What a Chicken seems to have exploded onto the Petaluma food scene, with customers giving nothing but praise for their succulent smoked chicken and super tender ribs. This can be explained by the fact that owners Cesar and Griselda Segura are not new to the culinary arena, nor are they new to Petaluma, having served up thousands of chicken and rib orders at Petaluma’s Tuesday farmers market over the past five years.
Cesar learned to cook from his mother and has been working in restaurants ever since immigrating to the U.S. from the Mexican state of Michoacán. His wife Griselda also comes from Michoacán, growing up about an hour from Cesar, although they did not meet until years later when Griselda serendipitously came into Cesar’s restaurant for dinner. She did not know it at the time, but it was love at first sight for Cesar, who even told his mother that he was going to marry Griselda someday. Ten years later, they met again, and have been together ever since.
For anyone who has tasted their chicken, the name is more than appropriate. Stylized as “What a Chicken!!,” it is arguably short a few exclamation points. The name came by way of Cesar’s father, who back in Mexico was always telling friends and family, “What a chicken!” when speaking of Cesar’s cooking.
Chicken is clearly the highlight of the menu, and can be ordered as a two-piece ($7), four-piece ($10), or eight-piece ($18) meal, which all include two sides and a drink. The chicken can be supplemented with ribs, which are fall-off-the-bone tender. Whole chickens ($14) and whole racks of ribs ($27) are also available, which make for a great supplement to home-cooked lunches and dinners throughout the week.
Sides include Griselda’s potato salad, fresh coleslaw, green salad, rice, beans (both black and refried), and tortillas, of which roughly 500 are made each day by hand in the back. We have tried and enjoyed them all, mixing and matching to come up with unique flavor combos.
The large jugs filled with vibrant colored drinks that normally adorn a Mexican restaurant’s counter tops do not usually get my attention. However, because What a Chicken’s meals include a drink, I gave the Pineapple a try and was thoroughly impressed, and have ordered it again with each visit. The horchata, which is usually made from rice milk, cinnamon, and other spices and is a Mexican restaurant standard, is always on tap, with the rest of the “Aguas Frescas” changing regularly. The watermelon and hibiscus were also excellent.
What a Chicken opened to great fanfare, due in large part to Griselda keeping the media regularly informed of their progress. Within two weeks of their soft opening, What a Chicken held a grand opening, offering free food for an entire Sunday afternoon. I stopped in and met several people who were not only impressed with the food and service, but thought it was very classy of Cesar and Griselda to introduce their new restaurant with a free lunch.
We have tried the chicken, steak, fish and shrimp tacos on two occasions now, both unaltered, and stripped down, without onions and salsa. All were excellent, but we seemed to keep going back to the fish tacos, likely because they are made from sea bass, as opposed to the cheaper fish usually used by other restaurants.