Opening earlier this summer in New York's Chelsea Market, Roots drummer and all-around musical cool dude Questlove's fried chicken restaurant, Hybird, was a critical success and a fun story, the rare celebrity restaurant side project that didn't seem like a terrible idea. Alas, the restaurant came, as they say, undun.
Although he didn't offer a particularly clear reason, Questlove announced in a Facebook post today that Hybird is no more, hinting at business troubles and, it seems, a decision about whether to sell out in some respect. Anticipating questions, he suggested that there might be more information to come, but he also offered some deep musings of his own (alongside musings from Shakespeare and A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg).
It's a long, wild, amazing letter full of pop culture references, and, although it may be sad, it's presented so playfully as to not feel that bad at all. The website for Hybird appears to be down, so this certainly seems definitive. Bad news for fried chicken fans, but every restaurant, one supposes, has its tipping point. Check out the full letter on Questlove's Facebook or below:
To Get To The Other Side
"'tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers." —william shakespeare
"I never half step cause I'm not a half stepper"—phife dawg
the bird has flown the coup—or did it jump the shark?
what goes up must come downton (class issues aside)
it wasn't no thang but a chicken wang (actually it was a drumstick) ?
how birdy can a high (concept) beez?
speaking of beez, did we beez in a trap?
fool disclosure (once more w/ feeling): most of you know that i stay on my culinary grind and a few months back i opened up my hybird stand in chelsea market w/ restaurateur steven starr. long story short, we closed hybird (but you sorta know that... don't you?)
now that I've cut to the chase bear w/ me while i chase my tale a lil more.
I'm about nothing if I'm not about ideas (or if I'm getting my tautological on... if I ain't about an idea, I'm about nothin'). sculpting ideas, smacking 'em, flipping 'em, rubbing 'em down or waving them in the air like I just don't care... these are "the things" of my life. a meme's a terrible thing to waste (and I've wasted quite a few here), mine are like my children and I really, really care about them (yes, I care very deeply). I guess you can say I'm passionate, so much so, I almost literally wear my heart on my sleeve (well, it actually resides on my lapel, but I digress).
I love music, I love art, I love literature, theatre, tv, film and smart, big-hearted women (tmi). over the last few years I've fallen in love with ideas about food (my new old gal). I can't exactly remember when it happened but, at some point, I realized that my lego shield had been struck by cupid when I began to hold ferran adria and jiro in the same high regard previously only reserved for say... jay dilla.
i too dreamed of sushi or techno emotional cuisine in the same vein as dreaming of new breakbeats or organizing harmony. so i dabble and ate and studied and ate and dreamed and ate becoming friends with some of the greatest chefs on the entire planet. the top ones cook like the best jazzmen, like gil or bill evans. they're thoughtful, nerdy, sensitive types, dreamers that waltz for the debs or pull deliciousness out of their cool.
so having come forward, now it's time to stand down. the stand is down. my foodie partner (starr) and i have killed the lofty idealized hybird (after all, they shoot chickens don't they?). kinda weird to pull the plug considering the bird's critical swag: cover of new york magazine, mentions in the new york times, bon appetit, food & wine, elle, the new yorker, zagat, paper magazine, new york post, village voice, time out, the hollywood reporter, vogue, and a cameo on the view where sherri shepherd and jenny mccarthy came to hybird to meet me for lunch.
but after a lifetime of balancing art and commerce i find myself once again at the fork knife and spoon in the road. and unlike my other jobs this venture isn't survival based (as you know... "I be riding around and getting it"). if anything its from the heart (my real one) and it's not satisfying that heart it's not satisfying at all. and so bye bye birdie. chicken, scratched. the killing was kinda akin to throwing your pretty, witty, emo daughter under the bus....well....because she's a pretty, witty, emo chick who's become taken w/ dancing at the edge of a fiscal cliff. (say what say what say whuuuut?). thing is.. the gentle curves of daughter's arabesque looked far more graceful portending ruin (well, as my biz manager would say "diminishing returns") then they looked selling out (or outright selling. luck be a lady after all right?). at the end of the day, the "poor sales" were turning the corner, but the girl was getting left behind (so what ensued? think hilary swank in that million dollar baby joint... more on this miss later).
so consider this to be part one of my grubby missive...or would that be a dis-missive (potato, frittata, let's call the whole thing off)). I expect to be expecting follow-ups, as inquiring inquirers will certainly want to be knowing, but in the meantime, I'll preemptively leave you with some questo questions.
1) hybird may have become a chicken without a head, but could it have been a lame duck?
2) the chicken or the egg?
3) Invocation or lost in translation?
4) flown coup or avian flew?
5) seasoned ending or cliffhanger?
stay tuned for part the deux, deux (I'll be back but for now just seckle).
r.i.p. hybird 2014-2013