When Steve and Sidney Price discovered that their children had severe food allergies their lives changed dramatically. And it wasn’t a simple rash that put the Price family on notice. When their oldest son Brixton (now 5) was 9 months old, he had a full anaphylaxis reaction to a taste of yogurt.
They would find he was allergic to tree nuts, some seeds and various other ingredients. Their second son, Aceyn, 3, would also have food allegies. And they are certainly not alone. Food allergies affect approximately 32 million people in the U.S. and about 5.6 million of those are children, according to statistics from kidswithfoodallergies.org.
Preparing meals at home became very restrictive and going out to restaurants was basically impossible. It was more than just avoiding specific menu items, there was also the worry of cross contamination from foods that were dangerous for the kids.
“It just became really debilitating to us,” Sidney said.
So, the Belmont Shore couple decided to open a restaurant that could cater to those with severe food allergies. Steve had already been in the restaurant business his entire working life, having been among the founders of the Lazy Dog restaurant group. But this new venture would be different from most eateries and Sidney would take the helm.
What they came up with was the Noble Bird Rotisserie located at the 2ND & PCH center in Long Beach. The restaurant starts with pasture raised chickens, using no hormones or antibiotics. The chickens are then cooked on a rotisserie and served with various side options, or used for sandwiches or salads. They eventually added some pork items and the kids menu also offers a “safe butter” and jelly sandwich that is made with chickpea butter and homemade jam. But most of the menu items are centered around the chicken.
“The star of the show is our chicken,” Sidney said.
When the venture began to take shape, Sidney took the lead. Steve continued his day job, but was Sidney’s “free labor” she says with a chuckle. She not only focused on the kitchen, but also the décor and the process. One of her ideas was as simple as it was brilliant for the need. She had a sink installed at the front entrance, so people could wash their hands as they entered, to limit cross-contamination.
She also made it an order and pay first design, remembering how often families with children have to be ready to go when the children are ready. The pay first eliminates the need to wait for a check to arrive. However, once the guests are seated, there are servers available to add more food or drinks.
“Sidney and the team came up with some very creative things,” Steve said.
Everything was set and ready to go as the Noble Bird opened in December of 2019. Exactly. A mere three months later, the country went into lockdown because of the pandemic. That hand washing station now seems a bit prophetic. One thing the Noble Bird had going for it, was the fact that rotisserie chickens are perfect for take-out consumption.
However, they did have to furlough about 80 percent of their new employees. But they also began to implement new ideas, such as bodega option, drive and dine and family meal kits. But they also sought out ways to give back.
The restaurant donated meals to frontline workers with a “Noble Meals for Noble Heroes,” donating meals to hospitals and fire stations. One of their biggest drops was about 100 meals and they also adopted eight frontline worker families. Sidney said they wanted “to give back to the community and have a sense of purpose. As the pandemic begins to fade and the world starts to get back to normal, the Noble Bird, like many restaurants continues to evolve. Under the guidance of Chef Andrew Bice they continue to look for new ways to prepare allergy safe food that tastes good.
Sidney admits that the restrictions on ingredients might be a little frustrating for a chef at times. She said that Bice seems to take it as a challenge to his culinary skills.
“Everything he does has elevated fast casual,” Sidney said.
Noble Bird Restaurant
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thurs; 11 to 8:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and then 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
They serve lunch and dinner daily plus weekend brunch on Sat + Sun