Songbird is a casual Thai barbeque diner in the former home of Igni, the renowned fine diner by chef Aaron Turner and business partner Joanna Smith. In 2023, the duo handed over the kitchen to Nathan Lancaster to open Songbird, while remaining involved as co-owners.
Lancaster worked as a chef at Igni, but prior to that honed his Thai cooking skills in San Francisco working with Thai- and Laotian-American chef James Syhabout at Hawker Fare, a casual Mission District spot known for Lao Isan food.
His Songbird menu focuses on street food from the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai, where much of the food is cooked over coals. The kitchen team takes advantage of the grill, giving everything a lick of flame thanks to red gum wood and charcoal. Dishes on offer might include gai yang (grilled marinated chicken); moo yang (grilled pork); and sai oua (fragrant northern Thai sausage), made here from pork belly and shoulder with red curry flavours of makrut lime leaf and lemongrass, and served with a relish made from roasted green peppers, garlic, fish sauce and imported Thai lime juice.
Smith curates the drinks list, which aims to embrace weird and wonderful wines. Beer taps pour Singha and New England pale ale from Two Rupees Brewing, while cocktails include a boozy iced coffee with condensed milk and a makrut lime Margarita. Plus, low- and non-alc cocktails as well as Smith’s house-made kefirs, ferments and infused vodkas.
The walls are domino black, offsetting a riot of pinks, bright teals, bold floral oilcloth tablecloths and a bright pink repurposed three-tiered bowling rack used as a waiters’ station. The 50-seat spaces features banquette seats made from red painted steel-framed pews from a local Baptist church.
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