21 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by sanrafaelpatch
Patch Instagram photo by sanrafaelpatch
Patch Instagram photo by sanrafaelpatch
Patch Instagram photo by sanrafaelpatch

New Pop-up Restaurant Serves Soul Food with a U

The Chicken Diva opened in June and runs out of Whistlestop's Jackson Cafe.

New Pop-up Restaurant Serves Soul Food with a U

When Rachael Griffin was offered the chance to turn Fridays and Saturdays at into a comfort food eatery, she knew she couldn't pass it up.

The 42-year-old fried chicken wing chef extraordinaire opened , a new pop-up restaurant that operates out of cafe, in June. The menu features mouth-watering, Southern-style favorites like sweet potato turnovers, homemade macaroni and cheese, fried okra, corn fitters, corn bread and (of course) fried chicken wings.

"Many people when they think of soul food, they think of the Puerto Rican restaurant ," Griffin said. "But this is soul food with a u."

Although this is Griffin's first venture into running a restaurant, the kitchen is no stranger to her. She's worked in several restaurants throughout her life, but her love for cooking blossomed when she was 9 years old and living in Marin City. There, she spent hours practicing recipes on her Betty Crocker oven.

"I used to ask my mother to save some of the batter when she was making a cake, so I could use it in my oven," she said.

Currently living in Mill Valley, Griffin divided her time between her passion in the kitchen and working the regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. She began pondering the idea of selling her sweet potato turnovers at the Farmers' Market, when the Whistlestop officials gave her the idea of a pop-up.

While the task of running a business was daunting, Griffin gladly accepted the challenge. "Everything is on your shoulders," she said. "But even with all the pressure, I'm still like 'I can do this.'"

Now, news of her culinary talent is spreading. Both the Marin Independent Journal and the Pacific Sun featured Griffin in small blurps at the beginning of the summer, and videographers from CBS San Francisco's Eye on the Bay were planning on giving the pop-up a visit, according to The Chicken Diva's Facebook page.

"When people come in to the restaurant, it's like they are coming to my house," she said. "And no matter what's going on, when I'm in the kitchen, it's peaceful."

In the short-term, Griffin plans to expand the menu and possibly incorporate her other passion in the dining experience—poetry. When she looked at the space back in March, she noticed the sound system Whistlestop uses for special events would be perfect for reciting open-mic poetry.

As for the long-term, Griffin has hopes to move into a larger space and eventually have a chain of Chicken Divas serving up comfort food.

"This is just the beginning for the Chicken Diva," she said.

The Chicken Diva is located at 930 Tamalpais Ave. in San Rafael. They are open Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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