Southern comfort food comes to Claremont
by Andrew Alonzo | [email protected]
Over the past few weeks, Chef Phil Lee has woken up early in the morning at his Los Angeles home to make the 33-mile drive to Second Street in Claremont Village. Every time he’s made the sometimes 45-minute commute, Chef Lee, founder and owner of Honeybird, has taken one step closer to making his third joint of southern comfort food.
After months of work and reconfiguration of the old vegan restaurant that once occupied the space, Lee’s latest location, Honeybird, is set to finally open in Claremont on Friday, October 8.
âSouthern hospitality and southern comfort foodâ¦ that’s kind of what Honeybird isâ¦ Fried chicken and all the classic southern sides like mashed potatoes, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, cookies and stuff like that – the nine yards, âChef Lee said Tuesday.
And Honeybird offers all of this and more, including their public favorite Banana Cream Pies. While his restaurant specializes in crispy fried chicken, Chef Lee insisted that the southern restaurant will have something on the menu for every Claremonter to enjoy.
“If there’s a group of four people coming in, some of them might be like ‘dude, I’m all for fried chicken’, and we might have a vegan or a vegetarian. [among them], we have these salads that say ‘Hey you all included too,’ âsaid Chef Lee. âWe also try to cook with the seasons, so we will have seasonal salads and fresh sides. We also have sandwiches, because that’s one thing.
Everything on the menu is made fresh and from scratch daily by Honeybird’s kitchen staff and incoming chef, Daniel Gee, and the chicken is locally sourced from Los Angeles Poultry. Chef Gee said Honeybird’s home location in La CaÃ±ada alone can process up to 2,000 pounds of chicken per week.
Fried chicken has played an important role in Chef Lee’s life. He shared two childhood memories that revolve around him and his family eating the fried bird.
The first memory is when he first realized that his mother was making fried chicken for dinner at home, which blew his seven-year-old child away. “I was so used to going to KFC, Popeyes and places like that and I remember when my mom did it, it was a bomb!”
The second memory was when he took a trip to South Korea to visit his grandmother and the couple went out for a bite to eat. Stopping at a local poultry vendor, a young Lee saw a live chicken getting ready and frying in front of his eyes. âIt was a bit traumatic, but at the same time, it was pretty cool because I saw the whole process from start to finish and him toast it. And again, it was like, ‘This is so good,’ and it’s so fresh.
âThese two things have always stuck in my mind when it comes to fried chicken. But I didn’t know when I was 10 or 11 that I wanted to make fried chicken.
After graduating from cooking school in 2005, Lee began working in the restaurant industry, training with some of Los Angeles and surrounding area’s top chefs for a decade. When it came time to make a name for himself in the restaurant scene, he said something just spoke to him about southern comfort food.
âI wanted to be my own man and make food that was relatable. Especially in times like during COVID, when people want comfort food. Whether you are happy, sad, or any spectrum of emotions, comfort food is comfort food. That’s how we ended up landing on it, âhe said. âConceptually, whenever I think of Honeybird, I think of my own family and kids, like where would I like to go out to eat, and it’s always that local neighborhood restaurant.â
Lee opened his first Honeybird store in La CaÃ±ada in 2016, five minutes from where he grew up. Its second location at the University of Southern California’s Village came two years later.
Lee’s owner and his wife, a frequent Claremont customer, had urged him to expand Honeybird to the east, but it wasn’t until he actually visited the town himself that he saw the potential. from a third location. He said the classic, nostalgic city vibe reminded him of his first location and was what ultimately sold it to the area.
Knowing that Honeybird has competition in the fried chicken department around Claremont, Lee said the personalities of its staff and the great food and setting of the restaurant are what sets it apart. âFor us, we try to treat customers like guests, like inviting them into our home,â Chef Lee said.
Lee wants her stores to maintain their small town, mom and pop vibe, and not only serve great food with a great attitude, but also give back to the community by organizing fundraisers and supporting schools and communities. local foundations.
“We want to be woven into the fabric of a communityâ¦ We want to be like around [for a long time], “he said.” ‘I grew up on Some Crust’ people would tell us and yeah it would be cool to be here long enough where it’s like … ‘I remember going here in as a student and now I’m bringing my kids here. âThat’s hope.
For more information, contact the store at (909) 447-2010 or visit www.honeybirdla.com. Honeybird is located at 175 North Indian Hill Boulevard, Suite 102A, between I Like Pie Bakeshop and Jamba Juice.