October 5, 2022

AmericanHummus

Food & Travel Enthusiast

Matt Horn opens fried chicken restaurant Kowbird in Oakland

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

On opening day, Kowbird, a chicken-focused restaurant, will have three fried chicken sandwiches — the Southern Bird, Hot Bird and Honey Bird — on its menu in addition to wings, chicken and waffles, house-made lemonade and tea. Eventually, he hopes to add his own beehive on-site to produce honey that will be used for many of the food items listed.

Like Horn Barbecue’s, Kowbird’s menu draws inspiration from his grandmother’s home cooking. The candy apple featured on his dessert menu, for instance, takes Horn back to his childhood.

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

Courtesy of Kowbird

“The candy apples remind me of my grandmother,” Horn told SFGATE. “I remember as a kid going over to her house, and I was only tall enough to see the height of the table, and I always remembered these glowing candy apples. I wouldn’t be the man who I am today if it wasn’t for the women in my life. I try to find ways to celebrate those that have provided a platform and a base for me.”

Kowbird debuts its first brick-and-mortar two years after it first emerged into the Bay Area as a pop-up. During its inaugural event, Kowbird attracted some 200 customers ready to get their hands on one of the fried chicken sandwiches, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another). 

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

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

Courtesy of Kowbird

The restaurant takes up shop at 1733 Peralta St., the former Pretty Lady diner, which closed last summer. Horn and his team have kept some elements of the former restaurant in place, like its U-shaped counter and green tiles, but the space has been revamped with interior murals that pay tribute to Black farmers in the South, and the building facade has been remodeled with a splashy new coat of paint and larger windows.

Kowbird was initially slated to open as a kiosk within the Jack London Square food hall, which was intended to host a number of 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 as he faced some supply chain issues and delays with contractors. 

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

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

Courtesy of Kowbird

“We did find challenges in terms of the permitting process and kind of jumping through different hoops,” Horn shared. “A lot of these companies and suppliers are short-staffed, … so that really played into it. This may not be the ideal timing for opening, but I’m grateful at the time in which it happened because it felt more seamless.”

Horn isn’t new to facing hurdles when it comes to opening a restaurant. In 2020, setbacks in getting city permits for an indoor smoker pushed the opening of Horn Barbecue for months. But the headaches are behind him now, and as he looks ahead to running two restaurants blocks within each other, Horn plans to split his time between the two businesses.


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

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

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

Courtesy of Kowbird