You might expect a restaurant named for saxophone great Charlie “Bird” Parker to have a jazz soundtrack, but at Charlie Bird in SoHo, you’d be mistaken. Instead, classic hip-hop rules the stereo system, and the jazzy element is expressed in the free-form format of the restaurant, where a serious wine list and refined menu seem natural against a soundtrack of Biggy and Dr. Dre. Here the overbearing din and clatter are absent—it’s a good restaurant for conversation, that is, after you decide what to order. The food menu by chef Ryan Hardy (most recently stationed at The Little Nell, the luxury hotel in Aspen) leans vaguely Italian and is devoid of the usual constraints of “appetizer” and “main course,” divided instead into raw bar, pasta, small plates, and large ones, plus vegetable sides.
Pastas in simple yet slightly unexpected combinations are worth a gander—a rich duck-egg spaghetti with sea urchin, salty guanciale and lemon is rightly beloved by regulars. And while dishes like truffled egg toast might stand out at first glance, some of the best plates are the humblest. Roasted chicken, more than large enough for two, achieves the ultimate fowl feat: moist, tender meat with skin so crisp and delightfully fatty you suspect some culinary magic is at work. Hot buttered corn is pure comfort with a garlic-chive kick, and a farro salad studded with pistachios, bright mint and basil bring back sudden happy memories of warmer months.