Nashville hot chicken brand Fire Bird to take over dinner menu at East Long Beach cafe

Long Beach’s love of Nashville hot chicken—be it the opening of our first hot chicken shop, Jay Bird’s, or hosting Nashville fried fowl royalty like Kim Prince for a popup at Beer Belly—is only going to continue to grow: Fire Bird, a brand that has been slowly growing out of a Long Beach home kitchen, will take over dinner, daily at East Long Beach’s Delicious Crepes Cafe, July 6.

Like many people who discover Howlin’ Ray’s or Kim Prince’s Hotville Chicken, Thyda Sieng and her husband Chet were immediately taken to a new food space of ecstasy. Layers of saltiness and sweetness seamlessly blended with smokey notes and, most notably, a heat that causes a sublime mixture of suffering and deliciousness for its consumers. Like the throngs of followers chasing Howlin’, Thyda and Chet were immediately devout believers in the almighty Nashville Hot Chicken.

But for Thyda, there was also something else, something that wasn’t immediate but, as her meal progressed, began to develop. The experience of chowing down on some Nashville hot chicken deeply reminded her of her Texas roots.

“I’ve always said I’m a California girl—most of my life has been here in Long Beach—but I have a Southern soul,” Thyda said. “Eating that chicken that day reminded me so much of what I love about the South, my home in Texas, and food in general.”

Chet (left) and Thyda Sieng (right) of Fire Bird.

For Thyda, food is personal. Her father, once a cook aboard the Queen Mary, brought the art of making food into the home, instilling in her the belief that breaking bread is one of the easiest ways to connect humans. This translated into a love of food’s history, and the creation of Nashville hot chicken is no exception.

The story was first relayed to me by Kim Prince, fifth-generation niece of André Prince Jeffries, the matriarch behind Nashville’s iconic, James Beard Award-winning Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, and has been told thousands of times across generations: Thornton Prince got into a quarrel with a lover, causing her to dump what she thought was an unsavory amount of spice into his chicken rub. Ever the Southern lady, she made him a meal and, come a few minutes after using it, his mouth was sweltering but his palate was forever changed.

“I fell in love with this story of a woman who, scorned for sure, was still able to cook up a meal for the man who wronged her—it was like a true display of Southern charm and contempt: cook the man his food and make sure he won’t forget it when it comes out,” Thyda said with a laugh.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, Thyda’s food will include: a single piece of chicken dubbed “The Side Chick,” while the chicken and waffles will be called “Chick Off-the-Grid.”

The space where Fire Bird will operate in East Long Beach.

And, as for the heat levels, mimicking Howlin’, Thyda will have six levels of heat which she also bases on Thornton’s legend.

“The first level is like the Basic Chick, right? Beginning of relationships and what not,” Thyda said. “Then things get fired up because you find someone you’re more connected with; that’s the next level. After that, you have your midlife crisis where you begin questioning your relationship—that’s the medium level—so you make the mistake of going for a hot chick at the hot level. That gives you an ex; the extra hot level. And then you’re dealing with the ex after y’all broke up; that’s extra-extra hot. And then when she finally leaves leaves you, she will tear your ass out doin’ it. That’s what we call the Suicide Mission level.”

Thyda has been spending the past eight months perfecting her recipe and, impressing neighbors and patrons alike, garnered the attention of the owner of Delightful Crepes Cafe. Being only open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., this provided her the perfect space to sublease in order to eventually move onto a brick-and-mortar that will be Fire Bird and Fire Bird’s alone.

“Howlin’ started out of a truck. Dave’s started out of a tent. We’re gonna be a little bit different: We’re gonna start out of a regular pop-up,” Thyda said. “And, for all the vegans out there, I’m working on a vegan version—you just have to give me some time perfect it.”

Praise be to the gods of Nashville.

Fire Bird will open July 6 at 1190 Studebaker Road. For more information on the opening event, click here.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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