Jonesy's fried chicken | Photo: Courtesy

Hailing from multiple generations of Goleta dairymen and grandparents based in Biloxi, Mississippi, Kyle Jones is preternaturally positioned to be the force behind a fried chicken restaurant that relies on organic poultry, fresh farmers market produce, and housemade everything.   

“Between my Italian side here and comfort food from my Southern family, food was in my blood since day one,” said Jones, who’s been cooking since his San Marcos High School days. “It was natural for me.”

On June 12, he combined those roots — plus nearly two decades of restaurant and catering experience — to open Jonesy’s Fried Chicken, a fast-casual restaurant at the end of Orange Avenue in Old Town Goleta. Located in the former home of the once-beloved Chinese restaurant Red Pepper, Jonesy’s appears at first glance to be just the latest franchisee from some sleekly designed, vintage-inspired chain. But one look at the menu — full of homestyle preserves, pickles, and sauces — paired with a one bite of shatter-crisp, juicy chicken, and it’s immediately obvious that this is the product of careful consideration carried out with meticulous execution. 

“Fried chicken has a different understanding for a lot of people depending on where you’re originally from,” said Jones, explaining that the South seeks whole-bird styles while the West Coast knows more about strips and sandwiches. “We found common ground with our blend of the menu. We wanted to keep our Southern roots but Californianize it, if you will. We brought freshness to the table and fun concepts not typically found alongside fried chicken while maintaining the integrity of what good fried chicken is. It’s all about getting the right flavors without hitting you over the head with too much heavy stuff.”

Kyle Jones, founder of Jonesy’s Fried Chicken | Credit: Matt Kettmann

How to Bloom

Though food was in his blood — he actually still lives in a home that was part of his family’s Durbiano Dairy, which occupied most of everything between Hollister, Turnpike, 101, and Page Youth Center in the early 20th century — Jones was not instantly drawn to the chef life. He first hit the line at the Outback Steakhouse on Calle Real when he was 17, busting out Bloomin’ Onions in the back while everyone else was having more fun in the front. “I didn’t want to be a cook at that time,” said Jones.

Instead, after high school, he worked with heavy equipment in the construction industry for a few years. “Then I was tired of being out of town all the time,” he said. “I wanted to be home, here with family.”

In 2006, Jones enrolled in SBCC’s culinary program and started working in fine-dining kitchens like bouchon, the Red Barn in Santa Ynez (before The Brothers took over), and the Succulent Café in Solvang, where he was executive chef. He came back to Goleta to help Country Meat Market & Catering with their menus, then became the chef-partner in the team that revamped The Creekside. 

“That’s when I found my niche,” said Jones of giving a California twist to wood-fired cuisine. But with his wife pregnant, he no longer wanted to work the restaurant grind, so he left to start Craft Wood Fired Catering in 2018. “American classics done right is my focus,” said Jones, who’s been toying with poultry preparations for years, thinking of maybe doing pop-ups. “When it comes to fried chicken, I don’t think there is more of an American classic than that.”

After years of working out of a shared commercial kitchen, he knew that Craft catering needed its own space, which is when he found the spot on Orange Avenue (which Red Pepper left in early 2023). Jones got the keys in April 2023, started demolition the next month, and thought he might open by last July. Then he ran into the stereotypical permit rigamarole, which took months to navigate, mostly over architectural approvals for an insignificant exterior structure. 

He’d already hired Derek Heidemann as a chef for the chicken concept, but Heidemann wound up having to help with everything else as well. “The only way we made it through this was Derek being able to help me with Craft so I could do the business for Jonesy’s,” said Jones. “He took over roles that he never expected to be in originally.” Unfortunately, Heidemann left his job a week after opening, so Jones is again finding himself working the line on occasion.

The key remains doing everything by hand as well as he and his team possibly can. “We’re here to give people the best of what we have,” said Jones. “If it’s not the best, why bother?”

Jonesy’s Fried Chicken uses only Mary’s air-chilled organic chicken | Photo: Courtesy

The original fried chicken sandwich | Credit: Silas Fallstich

How to Eat

My first visit to Jonesy’s was during the soft opening, which was only a couple days after I learned of its existence. I found what appeared to be a long-established brand with fantastic marketing and food photography, followed it on Instagram, and got an invite to come check it out. My plan was to say hi, order a couple items, take a few bites, then bring the rest home for my kids. 

That’s not what happened. I fell into a long conversation with Jones, who suggested the JFC (get it?) Original sandwich, and I asked for a piece of fried chicken as well, just to try the unadulterated version, albeit with some hot honey. As I piled the three styles of pickle and mounds of five different sauces to my plate (peach mustard wins my award for both flavor and originality), out came an order of biscuits with blueberry preserves on the side. 

I then proceeded to eat basically all of it — I couldn’t put down the sandwich, the stunningly delicious orange-zest-tinged hot honey only made the crackling chicken thigh that much better, and I’m not even sure what happened to most of the biscuits. Somehow, I managed to stuff a big bite or two of dessert in my mouth as well, which was just a small slice of a massive ice cream sandwich that Jones also designed. My leftover box was a bitten biscuit covered in melting chocolate.

I went back last Sunday, bought a jar of giardiniera to take home, and ordered the “three and two,” which are three chicken strips, two sides (I went with buttermilk slaw and the Nashville hot fries), and two sauces (that mustard and honey, of course). The flaky chicken coating fascinated me again — I snuck a bite while getting in my truck heading home — and the shoestring-style fries held their firm crunch for quite a long time, making for all-day spicy snacking.

I’m not the only one impressed. During the first week that Jonesy’s was open, they actually sold out of birds. “I didn’t think it was possible but over 700 lbs of Mary’s air-chilled organic chicken has left the building!!!” said the Instagram post. “We are officially sold out for this weekend.”

I won’t need much of an excuse to return, especially as Jones prepares to launch a laundry list of specials that have been in development all along. His biggest concern is trying to do too much. “We’ve had to tone down our enthusiasm,” admitted Jones. “We constantly want to do more than this spot will allow us to do.”

Given the polished branding and seemingly portable concept, it’s clear that the goal is to expand beyond this corner of Old Town Goleta. “This is our guinea pig; this is our ground floor,” said Jones. “There’s no hurry to branch out, but this is number one of hopefully more to come.”

Jonesy’s Fried Chicken (282 Orange Ave., Goleta) is currently open Wed-Sun, but check for the most up-to-date hours. 

Premier Events

Get News in Your Inbox


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.