The co-owners of newly minted Chicken Headz in Ocean Beach are offshoots of another well-known eatery nearby: Hodad’s.
Business duo Martin Robles and Bruno Elias of Chicken Headz at 5026 Newport Ave. both cut their teeth at Hodad’s, an iconic restaurant up the block. Elias worked there for 17 years. Robles for 10.
“We all started out in the kitchen back in the day prepping, frying, and slowly moving our way up,” said Elias. “We’d been thinking about doing something on the side. Once the pandemic hit, it just motivated us to start looking into the ideas that we had. Fried chicken was definitely one of them.”
“We all started out in the back learning all aspects of the business,” noted Robles adding, “It’s not life or death. “It’s lunch and dinner.”
The space Chicken Headz inhabits was previously a Mexican grill, Livingston’s, attached to Sunshine Company next door which became available last year. “We just felt it was time to take that gamble,” said Robles. “It was talk about it – or be about it.”
“We knew going into it that this was going to be a take-out place only, so the pandemic didn’t really affect us,” pointed out Elias.
“It’s counter service with items on the menu that are geared toward beach eats, like fried chicken on a stick,” noted Robles. “We’ve got a parfait cup so you can walk and eat at the same time. Everything is catered to keep people moving toward the beach. You want to be able to walk around with your goodies and enjoy everything while you’re around here.”
Chicken Headz features the classic bone-in chicken four- and eight-piece family meals, chicken strips and two signature sandwiches: the yardbird, a classic fried-chicken sandwich, and a po’boy, the eatery’s take on the classic po’boy sandwich on a French roll with house-made tequila lime Cole slaw.
There are also chicken wings with buffalo ranch sauce on the menu. Other items include combo fried chicken meals with cornbread, chicken & waffles, and an array of sides and extras like mac n' cheese, mashed potatoes with gravy, popcorn chicken, fried pickles and green beans and the restaurant’s trademark fried mushrooms.
“And world-famous Icees, we decided to bring that back,” said Elias. “Not many places carry that.”
Of their restaurant’s name Robles noted: “There’s metal heads, gear heads, dead heads. There are people who love fried chicken. So they’ve got to be chicken heads.”
Chicken Headz also carries a wide assortment of different flavored drinks.
Addressing breaking into the restaurant industry, Elias said, “We’re learning as we go. But this is where the whole Bossman-Hodad’s alumni thing comes in. We took a lot of things that we learned from there and it made the journey so much easier.”
“During the pandemic down time it was a cool time to come in here as we rebuilt the inside of this old classic Mexican restaurant,” said Robles. “We were just looking forward to opening up to the public and giving a different visual perception as well.”
“It’s pretty exciting to open up a restaurant with one of your best friends,” noted Elias. “It’s family.”
“We’ve got to bring something different to the block here,” concluded Robles. “That’s been our goal from the beginning.”