Kickin Chicken Danny Mendoza Matt “Chicken Mitts” Ruhland Justin Williams upstairs Motiv Santa Cruz
Dining Reviews

Kickin Chicken Opens Kitchen at Motiv

Upstairs kitchen at Motiv changes hands, plus two must-go events

From left to right, owner Danny Mendoza, manager Matt “Chicken Mitts” Ruhland and owner Justin Williams of Kickin Chicken, at there new location in downtown Santa Cruz. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER

After a 16-month run in the upstairs kitchen of the downtown club Motiv, Ulterior chef Zachary Mazi and business partner Tighe Melville of LionFish Supper Club have decided to pursue other passions. Ulterior closed at the end of May, and on July 12 the beloved fried chicken delivery service and self-proclaimed “lords of late night” Kickin Chicken will take over the space. After a long residency at the Food Lounge, this is owners Justin Williams’ and Daniel Mendoza’s first full-service restaurant—an upgrade they’ve been pursuing for their successful delivery-only venture for at least a year.

And really, is there a pairing more apropos? What could be more satisfying after a couple of Motiv’s well-crafted cocktails than fried chicken? Williams and Mendoza plan on sticking to their tried and true menu of tender, crispy fowl, and are looking forward to adding their offbeat yet undeniably delicious comfort food. Williams reports that miso butterscotch ribs are likely to be on the menu, as will their “Trash Salad,” a mélange of repurposed vegetable odds and edds that would have otherwise ended up in the compost bin. It’s served in a tiny trashcan in order to really drive their point home—and maybe put a smile (or a grimace) on customers’ faces.

“We’re almost going back to our Midtown pop-up roots,” says Williams, referring to the popular pop-ups they threw in 2015 at the now-shuttered Midtown Café on Soquel Avenue. “That felt like the most ‘Kickin Chicken.’ Our menu was playful, and a little bit low art.”

I remember ordering offbeat creations like macaroni and cheese with Flamin’ Hot Cheeto breadcrumbs, or incendiary hot chicken, which arrived between two pieces of white bread that did nothing to deter the addicting fiery flavor. After tossing out menu ideas like housemade American cheese and giant dill pickles, Williams offers a revealing declaration about their playful menu: “Forget farm to table; we’re fryer to couch.” If you prefer to enjoy Kickin Chicken in the comfort of your home, don’t worry, their delivery service will continue uninterrupted.


FOOD TRUCK EVENT

With all of the lovely warm weather we’ve been having, doesn’t a picnic in the park sound nice? The first Food Truck Event is coming to San Lorenzo Park on Friday, June 30. Food truck event company Food Trucks A Go Go is putting on the event, which will feature six local food trucks including Saucey’z, G’s Mexican Tacos, Ate3One, Lindsey’s Palate Pleasures, Aunt LaLi’s Mobile Cafe and Drunk Monkey’s, plus a beer and wine garden with Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Bargetto Winery.


BREW CRUZ PARTY

Brew Cruz, the local brewery tour bus and brainchild of Annie Wolff-Pautsch, is celebrating its third anniversary from noon to 9 p.m. on the Fourth of July at Shanty Shack Brewing. The Brew Cruz Session IPA, a special collaboration beer brewed for the event, will be on tap and Gordo Gustavo’s BBQ will serve up pork products lovingly coaxed to smoky, tender perfection by Austin Towne. The lovely and infamous Betty Jane, Wolff-Pautsch’s converted 1989 Thomas International school bus, will be converted into a photo booth and SLV rockers the Coffis Brothers will play a show at 5 p.m. Even if the upcoming holiday feels marred by our current political climate, I’m looking forward to celebrating two things to which my loyalty has never swayed—our community and beer.

Contributor at |

Lily Stoicheff loves exploring food culture and telling its stories. She is a craft beer and fermentation enthusiast, and her research methods include eating seasonally, cooking often and trying everything. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, reading, traveling, cooking, fermentin' and points of historical interest

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