Quick Take:

Jessica Yarr of Chicken Foot and the Brunch Shift aims to open a family-friendly café and bakery in downtown Felton by March.

This story was originally featured in this week’s Lily Belli on Food newsletter. Be first the first to hear about food and drink news in Santa Cruz County — sign up for Lily’s email newsletter here and text alerts here.

For the second time in less than two months and fourth time in just over two years, chef Jessica Yarr is launching a new culinary project. At the end of 2020, Yarr started Chicken Foot, a pop-up focusing on plant-based Eastern European comfort food. Last fall, Brunch Shift, her playful brunch concept was born and in November she began a winter culinary residency at Ulterior at Motiv in downtown Santa Cruz. Now, Yarr is working on opening The Grove, her first brick-and-mortar café, in downtown Felton, her hometown.

One can’t help but wonder how she does it all, but Yarr says the community support she has received so far has made taking on the project easy. “There’s so many benefits to growing up in this town and opening a business,” says Yarr, who says friends, some of whom also own businesses nearby, have stepped up to lend a hand. And, the Grove is just up the street from her parents’ business — the Bigfoot Museum on Highway 9.

The Grove will be a family-friend café and bakery, with coffee, espresso, tea and eventually beer and wine. The menu will focus on “healthy stuff with some indulgences with a lot of plant-based food — food that is alive with nutrition, flavor and local ingredients,” says Yarr, who wants to draw inspiration from the Felton area. There will be an “amazing veggie burger,” plant-based soft-serve ice cream with seasonal flavors and a menu of baked goods using whole-grain flour. Yarr plans to bake all the bread for her sandwiches and burgers in-house.

Above all, Yarr wants to create a casual, cozy atmosphere that’s family-friendly. “I envision my son, Jesse, who is a student at San Lorenzo Valley Elementary School, coming in with his friends after school, getting soft serve and hanging out. As a mom, I want to have food that’s really inclusive to all ages and dietary preferences.” There will be plenty of to-go options as well, due to limited seating in the café. While the Grove will not be open for dinner, she hopes to host occasional pop-ups in the evening on the back patio.

Yarr earned a name for herself working as a pastry chef at Penny Ice Creamery and Gabriella Café, and as the head chef at Assembly in Santa Cruz. Later, she oversaw the food program at Adobe headquarters and has been a part of several culinary strategy teams, an experience she says helped her learn how to create “crowd-pleasing menus that will feed all sorts of people.”

The Grove will be open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m., says Yarr, who aims to open by March. Follow along on Instagram at @thegrovefelton for updates.

Lily Belli is the food and drink correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Over the past 15 years since she made Santa Cruz her home, Lily has fallen deeply in love with its rich food culture, vibrant agriculture...