The Angry Bird opened in Citrus Heights last year, putting a colorful dent in the Sunrise Marketplace’s 20-year ongoing big box/chain takeover. (The restaurant only offers pickup or delivery orders through Postmates at this time.)
At first, the restaurant looks like a chain with the professional logo (complete with its yellow chicken mascot doing the dab) and bright dining area with three flat screens for sports and dispassionate staff. Upon closer inspection, it’s a real mom-and-pop that focuses on one thing: spicy chicken.
And not just any chicken—Nashville-style hot chicken, which has not only become nationally popular within the last year, but also found a place on a variety of Sacramento menus.
Angry Bird’s offerings are simple: large chicken sliders or chicken strips (choice of heat level 1-6) with slaw, pickles, fries, mac and cheese or buttered rice ($10-$12). Made to order, every plate comes steaming hot. The batter on the chicken tenders is flaky and delightfully crunchy. They’re a little on the oily side, but soaked up nicely by all the carbs. The sliders are large, about the size of a fast-food chicken sandwich, but made with much more care and better ingredients. It’s sandwiched between two warm buns, its heat cooled by crisp-and-sweet slaw, with a little tang from a few pickles and a hit of special sauce. What tastes like familiar mixture of mustard, mayo and ketchup, the sauce gives the tongue a much-needed break from all the heat-chaos.
Combo #4 ($10) is a unique combination: hot chicken on a bed of buttered rice with slaw and pickles. It’s an elevated, simple and comforting chicken-and-rice plate. The buttery rice has the texture and fat that the salty, hot chicken needs to both enhance and level out flavors.
To create its signature heat, chicken is dipped in a light oil and tossed in dry spices. The heat levels vary from “Country” (no spice) to “Angry” (described on the menu as “Sign a waiver”). I tried all but the Angry (level 6). Pro tip: use the humble sliced white bread as a shield for your fingers against the chicken if you’ve ordered strips. As far as spice levels: Level 2, is still spicy but comfortable and nonthreatening. Level 3 is a big spice jump and should be eaten with caution. The three levels after that are so spicy, the staff will try to talk you out of ordering. Hot (level 3) is for expert hot mouths. At Extra Hot and Angry Hot, you’re going into very dangerous territory.
Listen very carefully: The last two spice levels are atrociously spicy. We’re not talking about only-sissies-think-it’s-hot spicy. This is serious hotness. This is a nose-running, lingering, eyeball-sweating, endorphin-wrenching crescendo of facial flame. If you don’t believe me, Angry Bird employees will offer you a sample to test your daring tongue. I don’t recommend ordering “Country.” It has no flavor, no spice and highlights the fault in The Angry Bird: The chicken alone is nothing special. While it comes out of the fryer piping hot, it’s a little tough and dry.
Despite that, I still find myself weeks later wanting to go back to The Angry Bird for more hot chicken. Perhaps it’s the comfort of chicken and rice or the endorphin high of spicy food. Either way, The Angry Bird, even with its imperfections, has created a craveable menu for us hot mouths.
The Angry Bird
5550 Sunrise Blvd., Suite 2
Good for: Quick lunch, small families and big appetites
Notable dishes: Sliders, Combo #4 (Chicken with Rice)
American, Citrus Heights