Matt Horn opens Kowbird fried chicken restaurant in Oakland

Matt Horn opens Kowbird fried chicken restaurant in Oakland

It’s been an eventful past few months for grill master Matt Horn, who debuted a new pop-up burger and garnered back-to-back accolades, including the prestigious Michelin star for his Horn Barbecue restaurant. On Friday, Horn has more to celebrate with the opening of his second restaurant, Kowbird.

On opening day, Kowbird, a chicken-centric restaurant, will have three fried chicken sandwiches – Southern Bird, Hot Bird and Honey Bird – on its menu, along with wings, chicken and waffles, homemade lemonade and tea. Eventually, he hopes to add his own beehive to the site to produce honey that will be used for many of the foods listed.

Like Horn Barbecue’s, Kowbird’s menu is inspired by her grandmother’s home cooking. The caramel apple that appears on his dessert menu, for example, takes Horn back to his childhood.

Matt Horn's new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland.  Horn poses inside Kowbird.

Matt Horn’s new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland. Horn poses inside Kowbird.

Courtesy of Kowbird

“Caramel apples remind me of my grandmother,” Horn told SFGATE. “I remember as a kid I would go to her house, and I was only tall enough to see the height of the table, and I would always remember these shiny caramel apples. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it weren’t for the women in my life. I try to find ways to celebrate those who have given me a platform and a foundation.”

Kowbird debuts its first physical store two years after it first emerged in the Bay Area as a pop-up. During its inaugural event, Kowbird drew about 200 customers ready to sample one of the fried chicken sandwiches, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are owned by Hearst but operate independently).

Matt Horn's new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland.

Matt Horn’s new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland.

Courtesy of Kowbird

The restaurant opens at 1733 Peralta St., the former Pretty Lady restaurant, which closed last summer. Horn and his team kept some elements of the old restaurant, like the U-shaped counter and green tile, but the space has been refreshed with interior murals that pay homage to black farmers from the South, and the building’s façade has been redone. remodeled with a flashy new coat of paint and larger windows.

Kowbird was initially slated to open as a kiosk inside the Jack London Square food hall, which was meant to house several big-name restaurants until the pandemic delayed its opening. Horn secured the new Kowbird location last year, but shares that he similarly dealt with the postponement of his own restaurant when he faced some supply chain issues and delays with contractors.

Matt Horn's new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland.

Matt Horn’s new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland.

Courtesy of Kowbird

“We found challenges in terms of the permitting process and kind of jumping through different hoops,” Horn shared. “A lot of these companies and vendors are understaffed…so that really played a role. This may not be the ideal time for the opening, but I’m grateful the moment it happened because it felt more fluid.”

Horn is not new to facing obstacles when it comes to opening a restaurant. In 2020, snags getting city permits for an indoor smoker propelled Horn Barbecue’s opening for months. But the headaches are behind him, and while he hopes to manage two blocks of restaurants one within the other, Horn plans to split his time between the two businesses.


“Everything I’ve done has been around barbecue and fire, so being able to find another meal that’s a classic connects me back home,” Horn said. “Fried chicken is love, and it’s part of the soul of who we are.”

Matt Horn's new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland.

Matt Horn’s new restaurant, Kowbird, opens January 14 in Oakland.

Courtesy of Kowbird



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