New Kid on the Block: Dirty Bird To-Go

“No growth hormones, no antibiotics,” says Dirty Bird To-Go founder Joseph Ciriello. “It’s the way I eat. I want to know where my food is coming from—especially at the low end, and especially with chicken. I’d never buy a Perdue supermarket chicken.”

Dirty Bird To-Go opened today in a narrow, attractive space on Chambers between Hudson and Greenwich. The “To-Go” in is there because of trademark issues (even though the original Dirty Bird flew the proverbial coop). It wasn’t a big issue because the first Dirty Bird To-Go, which opened in 2006 on W. 14th St., had only 10 seats. The new restaurant, with a row of side-by-side tables, will seat around 20 once the final table is done.

“We do feel like we’re adding something that doesn’t exist,” says Ciriello. “I live in Soho, I have a lot of friends here, and a lot of our customers are having families and moving to Tribeca and Battery Park City. They were saying. ‘We need you down here!'”

The menu (click to read)

The menu is the same at lunch and dinner, and it is indeed all about chicken—fried, slow-roasted on a rotisserie, in “finger” form, in sandwich wraps and salads and chicken soup. (I can vouch for the friend chicken. I haven’t had it since circa 2003, when Adam suggested we order Popeye’s because it was good, and it wasn’t, not at all. Dirty Bird’s, meanwhile, was perfectly crispy and blisteringly hot; the tangy, liquid-y barbecue-ish sauce on the table was a keeper, too. And I inhaled the sauteed garlic kale.) The restaurant will be on Seamless and other sites in about a week; a beer-and-wine license is likely at some point. In the meantime, there’s fresh lemonade.

UPDATE: In the comments, Zoe asked the follow-up question that I should have—in essence, where exactly does the chicken come from and how is it treated? I pointed it out to Ciriello, who emailed this over:

“Thank you for your questions. The kind of chickens we sell at Dirty Bird to Go are important to me—we like to source our chickens from producers who are transparent with the way the birds are raised—the quality of life of the chickens is something that we take very seriously, we are concerned with things such as the distance they travel to be processed and the conditions of the farms—after all, how an animal is treated while it is being raised contributes to how it tastes. We are constantly exploring new producers and suppliers to ensure that the product is the most local and humanely raised and can meet our needs.

We purchase whole chickens (which we receive delivery 6 days—ours is never frozen), which are butchered on premises and the bones are used to make our soup and stock. The birds are distributed and raised exclusively for FreeBird Chicken and come from 25 independently owned family farms located in eastern Pennsylvania. All the chickens feed on 100% vegetarian diet, all of them are free to roam in a protected environment. There are no additives to their drinking water and definitely no antibiotics or growth hormones in their feed.

At this time, each of the owners are certified to at least Step 2 of the the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards with all farmers ultimately striving to achieve Step 5+. My understanding of this standard is that each of the farms will be independently audited to the requirements of each Step. Please let me know if you have any more questions.”

Dirty Bird To-Go is at 155 Chambers (between Hudson and Greenwich); 212-964-3284, Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

(A sign is forthcoming.)

Recent New Kid on the Block/First Impressions articles:
Super Linda’s Taqueria
By Joy Gryson
All Good Things
55 Fulton Market by Key Food
Manhattan Proper Bar & Social Club
Saluggi’s Sandwich Shoppe
Aire Ancient Baths


  1. R.I.P my beloved Taco Bell. There is not a day that goes by that I do not miss you but at least you were replaced by something extra crispy.

  2. I agree! I also want to know where the food comes from!

    So- where does it come from? Where were they killed? Was the operation clean? What did the chickens eat? Corn? Or pasture? Did they ever go outside? We’re they raised in a megalopolis-chicken barn full of feces? What the name of the farm they source from? Does it have a website?

  3. @Zoe: Dirty Bird’s website says the chickens are “humanely raised in Pennsylvania Amish Country, veggie fed and antibiotic free.” I’m not sure it’s a surprise they don’t say more—as much as you, or I, might want the animals’ treatment to be a prime issue for restaurants and diners, even discussing it is probably a turn-off. In person, the owner was vehement about the quality of the chickens, which doesn’t always translate into humaneness at the farm, but it is a good sign.

    That said, I’ll email Dirty Bird to see what they know about where their chickens come from. I’m sure they’ll say it’s clean, as will the farm’s website, which is part of the problem with animals raised for food—unless you visit the farm (and even then), there’s a certain amount of trust built in.

