The owner of the uber-popular Pretty Bird restaurant — which critics say serves a mind-blowing fried chicken sandwich — will open a second Salt Lake City location later this year.
The new restaurant, in the retail development at 700 East and 2100 South, will provide more dine-in space than the downtown shop at 146 S. Regent St., said chef/owner Viet Pham.
With only 16 seats inside, the original Pretty Bird, behind the Eccles Theater, usually has long lines, and it can be difficult to find a place to sit. Of course, that’s part of its popularity.
The second Pretty Bird location will replace Sampan Asian Cuisine, which, after nearly three decades in business, will close at the end of July. Owners Peter and Mingmee Sum have been in a dispute with Steve Dahlberg, the landlord of the Plaza 7-21 strip mall, over the move.
Dahlberg, president at The Kissel Co., said in an email that “Plaza 7-21 has lived up to every covenant of the lease and has always attempted to accommodate the needs and concerns of Sampan as expressed by the lessee, Peter Sum."
But, he added, “it is now clear that not everyone was on the same page.”
The company is looking forward to having Pretty Bird in the shopping center, he said. “Pretty Bird will offer our guests unique, delicious and modern food in what will be an exciting new location."
Pham said he was unaware of the dispute until after he signed the lease for Pretty Bird.
“I’m empathetic and have tried to put myself in their shoes,” he said. “I come from an immigrant family, too, and know what it’s like to run a mom and pop restaurant.”
Pham said he hopes the Sums can move into a new location and that Pretty Bird can “come up with something to help them.”
After Sampan vacates the 3,400-square-foot space, it will be gutted and remodeled.
About a third of the building will be used for dining, Pham said. The rest will be for Pretty Bird corporate offices, a commissary and a catering kitchen for large orders, “which we haven’t been able to do in the past.”
The menu will feature Pham’s Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich and a quarter bird which are available in four levels of spices: mild, medium, hot and hot “behind” — the latter is a nod to the phrase used in kitchens when carrying hot food.
He plans to add two additional items “that are going to be game changers,” he said. While Pham wouldn’t reveal the items, he promised that “when you see them, you’ll say, ‘Why hasn’t someone done this before?’”
Once the new Pretty Bird opens, Pham plans to put a walk-up window at the Regent Street space and turn it into a to-go only shop with online ordering — a model that has helped it survive during the coronavirus pandemic.