After being in the restaurant industry for 15 years, Alexis Krisel and Kye Vatash, with some help from Alex Zilkah, decided to open Lil’ Birdie, a Sag Harbor fried chicken spot with a unique ambiance, while at the same time solving a problem that many Sag Harbor residents face.
“I’ve worked in restaurants here for most of my life,” co-owner and Pierson graduate Mr. Vatash said. “There aren’t any fast casual places here where you can eat, chill, and get good food for a reasonable price.”
Located off Division Street in Sag Harbor, Lil’ Birdie offers all natural and organic homemade fried chicken, grilled chicken, and falafel sandwiches with a unique selection of sauces at an affordable price.
The shop opened on July Fourth weekend, and is already making a name for itself as a Sag Harbor hotspot.
“The response has been unbelievable,” Mr. Vatash said. “We’ve been open for six days, and we’ve sold out every single day.”
Though the shop is small in size, it’s clear to anybody that the property radiates energy, laughter, and excitement, as the new owners’ goal is to serve people with not just great food, but what they describe as a one of a kind “experience.”
“When people come into our store, we get to be very much who we are, and we’re not restricted,” Mr. Vatash said. “For instance, if we were on Main Street, we might have to be a little more reserved, and here we can kind of yell across the kitchen, and yell at each other — if someone comes in and I’m working in the kitchen, we’ve gotta shout out orders, and talk to each other so we can make food faster.”
“We get people engaged and having fun — that’s the best way to put it,” Mr. Krisel added.
The decorations certainly add to the lively ambiance: a light up chicken logo greets customers as they enter the store, and a book titled “Cooking For Dummies” hangs from a wooden bookshelf.
“The menu, the ambiance, the atmosphere — everything was really made to reflect who we are, our personalities, and the experience we want to create,” Mr. Krisel said. “We decided to do this because we wanted to create an experience that was unlike any others. We were both sick of being in the restaurant industry, and if we weren’t doing this together, something that is completely unique and our own, I think we both would have stopped entirely”
Mr. Vatash and Mr. Krisel have been working together for the last five years, doing a series of event style projects together, though they had never worked in an actual kitchen together. The shop is run solely by the two of them, and their obvious chemistry is part of what makes the chicken spot so special.
“Instead of having more people, it’s just the two of us working here and we’re going to keep it that way,” Mr. Krisel said. “We just flow, sometimes we bicker, almost like we’re in a sitcom, but we work incredibly well together, we enjoy it, and the people that come into the shop enjoy it.”
Mr. Krisel has cooked for various restaurants in Brooklyn, but came across the idea to open up a restaurant in Sag Harbor when he moved out to be with his mom during the pandemic.
“While I was out here I just realized that there’s no affordable high quality food, and there’s no really good fried chicken,” Mr. Krisel said. “So I said to myself, ‘I’m gonna do this’ and I called Kye and said, ‘Wanna move back to the Hamptons? Let’s open up a fried chicken place.’”
Lil’ Birdie offers a $15 sandwich, side, and soda lunch combo, which Mr. Vatash explained is hard to come across on the East End, and in particular, in Sag Harbor.
“When I was working in Sag Harbor, I would go and get a staff meal, grab a sandwich that had been sitting in a fridge forever, and pay $15 for it,” Mr. Vatash said.
“We’re cooking everything to order,” Mr. Krisel said. “Instead of other places that do fried chicken and have it sit, or a lunch place where you can grab a sandwich but it was made earlier that day or the day before, here, in 3 to 5 minutes, you can have a custom made sandwich.”
The shop is open year round, six days a week, and is looking to add seating and get its beer and wine license in the near future.
“We’re really excited to bring a place like this to the community,” Mr, Vatash said. “The response has already been incredible, and we can’t wait to keep going.”