Saucy Cluckers began the way many small food businesses do: as an at-home hobby.
As vegans, Jaime and John Surenkamp struggled to find store-bought plant-based “chicken” options they liked. So John made his own in the couple’s home kitchen, experimenting with vegan wings and serving them to friends and family.
When the Surenkamps moved to Boulder in 2016, John began perfecting his recipe in his free time. He honed his “chick’n” product to mimic the taste and texture of chicken by using chickpea flour and wheat gluten, not unlike seitan, a high-protein meat substitute.
In September 2021, a year after Jaime quit her job in hospitality technology, she opened the Saucy Cluckers food truck at Rayback Collective using John’s recipes. The truck offered the couple scheduling flexibility, since John works a day job as an investment advisor, allowing him to help develop Saucy Cluckers at night and on weekends. They also saw the food truck as a cost-effective alternative to running a restaurant.
But fairly quickly, that assumption was tested. After catering gigs and food truck events around Boulder and Denver became part of their routine, the Surenkamps reevaluated the business opportunity for their plant-based wings and decided bigger might be better.
“We thought a food truck would be the best way to test whether or not our concept had legs,” Jaime Surenkamp said. And in many ways, it was, she added. “Ever since we’ve opened, gratefully, we’ve had lines every time. We sell out at basically every event.”
Now, capitalizing on its early success, Saucy Cluckers is opening a brick-and-mortar location in Boulder at 1911 Broadway Street on June 3, 2023.
“It seems to have filled a bit of a niche,” Jaime Surenkamp said of Saucy Cluckers. “There’s a lot of really good plant-based nuggets, but there’s no one who’s doing chicken wings the way that we’re doing them.”
Boulder Baked previously inhabited the Broadway and Pearl Street location. The bakery left behind a hood vent, three-compartment sink and walk-in cooler for Saucy Cluckers. “All we had to do was put some chairs in, get some fryers, and we’re good to go,” Jaime Surenkamp said.
The location was already a preparation space for the food truck after the Surenkamps secured it late last year. It will still serve that purpose, though Jaime said they expect to participate in fewer food trucks events after the restaurant opens.
‘Familiar comfort food that everyone can enjoy’
Saucy Cluckers’ signature menu item is its freshly made chick’n wings. They come with a variety of sauces like buffalo, barbeque, dijon dill, smoked maple bacon and teriyaki, which accompany the wings in an unusual way: inside them.
The wings are “probably the least messy thing that we have,” Jaime Surenkamp said. “All of our sauce is on the inside of our wings.” The dijon dill sauce, a customer favorite, has diced dill pickles inside the “skin” of the wing, for instance. “It not only makes the wing itself saucier, it’s also not messy because you don’t have all the sauce on the outside,” she said.
The menu also includes wraps full of shredded chick’n sandwiches and “tachos.” The Saucy Cluckers’ version of nachos, or tater tots, are topped with any flavor of chick’n, house-made “cheese,” jalapenos and tomatoes.
The Surenkamps have added salads to the restaurant menu and will include sides and dessert options soon after launching.
Saucy Cluckers plans to open only on the weekends to start, later adding Wednesday through Friday lunches, then dinners to attract customers with all types of eating preferences.
“The majority of the people who are coming to eat our food are omnivores or vegetarians. Very few of them are vegan,” Jaime Surenkamp said. “We look forward to serving familiar comfort food that everyone can enjoy.”
Saucy Cluckers is opening in Boulder on June 3 at 1911 Broadway Street.