Jeremy Fox built his career at Rustic Canyon on elegant small plates featuring inventive combinations of vegetables from the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
But his new restaurant, Birdie G’s, is both more indulgent and personal — in his own words, “a big mismatched hodgepodge of memories.” Named after his daughter Birdie and grandmother Gladys, Fox’s new venture offers a look into his family life. Long before he became the leading authority on how to pair garnet yams and dukkah, he was a “kid from the suburbs of Cleveland” who celebrated good grades at chain restaurants and adored his grandmother’s beef tongue pot roast.
Next Friday, Angelenos will be able to try Gladys’ lengua for themselves, along with Fox’s wife Rachael’s matzo ball soup and country club greens inspired by a salad served at an Ohio country club near his in-laws. For younger diners like Birdie, there’s a kids menu with matzo pizza Margherita and “Healthy, Yucky Green Salad.”
Birdie G’s isn’t all in the family, though. Much of the menu is inspired by random foods that Fox likes, although you’ll also find more traditional items like steaks and pasta, as well as the vegetables Fox is known for.
There’s a section devoted to Texas toast with toppings (“I love fancy white bread,” Fox says), an update on a 1950s dinner snack of glazed, bacon-wrapped radishes called Rumaki and Hangtown Brei, Fox’s mashup of a matzo brei and Hangtown Fry, a bacon and oyster omelette dating back to California’s Gold Rush.
“I’ve had this editor in my brain telling me not to go too over the top, and here I’m trying to not listen to that voice as much,” Fox said.
Fox has wanted to create this restaurant for a long time. In his mind, it was always going to be something akin to a supper club that people would come back to again and again — to celebrate good news with family, reunite with an old friend or just to eat some comfort food.
“The restaurant bug bit me when I was a kid, going to places like Howard Johnson’s. Those were the places where we celebrated,” he said. “That’s when I fell in love with restaurants, so I always wanted a place that recreated that.”
He spent a year and a half looking at locations that fit his vision and had almost given up when he found the vast, light-filled warehouse steps from the Expo Line and the 10 freeway with an ample parking lot.
While the impossible-to-define menu is steeped in nostalgia, the expansive space Birdie G’s occupies at Bergamot Station is industrial and thoroughly modern. A blue pointillistic mural frames a dining room of mod walnut tables and chairs bordered by a sleek, exposed kitchen. There’s also a tucked-away bar Fox calls the Bird’s Nest and a private dining room.
“I don’t want it to feel like a new hot spot, I want it to just feel like a place that’s always been around, but I didn’t want the space to follow suit with that,” he said. “It would feel too much a movie set.”
Still, the mid-century whimsy comes through in the details, like the retro Birdie G’s logo plates, a check that comes on a postcard with a mad libs game to fill out and the placemat-sized menus that “look of a different time,” as Fox puts it.
Rustic Canyon’s handmade ceramic tableware and curated menu have their place, but Fox is ready to have a little more fun.
“My career went in a direction that was more fine dining, but this was always what I was jonesing to cook,” he said. “This feels a lot more me.”
Birdie G’s will start taking reservations via Resy at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 20 and open at 5 p.m. the following day. Its hours will be 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Most entrees range between $16 and $46.