Sonoma County isn’t exactly known for its late-night culinary scene, especially when it comes to the affordable, gut-filling food favored by second-shift restaurant and hospitality staff looking for a greasy, spicy nosh after work.
Two Chicago foodies want to change that with a new pop-up project called Second Staff, a roaming kitchen that offers the “the quick, unapologetic, sometimes messy but always tasty meals that cooks would throw together for each other, especially at the end of the night,” according to co-owner Jenny Phan. She and husband Sean work by day in the wine business but have missed the bustling nighttime food scenes from their time living in Chicago and Los Angeles.
“One of our biggest gripes from the first week of living here was getting off work at 1 a.m. and having nowhere to go except fast food,” Sean said. “We were like, ‘We’re just gonna do it ourselves,’” he said.
The couple has held several deep-undercover pop-ups in the last few months, at Retrograde Roasters in Sebastopol and the Miracle Plum Kitchen in Santa Rosa. Their focus has been Asian-inspired fried chicken, including their Korean Goddess, coated in a tangy gochujang sauce; the Sichuan Warrior, with a numbing, garlicky chile crisp; and the Asakusa Kid, coated in citrusy sansho, shiso and nori. They also sell scorched sugar boba tea and sides of bread and slaw.
Some of the spaces they’ve worked out of in the past had limited cooking equipment, which led to their limited menu, Phan said, to feed tired kitchen staff something filling and delicious.
“It’s like the gritty, behind-the-scenes industry stuff — fried chicken that was breaded with ramen noodles, kimchi bacon fried rice, grilled mushrooms. Our menu is something that is super approachable with the stronger flavors we love,” Phan said.
The next pop-up will be held at Jam’s Joy Bungalow in Sebastopol (150 Weeks Way, near Ramen Gaijin) from 6 p.m. to midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, March 29 and 30. Order ahead at second-staff.com/popup-snax if you want to assure yourself some fried chicken, because when the food is gone, it’s gone. Details at second-staff.com and on Instagram @_secondstaff.