Shopping for Christmas presents and sundry items for holiday gatherings can be exhausting. Between parking, crowds and lines, it’s challenging to stay in the Christmas spirit. On top of that, going to social luncheons and work-related cocktail parties is draining in its own way. You may be saying to yourself about now, “If I eat another cocktail meatball or Saltine and cheddar I might cry.”
The answer to party food fatigue is a healthy square meal. The answer to shopping stress is a meal you don’t have to prepare. And the answer to crowded malls is a meal easily picked up and brought to the comfort of your own home. Therefore, I prescribe Glendale’s ROCKBIRD, an easy way to get your veggie- and protein-rich, reasonably priced square meal. It’s simple to procure, tastes good and looks decent on a plate in case you want to mildly impress some out-of-town guests.
ROCKBIRD is a mashup of the term Rock Cornish Game Hen and, I suppose, Bird. While modern hybridized Rock Cornish Game Hens are not game birds, not from Cornwall, and not necessarily hens, they are adorable, succulent young chickens with a strong meat-to-bone ratio. They take brine well and barbecue up even better. At ROCKBIRD, dozens of brined game hen halves are constantly being fire grilled then served up with dipping sauces and a bounty of sides.
First off, don’t be confused by the name. Though open only a couple of months, until a week or so ago, ROCKBIRD used to be called The Yardbird. (I think an unrelated Yardbird in Las Vegas required the name change.) The Glendale eatery still uses the old name in their website (theyardbirdla.com) but most of their signage bears the new name. Yardbird … ROCKBIRD … you’ll find both on an Internet search.
I’ve been a big fan for years of the Lebanese cuisine of Daniel and Chris Skaf, ROCKBIRD being the newest concept by the brothers. They’ve left the stellar shwarma- and kabob-making to the cooks at their North Hollywood and Glendale restaurants and entered the fast casual, take-out world with ROCKBIRD. According to their website, they still adhere to traditional Lebanese hospitality and tradition through food but now via a more youthful project. Daniel and Chris carry on the Lebanese tradition of fresh, vibrant salads and meats cooked over an open fire at ROCKBIRD but with more modern sensibilities. In the end, though, the food still tends to bring families together at a communal table, as it did for me. Perfect for the holiday season.
(Just a side note, Skaf’s Lebanese Cuisine had a third location on Brand Boulevard that sadly burned down a few years ago. They are in the process of rebuilding it, creating a restaurant three times the size of the old one.)
It is possible to eat in at ROCKBIRD but it’s really built for take-out. Quite honestly, I can’t say the Skaf family fully understands the importance of ambience at any of their restaurants. But it’s really about the fresh, deliciously seasoned food anyway. The crispy-skinned hens come with your choice of garlic herb sauce (my favorite by far), chipotle honey lime or barbecue.
As far as the sides go, I’m compelled to list them in order of personal preference: Fried Cauliflower with its beautiful red spice mix; Cali Slaw with shredded cruciferous veggies, cranberries and rice wine vinegar; Spicy Garlic Potatoes with sauteed garlic and cilantro; Fried Brussels Sprouts with balsamic and red onion; Green Beans with garlic butter and chili flakes; Bowtie Pesto Pasta with chopped arugula, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts; Kale Tabbouli with mint, lemon and pepper; Mediterranean Salad with super fresh cukes, tomatoes and a kick of raw jalapeno; Spicy Corn with a bit of smoke; and a rather simple Red Cabbage Slaw. We didn’t try the mac and cheese or the mashed potatoes, but they’re bound to be good. A half hen plate with two sides is $12, a whole hen plate is $15. The portions are enough for one or two people but not many more, so feeding a family of five could set you back quite a bit. You can get extra sides for $4 or $8 per serving to pump up the volume.
My final take is that the Cornish hens are a little gimmicky. While undeniably tasty, they’re not different or special enough to warrant the price difference. I feel like the only reason they became popular is because they look cute on a dinner plate. But I think I’d rather pay a similar price for a full sized chicken and feed the whole family. Still the plant-based sides are delicious and full of vibrant color. Don’t we all need more of that to boost our energy and keep away the cold viruses this season?
ROCKBIRD is tucked away in a mini-mall at the corner of East Colorado Street and South Chevy Chase Drive in Glendale. It has easy parking and is quite accessible if you’re shopping at the Americana, the Galleria or anywhere in Glendale or Eagle Rock. Why not call your order in on the way home, stuff it into the car with your other purchases, and carve out some time to have dinner with the family tonight?
1147 E. Colorado St., Glendale | (818) 484-7654
yardbirdla.com | No Alcohol/Major Cards