Call it the post-roast-chicken syndrome: As some chefs work overtime to dress up the classic dish with increasingly exotic flavors, others are going in a much wilder direction. "Game birds have so much character," says Ari Taymor, chef and owner of the highly acclaimed 39-seat Los Angeles restaurant Alma. "It shows that a guest trusts you when they order them, either because they've never had it before or they understand how much care it takes." Below, where to find the meats of the moment.

QUAIL
One of the smallest game birds, "It has a subtle gaminess that's not overpowering," says Chicago-based OON chef Matt Eversman. "Because quail is served whole, people think of it as a high-end product."
Where to Get It
OON, Chicago
Pan-roasted quail shines under a hoisin lacquer.
Niche, St. Louis
A Mediterranean-herb purée is frozen with liquid nitrogen and then shaved over the quail in this tasting-menu stunner.
State Bird Provisions, San Francisco
This restaurant's flagship dish (and namesake) is buttermilk-marinated and fried crisp.

PIGEON
Alma's Ari Taymor got hooked on squab—the catchall term for domesticated breeds of the bird—while cooking in France. "It's my favorite meat," he says. "Pigeons are gamy without being too liver-y, there's a lot of meat on them, and the size is perfect."
Where to Get It
Alma, Los Angeles
The hay-and-salt-roasted Santa Barbara squab is one of the most savory and satisfying dishes on the menu.
The Pines, Brooklyn
Half a house-aged honey-glazed squab comes with squash purée, pickled pears—and its macabre claw intact.

PHEASANT
"There's a strong fall-specific seasonality to it," says New York chef Shaun Hergatt, who prepares the lean, rose-hued meat at his new restaurant, Juni. "The meat has terroir, you can taste what it's been eating."
Where to Get It
Juni, New York City
Get pheasant three different ways on the same plate: The bird is slow-cooked sous vide, filled with a purée made from the breast, and paired with leg rillettes that have the consistency of braised poultry.
Le Virtù, Philadelphia
The secret ingredient in a meaty ragu blankets a chestnut tagliatelle.
Table, Donkey and Stick, Chicago
With the "hiker's plate," Scott Manley's Alps-inspired lodge offers a classic pheasant-galantine starter.

PARTRIDGE
Until recently, partridges were pretty much only found "in a pear tree"—an ironic song lyric since these plump, squatty birds don't build their nests in trees—and not in restaurant kitchens. But chefs like Joe Macchia of the Williamsburg bistro Biblio are bringing the breed back. "Partridge has more myoglobin in its muscle, meaning darker meat with richer flavor," says the chef, who sources his Pennsylvania birds from Pat LaFreida. "It makes me think of warm flavors like cinnamon and chestnuts, perfect as hoodie weather starts approaching."
Where to Get It
Biblio, Brooklyn
Inspired by the Christmas carol, Biblio layers a partridge terrine with Red Blush pears.
Art in Seattle, Seattle
An herb-baked partridge with confit leg and currant jelly anchors the menu at this Pacific Northwest–focused spot overlooking Elliott Bay.
Meadowood, Napa Valley , California
Partridge is a mainstay during Meadowood's annual "12 Days of Christmas" guest-chef series.

GUINEA HEN
"While guinea hen may easily be perceived as having the appearance and flavor of chicken, I find certain qualities to be far more intriguing and exciting to work with," says Ali Ratcliffe-Bauer, who keeps Indiana-bred fowl a mainstay on her menu at Chicago's French jewel, Brindille. "The skin is rather thin, so when roasted, it becomes exceptionally crisp and easily assumes a deep, golden color with a beautiful burnished sheen." Draping bacon over the breasts before roasting, a process known as barding, ensures that the sweet, earthy meat beneath stays moist.
Where to Get It
Brindille, Chicago
Treated with thyme and savory, pan-roasted guinea breast gets plated with cabbage parcels filled with guinea-leg stuffing.
Oxheart, Houston
At this white-hot paean to Houston cuisine, squash bundles hide braised leg meat alongside a slow-poached guinea breast.
Middleton Place Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina
At this National Historic Landmark on the banks of the Ashley River, half a confit hen with red rice and okra.

OSTRICH
From being trendy in the nineties to gauche in the aughts, ostrich is slowly, ahem, pulling its head out of the sand. "Back in 1990s, ostrich was ready to take over the beef market," says Guy Reinbolt, chef of the gentlemanly Brossard's reboot in New Orleans. "I put it on my menu now because it's one of the healthiest meats, a lean muscle with a little bit of nuttiness without that gamy flavor."
Where to Get It
Broussard's, New Orleans
Wild-mushroom dust and au poivre sauce coat the seared ostrich tenderloin at Broussard's.
Tag Raw Bar, Denver
Order the Thunder Struck at Tag Raw Bar to enjoy an ostrich, snow-crab, avocado, and haricot-vert sushi roll.
Bareburger, New York City
Get the ground ostrich-burger at one of the five Bareburger locations of this beloved New York fast-food chain.

• • •

Fowl Play: 4 Specialty Shops to Know

Order Muscovy-duck livers and ostrich jerky from the third-generation butcher shop Czimer's, 45 minutes outside Chicago. Griggstown Quail Farm, in Princeton, New Jersey, offers ducks and pheasants. Goose pâté and Cognac-laced pheasant sausage can be found at the exotic-meat specialist D'Angelo Bros. in Philadelphia. For a truly decadent feast, try the terrine of duck foie gras from New Jersey's D'Artagnan.