Makan Chef Opens a Southeast Asian-Style Chicken Takeout in Columbia Heights

Spicebird dishes up spice-rubbed chicken, chili noodles, and fried rice.

Spicebird, a Southeast Asian-style chicken takeout, opens in Columbia Heights. Photography courtesy of Spicebird.

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A Southeast Asian-style chicken joint has taken flight out of DC’s only full-service Malaysian restaurant: Spicebird, a virtual takeout and delivery from Makan chef James Wozniuk. It’s open for dinner service in Columbia Heights, with daytime weekend hours starting Saturday, February 4. 

Ghost kitchens were having a big moment mid-pandemic, but many vanished with the return of in-person dining. Though Makan and adjoining Malaysian-American sports bar Thirsty Crow draw a crowd, Wozniuk says he wants to offer something beyond an expensive, full-service meal. 

“We wanted to put something good together that’s fast, easy, you get a lot of big flavors, but it’s approachable,” he says. 

Sesame noodles with a dan dan-style Szecuan chili spice.
Sesame noodles with a dan dan-style Szecuan chili spice. Photograph courtesy of Spicebird. 

Wozniuk, who spent six years at Maketto and its sister restaurants before going solo, was inspired by his extensive travels in Southeast Asia for the menu. A brined and spice-rubbed chicken is technically the star of the show, coated in 15 spices like coriander, cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric. But it’s the sweet-sour-spicy “KL”—for Kuala Lumpur—dipping sauce that Wozniuk spent years trying to perfect after sampling a similar brew from Malaysian street vendors. The sauce—a blend of vinegar, garlic, shallot, citrus, and chilies—accompanies every bird, as do a choice of two sides. 

Meals come as whole or half chickens (pictured) with two sides and sauces. Photograph courtesy of Spicebird. 

Diners can pick simple options like yucca fries, or pump the flavor with cold Szechuan-style sesame noodles; turmeric-ginger slaw; Thai basil fried rice; or home fry-style potatoes with a spicy crumble and curry leaf. There’s also a spicy-crunchy pulled chicken salad with cabbage and wood-ear mushrooms dressed in a coconut vinaigrette. A whole chicken goes for $33 with two large sides, while a half chicken is $18 with two smalls (sides are also available a la carte). There’s also third party delivery via Doordash, though as always, those prices are higher. 

Sides include rice two ways: simply steamed or Thai basil fried (pictured).
Sides include rice two ways: simply steamed or Thai basil fried (pictured). Photograph courtesy of Spicebird. 

Spicebird. 3400 11th St., NW.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.