    Plus don’t make me feel worse for eating chicken! I did it for you!

  4. Sorry! I didn’t mean to make you feel bad… Why do you feel bad? Because Chickens are animals?

    I don’t think the impulse to not want to talk about animal raising, animal slaughter is all that useful- We’re all adults! Better to feel comfortable understanding and learning about it all, no?

    Last night I was at the Meat Hook in Brooklyn at a “Knife Skills” class about de-boning whole animals. Its amazing how much less expensive it is to buy a whole chicken rather than pre-cut parts. If more of us were versed at ‘carcass’ surgery, I think most of us could afford better raised meat. This whole argument of “we cant afford to let our animals pasture! its for elites!” is part lazyness and ignorance, I think.

    I only ask the question; “Where does Dirty Bird get their chicken from” because the owner provoked the question. I applaud the owner for trying to offer better quality ingredients. Would love to know if they are corn fed, and if they are raised indoors exclusively, or if they have outside time? excellent. xx

  5. “Free To Roam” it says on their facebook page. That’s a good sign. That certainly isn’t the case with Popeye’s Chicken! Popeye’s birds are stacked in the dark and spend their lives shitting on each other’s heads. Nice one Dirty Bird, for offering an alternative. (Just who’se chicken is the dirty one really?

    Keep feeding us info about where your ingredients come from! This Tribecan Mum isn’t scared!

  6. @Zoe: I added Ciriello’s explanation to the text.

  7. Although they will deliver as far west as the Hudson River, south to Battery Place, and north to Canal, according to their map they do not deliver east of Broadway. Hmph. No matter, though; the food is okay, but nothing to stop me from ever making my own again.

    Fried chicken was all right. A bit odd in that while the chicken itself was seasoned enough (from the brining), the crust seemed mostly devoid of salt. But it was a nice, crisp, if somewhat grease-coated crust, and a perfect color. I might have liked the piece of thigh cooked just a smidge more — picking it up after having removed the bone, I noticed a pool of reddish juice, and examination of the location of the bone showed very pink meat. But they since these are FreeBirds from Amish country* (presumably with uncut beards), I guess it’s safe enough. White meat was quite nice, very moist, and even had some chicken flavor.

    Roast chicken is probably better directly off the rotisserie. By the time I got it home, the skin was quite flabby. And there was a faint, odd undercurrent of sweetness to the skin. I might try to reverse-engineer what they do to it, since otherwise the added flavor was pretty good. But I don’t expect to retire the Cuisinart vertical rotisserie any time soon.

    Unlike some of my friends, who thought it wasn’t proper cornbread, I had no problem with the cornbread other than finding it a bit on the sweet side (not what I expected from true Southerners like the Vines-Rushings.**). It was both fluffy and compact; seemed to have been made with a fine grind of cornmeal. A finger of it (maybe 4 by 1 by 1″), well-toasted and greased, came with the fried; if I’d had to pay separately, yes, I might have been annoyed.

    Sides of coleslaw (again, just a tad too sweet, although the lack of mayo was a plus), roasted potatoes, and kale with garlic were unexceptionable and unexceptional. I mean, kale with garlic and red pepper flakes is . . . kale — what is there to it other than not cooking the hell out of it? Lemonade was fairly tart, also a plus. I’m not sure what the little cup of vinegar with a single jalapeño slice (also not sweet) that came with my order was supposed to go with.

    The chicken and sides are many steps above salad-bar versions (and of course more in price, but for clearly better ingredients). Better bird than the late Bon Chon farther east on Chambers. I liked it better than Redhead and Peels. This is an okay source of dinner for people with more money than kitchen skills. But having it nearby won’t cause me to pack up my kitchen.

    *Ah Tweebecans: almost as serious as Portlandians in caring about the welfare of the chickens they eat.

    **That’s Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing, who opened the original (she of James Beard Rising Chef fame) but have long since decamped back to Louisiana. Of course, they’ve had nothing to do with DB t-g for years. In fact, when I asked the guy at the register who took my order about them, he had no idea who they were. Someone else, when asked, said they haven’t been involved with the brand for seven years. Oh?That predates the opening of the original.

  8. @Erik – OMGah! Any chance you can limit comments to 140 characters?

  9. @Jim Smithers – Just stop reading when you reach your 140 character limit.

    P.S. I love you Jim Smithers – you make me laugh every time.

  10. Jim needs his own fan club