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Birdcode’s “sandos,” with boneless breast meat, are built on brioche buns topped with vinegar slaw, pickles and mayonnaise-based “comeback sauce.”

The story

Connecticut has been a bit behind the curve with Nashville hot chicken, but in 2020 the state started catching up with the fiery trend. Restaurants dedicated to the spiced poultry popped up from Hartford to Bridgeport, with more in the works.

In November, the Birdcode brand became the first eatery dedicated to hot chicken in West Hartford. Owners Brandi and Phil Killoran, who previously owned several Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops in Connecticut, traveled the country for about 18 months, tasting hot chicken and eventually perfecting their own recipes. “In Nashville, we went to all the original places [including] Prince’s Hot Chicken,” Brandi says of the eatery credited with the dish’s invention. “I’m originally from the South, so it was important to pay homage to all of that.”

Birdcode was so well received in its first few months that the Killorans began looking for another location, and chose a spot on the Post Road in Darien, on the Norwalk border, for their second restaurant. The Darien outpost is expected to open by the end of 2021, with a drive-through.

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Birdcode’s “Naughty Neighbor,” featuring tenders on a bed of fries with vinegar slaw, pickles and sauce.

The food

Don’t be intimidated, as there’s a spice level for everyone. You can even opt out entirely, and choose the no-heat “country” preparation. Heat increases from there, with different concentrations of cayenne, habanero and ghost pepper: mild has a “touch of heat” with subtle sweetness, medium is where you’ll “proceed with caution,” and hot is “burn baby burn.” The Code Breaker comes with a warning: “Do you really want to do this? Eat at your own risk.”

Chicken tenders are served with bread and pickles, and “sandos,” with boneless breast meat, are built on brioche buns topped with vinegar slaw, pickles and mayonnaise-based “comeback sauce.” There’s also a kale salad option with tenders, and a “Naughty Neighbor,” featuring tenders on a bed of fries with vinegar slaw, pickles and sauce. 

Sides include fries, mac and cheese and slaw, and desserts, all made in-house based on Brandi’s mom’s recipes, include banana pudding and chocolate chip cookies. Resist the urge to split the banana pudding with a dining partner, as you’ll want your own — it’s that good.

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Birdcode’s menu features Nashville hot chicken in five spice levels, with sides like fries, vinegar slaw, and mac and cheese.

Eat in or take out?

Birdcode’s food is ideal for takeout and delivery, and the restaurant is well suited for both, with easy online ordering (Birdcode even has its own app). The West Hartford location offers indoor and outdoor dining, with beer and wine. The parking lot fills up quickly at peak hours, but street parking is available on Park Road. 


Birdcode Hot Chicken

120 Park Road, West Hartford

860-206-1971, eatbirdcode.com@birdcode on Instagram

Hours: Tue.–Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

Wheelchair accessible

Leeanne Griffin is the food and consumer reporter for Hearst Connecticut, handling coverage of restaurant openings and closings, trends, events and general news about Connecticut food and beverage businesses.

This article appears in the July 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.