Birdie’s 2.0: Chef Kevin Lee’s Korean Cuisine Takes Flight - 405 Magazine

Birdie’s 2.0: Chef Kevin Lee’s Korean Cuisine Takes Flight

Taste the story of a chef cooking from the heart, without limitations.

Cocktails at Chef Kevin Lee's New Concept, Birdie's, in Oklahoma City.

Photo by Rachel Maucieri.

With a seasoned culinary career that spans lauded local restaurants like Vast and The Jones Assembly, along with winning appearances on Food Network shows “Beat Bobby Flay” and “Guy’s Grocery Games,” Kevin Lee has become one of the most recognizable chefs in Oklahoma. But even someone as experienced as Lee, whose resume spans a portfolio of cuisines and dining styles, still yearns to cook from the heart. 

In 2022, Lee served up his most ambitious, most personal project to date: Birdie’s Fried Chicken. The fast-casual format at 2201 NW 150th St. presented new opportunities in a relatively nondescript Edmond shopping plaza, but the Korean-style chicken concept proved taxing. 

Birdie's Beef Tartar.
Birdie’s Beef Tartar includes garlic ginger beef, chives, toasted japanese sourdough milk bread, pickled onions, and egg yolk. Photo by Rachel Maucieri.

“After operating huge restaurants, I didn’t think a fast-casual chicken place would be harder, but it was a lot harder,” Lee recalled. “You’re trying to create a concept that could be enjoyed by the masses, and when you’re doing $10 chicken baskets, you gotta sell a lot of chicken baskets.” 

It was time to make a change. At the end of 2023, Lee temporarily closed Birdie’s in its initial iteration, and entered a new era in 2024. On Jan. 11, just three weeks after turning off the deep-fryers, Birdie’s by Chef Kevin Lee was born anew. Formerly colorful and casual, the lofty space now sports a darker, charcoal-hued motif, anchored around a bar with an entirely new beverage program. Now full-service and more upscale, Birdie’s 2.0 is Lee’s version of a Korean steakhouse — a fresh perspective in a city not lacking for steakhouses. 

Items from Birdie's Menu in Oklahoma City. Photo by Rachel Maucieri.
Items from Birdie’s Menu in Oklahoma City. Photo by Rachel Maucieri.

Described as a fun mix of small and large plates, the concept is an opportunity for one of the metro’s most esteemed chefs to fully flex his muscles. And flex he does, on plates that elevate the familiar into unexpected echelons, like a gingery beef tartare served with toasted Japanese sourdough milk bread, peanut-speckled Brussels sprouts dressed with yuzu yogurt or shrimp and sweet potato grits heated up with sautéed kimchi. 

Of the larger plates, Lee puts his stamp on classic comfort food, like his tteokbokki rice cake dish, essentially a riff on pasta bolognese that enrobes chewy rice cakes in spicy gochujang Wagyu ragu. Steaks are a centerpiece of the menu, served buttery and sizzling in skillets, and accompanied by fresh lettuce wraps, chimichurri, garlic-ginger soy sauce and peanut ssamjang (a kind of spicy chili paste typically served with wraps in Korean cooking) for fun, DIY assemblage. Cattlemen’s Steakhouse this is not. 

TTEOKKBOKI RICE CAKES at Birdie's in Oklahoma City.
Tteokkboki Rice Cakes at Birdie’s in OKC include spicy gochujang wagyu ragu, parmesan cheese, green onion, and rice cakes. Photo by Rachel Maucieri.

The drink list — helmed by bar manager Emma Prilaman — is equally original, centered around a variety of seasonal cocktails. As winter shifts to spring, that includes the Hot Honey Old Fashioned; the quenching Basil Baller Smash; and the Garden Ramos, a gin-based stunner with notes of cucumber and lime that puts on a show as club soda is poured tableside and a plume of egg white foam rises over the rim like a soufflé. 

For Lee, the new Birdie’s is less an evolution and more of a return to form. “It’s been fun to be a chef again,” he mused. “There are no boundaries. I get to do the food I want. For the first time, I feel like I’m truly cooking the story of who I am.”

Interested in discovering more great restaurants to try in the metro? Check out our feature on downtown OKC’s Flint. 
Cocktail at Birdie's in Oklahoma City.
Photo by Rachel Maucieri.