Viet Pham’s award-winning Pretty Bird heads to Midvale – Gastronomic SLC

For fans of this local mini-chain, clear your entire August calendar, as Midvale is set to become the fourth location for the fledgling fried chicken empire of Viet and Alexis Pham. According to July’s DABS agenda notes, the company has applied for a limited-serve liquor license — which allows the sale of beer and wine. As the duo prepares for an August opening, the restaurant is currently recruiting team members to staff the new location at 84047.

At this point, it might be worth reviewing the story to date, so grab a stool. Viet Pham first made a name for itself in Utah with gourmet restaurant Forage, a molecular gastronomy collaboration with chef Bowman Brown. The restaurant opened in 2009 and offered an idiosyncratic treat to Utah’s abandoned foodies; as he did, an eleven-course tasting menu every night for the low price of $89. Even to this day, the format is almost completely lacking in the Beehive; Millcreek’s Table X is the only name I can think of that has followed similar footsteps.

When Forage turned off the lights in 2016 (paving the way for Veneto to take over space), Pham left the local culinary scene, embarking on a variety of TV projects; including beating Bobby Flay twice on the celebrity chef’s one-on-one cooking show. After a two-year hiatus and endless speculation, Pham returned to Utah.

In a move as diametrically opposed to Forage as possible, Pham turned his attention to fried chicken rather than foie gras; apparently be set on the popular Nashville-style concoction as he roamed Orange County while filming his appearances on the Next Food Network Star – the same pitcher who propelled Guy Fieri to Lagrange point success.

Pretty Bird – fried chicken plate (Pretty Bird and Billy Yang)

Pham, winner of Food & Wine magazine’s Best Chef in 2011, naturally drew on his fine cuisine to create what some consider to be the best fried chicken sandwich for hundreds of miles in every direction. For example, in an interview with Park Record this year, he confided that it took no less than three years of experimentation with a variety of bakers and companies before he was finally satisfied with the bun used by the company.

Attention to detail is of course everywhere, as he also explained, “we start with the bottom bun, then we put sauce on it. Next we put the chicken, pickles and coleslaw, then the top bun. It must be done in this order, because if you put the coleslaw before the pickles, it won’t taste good. Pretty Bird’s Chicken is prepared from boneless chicken thighs in double dough, brushed with buttermilk and then coated in flour. The chicken is then fried in a fancy pants pressure fryer for the prized taste that fans crave.

The first restaurant opened in downtown SLC in 2018 to a cheering crowd. The restaurant saw almost instant queues outside the doors and in Regent Street. To this day, the queue is often just as long and reassuring.

Pretty Bird MK2 came next, opening in the spring of 2021, moving into the location vacated by the deceased Sampan (just across the road from Dee’s at 675 E 2100 S). The opening came with a small expansion of the menu, adding chicken breast fillets alongside the large thigh sandwiches and quarter-bird cut prices. The year two opening also saw the downtown location transition to a walk-in window only; a smart move for the original’s comfortable 525 square foot surroundings. Switch to this year and Park City went live around February, providing another on-site dinner for Pham fans. Which brings us to this summer and the latest adventure.

As of this writing, there is no further information on what we might expect from Midvale opening; but those who have tasted the current menu will no doubt be satisfied with simply more of the same. Stay tuned for more information, and in the meantime, if you feel like changing your fried chicken sandwich game, here are some other picks in town.

Crack Shack

Crack Shack - city kick sandwich
Crack Shack – city kick sandwich

Despite the somewhat dodgy name, the chicken sandwiches from this San Diego import are definitely on point. Crack Shack uses Jidori chicken (California farms raised without cruelty) as the base of its huge fried chicken sandwiches, available in a range of flavors. La Coop De Ville pictured comes with pickled fresno peppers, pickles, lime mayonnaise, napa cabbage on a buttery brioche bun.

912 E 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
(385) 715-0250
crackshack.com

ginger street

Ginger Street - fried chicken sandwich
Ginger Street – fried chicken sandwich

Southeast Asian flavors fuel this one at downtown SLC’s Ginger Street. The beautiful sandwich piles on green papaya salad, tomato, jalapeño, Kewpie Mayo – and also uses a brioche bun.

324 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
(385) 477-4975
www.gingerstreet.com

Kokonut Island Grills

Kokonut Island Grill – chicken katsu sandwich

This one is a sandwich monster, and shamelessly messy with it too. Chicken Katsu comes with fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion, katsu sauce and spicy mayonnaise. Bring a towel.

Various places
kokonutislandgrill.com

clean avenues

Avenues Propre - spicy chicken sandwich

This Avenues brewpub turns to ground chicken — rather than regular fried breast or thigh — for its spicy fried creation. Coleslaw and pickles add a nice tangy and crunchy contrast.

376 8th Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
(385) 227-8628
avenuesproper.com

Popeyes

Popeyes - chicken sandwich
Popeyes – chicken sandwich

I know I know, it’s fast food, but for the money it’s hard to beat the OG Fried Chicken Sandwich (contemporary speaking). It still stands above the competition in my mind, when it comes to a fried sandwich under five bucks. If you want to support a local upstart, the KFC Chicken Sandwich is a decent second-place fast food sandwich in my book.

Various locations
kokonutislandgrill.com

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