James Beard winner Gabriel Rucker’s downtown restaurant is updating its menu and kitchen staff, with a new chef de cuisine and new menus starting 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, January 8. Little Bird chef de cuisine Marcelle Crooks has left the restaurant, making room for Le Pigeon holdout Xan Gilmartin.
Gilmartin spent seven years at Le Pigeon, starting as a stage and eventually moving up to a sous chef position. The CDC position at Little Bird will be Gilmartin’s first, but the new chef’s tenure should feel pretty true to Rucker’s vision. “Gabe and I share the same brain because I’ve been with him for so long,” Gilmartin says. “Gabe will tell me something before he knows what he wants, and I feel like I can figure out what he really wants.”
Although Gilmartin worked the line at Le Pigeon alongside Rucker, the new menu at Little Bird feels more similar to Canard: Americana takes on French bistro cooking. “Up the street, we have a great French bistro in Bistro Agnes, but Bistro Agnes plays by the rulebook,” Rucker says. “At Little Bird, you’re going to get the French bistro that doesn’t play by the rules.” That means fried chicken cobb salad with herbes de provence “ranch,” foie terrine with pineapple-rum compote, bone marrow with braised pig’s feet and Texas toast, and a take on cassoulet with black-eyed peas and a fried rabbit leg. Rucker is particularly excited about a French dip sandwich, in which brisket is braised in French onion soup overnight, served with the strained French onion soup onions, horseradish cream, melted cheese, and French onion jus.
Lunch has also extended significantly at Little Bird, with the full menu available until 4:30 p.m.; before, Little Bird only served lunch until 2:30 p.m. “I really want Little Bird to be a lunch destination for people — not just people who want a leisurely lunch, but for people on their lunch break,” Rucker says. “You know how Canard can be a place where you can zip in and grab a bite and zip out, or spend three hours with champagne and oysters? I want Little Bird to be like that.”
If lunch happens to be after 2:30, that could include a super cheap bottle of wine — from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. (6 p.m. at the bar), all bottles of wine are available for half the price. The happy hour menu also has a few inexpensive versions of its classic dishes: $4 chicken liver mousse, $7 double brie burger, and of course, half-price oysters. Check out the new lunch, dinner, and happy hour menus below: