First Look: Ellie Bird Opens in Falls Church

The Founders Row eatery from the duo behind D.C.'s Michelin-starred Rooster & Owl is a family affair.
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Ellie Bird brings innovative entrees, ’90s-vibes cocktails and a playful kids menu to Falls Church City. (Photo by Andrew Noh)

A new restaurant has taken flight in Falls Church City, and it’s got instant cred.

Ellie Bird opens at Founders Row on April 14 with a whimsical dining room, inventive entrees, kid-friendly cuisine and cleverly named cocktails. It’s the second venture for Falls Church residents Carey and Yuan Tang, who also own the Michelin-starred fine dining establishment Rooster & Owl on 14th Street in the District. (They’ll be the first to admit they’ve got a thing for birds.)

The idea behind the new concept is “to carry those values here in our local neighborhood—where it’s still chef-driven, still seasonal and still really creative New American food,” Carey says, “but presented in that more approachable, calm, Tuesday-bring-the-kids approach. I’m really excited about it.”

The restaurant is a homecoming of sorts for the husband and wife, both of whom grew up in Falls Church, working at local chain restaurants as teenagers. After several years in New York City, they moved back to the D.C. area and eventually opened Rooster & Owl, which garnered a Michelin star in 2021.

When a developer reached out about an opportunity to launch a restaurant in their hometown, they took it.

“It was just one of those fortuitous moments when the stars aligned,” Carey says. “It really became more sentimental than we could have planned.”


Kimchi bouillabaisse (Photo by Albert Ting)

As a kid, Carey had a stand at the Falls Church Farmers Market selling handmade pins. “Now we’re opening a real business, steps down from where I argued my way to my first entrepreneurial endeavor when I was 8,” she says. “Lord knows what I even said to make them let me do that.” (We’re told the pins, framed by a retired farmers market operator, will soon be on display in the restaurant.)

Asked which of Ellie Bird’s menu items he’s most excited about, Yuan, a trained chef who previously worked at Michelin-starred restaurants Jean-Georges, The Modern and the now-shuttered Dovetail in New York, has one word:


Highlights include octopus ceviche with passionfruit vinaigrette, avocado, garlic-chili crunch, red onion and fried plantains. And ricotta gnudi—”a twist on a chicken dumpling,” Yuan says—with English peas and carrots.

Fans of Rooster & Owl will also be pleased to find iterations of select dishes repeated at Ellie Bird with some slight tweaks. Among them: Yuan’s kimchi bouillabaisse, loaded with grilled Hokkaido scallops, red snapper and littleneck clams, as well as the lamb shank.

Both restaurants start off a meal with pineapple buns, a take on Parker House rolls and the pastries from Yuan’s youth in Hong Kong. (The chef was born in Falls Church and lived in Hong Kong until he was 12.)

“[They’re] sort of signifying that breaking bread approach that means a lot to us,” Carey says.

Yet another fusion dish is the chef’s French onion soup, which introduces the flavors of pho to the traditional, gruyere-topped broth.

“It really speaks to what our kitchen team does,” Carey says.  “It’s chef-driven, but it’s crossing that line between what New American is now … and what you’d expect of someone who’s raised in this area.”

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The restaurant features a eight-person bar and will open a patio in the summer. (Photo by Andrew Noh)

The beverage program features a host of wines by the glass or bottle, local beers and cocktails with ’90s throwback names—such as the green slime-hued Kids’ Choice Awards, which blends gin, pandan, coconut milk and mango. (“Adult cereal milk,” Carey calls it.) Another quaff called This is Your Brain on Pisco pairs mezcal with gochujang, grapefruit and rice wine vinegar. The zero-proof Pineapple Under the Sea is made with blood orange shrub, hibiscus and soda.

Youngsters will find plenty to love on the kids’ menu, which includes favorites of the Tangs’ two daughters, such as cornflake-crusted chicken tenders with fries; penne with butter and parmesan; and the Char-cute-rie, an assortment of sliced cheese and ham, fruit and veggies that Yuan likens to a Lunchable.

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Chef Yuan Tang (Photo courtesy of Ellie Bird)

Spanning roughly 3,000 square feet and designed by D.C.-based //3877, Ellie Bird has seating for about 70 guests, an open kitchen, an eight-person bar and a patio slated to open in the summer. A forthcoming takeout menu will feature dishes that  travel well from restaurant to home.

“One thing we learned [during] Covid is you can’t translate a dine-in menu to takeaway,” Carey says of their pivot to takeout food at Rooster & Owl during the pandemic. “It really mattered a great deal to us that someone’s first experience with us is not crappy, soggy takeout food.”

The restaurant is currently open only for dinner service, but it will eventually add brunch, with creative spins such as spam-and-egg sliders on pineapple buns and mochi waffles with fermented bananas. A ghost kitchen is also in the works.

The Tangs named Rooster & Owl after themselves—she, the early riser; he, the night-shifter. “We’d always come together over food,” Carey says.

Ellie Bird’s moniker is also personal. The “calmer, more relaxed” and kid-friendly counterpart to Rooster & Owl is aptly named for their serene younger daughter.

The name has been a win with most members of the family, with the exception of their older daughter, Nori.

“It thoroughly irritates my 4-year-old,” Carey says. “She doesn’t understand our next restaurant will be named after her.”

This post has been updated with additional information about the layout of Ellie Bird.

Ellie Bird is located at 125 Founder’s Ave. in Falls Church. It will open at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

Categories: Food & Drink