKEY BIRD, LITTLE BIRD

Menu: The restaurant has kept its signature yakitori, sliders, tacos, and crispy Brussels sprouts with bacon, maple syrup and a fried egg, while adding snacks, a burger, a nontraditional Caesar salad and six full-meal bowls (Korean fried chicken, sesame-crusted tuna, skirt steak, pork tonkatsu, grilled salmon, veggie).

What's new: Tuesday and Sunday night family meals (fried chicken, chicken tenders, tacos, fajitas, classic Chinese-American takeout) and Friday date-night dinners for two, with a bottle of wine

Alcohol: beer and wine, including a popular frose (rose and pink-guava slushie) and Orange Dreamsicle (orange juice, coconut cream, sake and shochu), $8 a glass or $20 a quart

What I ordered: okonomiyaki fries; Little Bird Caesar; Korean fried chicken bowl; burger; chocolate-chip cookies. All the food was fresh and beautiful. Really loved the gourmet Big Mac riff, with two patties, cheddar, special sauce, pickles and slaw, and the Caesar, a global mixup of romaine, napa and purple cabbage, roasted corn, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, cotija cheese, avocado, crunchy wonton chips and spicy dressing. (It held up well for a next-day lunch). The Korean fried chicken was drenched in a sweet sauce and paired with sushi rice and pickled veggies — total keeper.Service options: curbside pickup and house-managed delivery to surrounding neighborhoods; does not partner with delivery apps

Safety protocols: follows standard CDC protocols; contact-free transactions

Address, phone: 1409 N. Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta, 404-600-5797

Hours: 4-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays. 4-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 4-8 p.m. Sundays.

Websiteeatwhiskeybird.comlittlebirdtogo.com.

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