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Hayward's Dirty Bird Lounge Gets an Argentinian Facelift

Plus, Cambodian street noodles find a home in Emeryville.

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The old Dirty Bird Lounge was a neon-lit oasis in a vast expanse of barren lots on Hayward's Mission Boulevard. Now, the dive bar is moving into nicer digs in downtown Hayward, shedding some of its dive-bar trappings, and, for the first time, adding real food — i.e., more than chips and peanuts — to the menu.

The food comes courtesy of Argentinian chef Javier Sandes, whose empanadas are a fixture at several watering holes in Oakland. At Dirty Bird, Sandes' company, Javi's Cooking, will have full run of the kitchen, essentially operating as a permanent pop-up.

The revamped Dirty Bird will open for business on Wednesday, February 8.

Dirty Bird owner Aric Yeverino explained that the bar's old location is being torn down to make way for condos. But he said that even though the new, 5,000-square-foot bar at 926 B Street won't be quite as "divey" as the old Dirty Bird, he wants to make sure the place remains accessible to Hayward's diverse, blue-collar population: "You don't want to be charging an arm and a leg for cocktails." So, for instance, the price of well drinks will go up just a tick, from $5 to $6.

Meanwhile, Oaklanders might recall Sandes' last major gig at Mad Oak, the downtown Oakland bar where the chef ran an extended pop-up for ten months, selling Argentinian street-food-style sandwiches and empanadas until last spring. In keeping with the Argentinian style, the empanadas are baked (not fried), have a soft, chewy crust, and come with a little tub of Sandes' excellent, zippy chimichurri sauce. At Dirty Bird, Sandes will serve eight to ten different varieties, including the classic version with seasoned ground beef and pieces of green olive and hard-boiled egg. Sandes said he plans to run dinner specials on Tuesday nights — say, a ribeye steak dinner for something in the ballpark of $15–$18.

Eventually, Yeverino and Sandes plan to turn the bar's front lounge area into a small Latin cafe that will serve pastries and sandwiches during the day.

Readers who are familiar with Sandes' cooking may recall that he used to run a mobile food business that served Argentinian barbecue. In fact, one of his long-term dreams is to open a restaurant specializing in the Argentinian tradition of al asador-style outdoor grilling — whole animals splayed out on crucifix-like racks and cooked over an open flame.

Alas, the Dirty Bird doesn't have the outdoor space for that kind of extreme grilling. But if you're hosting a big wedding or birthday celebration and want to hire a caterer to cook a few whole deer over a fire? Sandes wants you to know that he's your guy.

Mall Noodles Redux

When Nite Yun started her Nyum Bai pop-up series last year, her goal was to shine a light on aspects of Cambodia that not many people in the Bay Area know about — the country's legendary psychedelic rock scene, for instance, and, especially, its vibrant street-food culture.

Now, Yun will have her biggest platform yet: For at least the next six months, Nyum Bai will have its own stall in the revamped Emeryville Public Market food court. Reached by phone, Yun told the Express she had been keeping the news under wraps, but the food stand opened for business, semi-stealthily, on Fri., Feb. 3.

Nyum Bai's main focus is on three noodle soups, including kuy teav Phnom Penh, a pork and seafood rice-noodle soup that has been Yun's signature dish. The other two are kuy teav koh-ko (a beef stew served with egg noodles) and a vegetarian rice-noodle soup. Yun will also serve at least one rice plate, which she's calling Pork Nyum Bai — pan-fried pork with black pepper and a crispy egg served over coconut rice with a side of pork broth.

Yun said she's still working on some dessert offerings, as well as a list of rotating specials that won't be street food per se, but more along the lines of what she calls "Cambodian country food" — say, fish with green mango salad or a variety of stews.

"It's the food I grew up eating," Yun said.

As Inside Scoop first reported, the arrangement is for Yun to operate what the Public Market is calling its "turnkey pop-up stand" for six months, at which point she'll have the option to extend her stay for another six months or sign a long-term lease on a different stand in the food court. The idea is for the restaurant at the "turnkey" stand to rotate periodically, offering up-and-coming food businesses a relatively affordable foot in the door. (If you're entering through the Public Market's main entrance, the stall is located in the still-mostly-empty corridor to left, Yun said.)

Yun, who started her business with the help of San Francisco's La Cocina kitchen incubator, has said her ultimate dream is to open an intimate 40-seat diner where she can blast Cambodian pop music. This isn't quite that, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.

Once Nyum Bai finishes its soft-opening trial run, the restaurant will be open daily 11 a.m.–8 p.m.

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