The days when ordering food with your alcoholic beverage was a requirement may be over (we remember it like it was yesterday), but having the option is never a bad idea. Especially when that option is Bitchn Kitchn, operating out of Crystal Lake (647 Grand St.).

Bitchin’ Kitchen — run by Mike Figueroa and Jacqui Santiago (“partners in both business and in life”) — has been serving up what they describe as elevated pub food with BK attitude from the kitchen in Crystal Lake since this time last year. And elevated it is. I had a chance to experience it for myself with Bitchn Kitchn’s most raved-about dishes — the wings, chicken sandwich, BLT with chimichurri mayo on Texas toast, queso frito with guava dipping sauce, fried chicken sandwich, well-seasoned fries, and chili — and can attest that anyone would be beyond happy to take the edge off a cocktail or multiple (Crystal Lake serves fresh, fragrant gin and tonic variations in globe glasses the size of a small child’s head) with anything on the menu.

I also chatted with Figueroa and Santiago for the latest installment of our Behind the Toque series.

Greenpointers: How did Bitchn Kitchn and your partnership with Crystal Lake come about?

Santiago: Mike has always been in the restaurant industry, but he took some time out. He was in the Marines as well, then he went into the hospital industry and is also an anesthesia technician, but he’s always had a love for the kitchen, so he’s never really been out of it. Plus he’s pretty familiar with Grand Street — a lot of our friends call us the Duke and Duchess of Grand Street. He used to work at Burnside before it became The Clonard, he used to work at McOndo Los Tacos for a little while.


When Covid hit, everybody was just a little bit like, “What are we doing?” And then just trying to make do with some things, we started doing pop-ups here and there. Mike and I were doing pop-ups [at Crystal Lake] occasionally, and we also did them at the bar next door, which was Second Chance [Saloon], which were the previous owners of Crystal Lake before they bought the bar. And then my Mike spoke with Crystal Lake’s [owner] Mike and was like, “Hey, what are you guys doing with the kitchen?” And Michael said “Hey, if you’re ready, it’s here.” So on January 14, 2022, we officially started residency there.

The BLT with Chimichurri mayo (foreground) and fried chicken sandwich (background).

What’s your philosophy around your menu?

Santiago: The menu is very much elevated comfort food. We do about 90% of our dishes in-house; So our chili is all homemade, our wings are made to order, the burgers aren’t frozen. Everything is brined and freshly made, except for the chili, which needs like a day or two to marinate. Mike always has gravitated more towards comfort food, so that’s what we focus on. We pride ourselves on the chili and the wings are a big hit there. We’ve taken the chopped cheese and have brought it to a different level, and then we have the little staples like the queso frito, our loaded chili cheese fries and our nachos which are pretty formidable.

I also decided to start bringing charcuterie boards on because we have parties and we have some events. Plus, the bar itself is very different from the other bars on the strip, so I figured the charcuterie would look nice and would be nice because they have such a a selection of whiskeys and different liquors there.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your year at Crystal Lake?

Santiago: They say, “Run your own business, it’s fun.” It’s not, but you roll with the punches. The best thing is hearing the feedback from people; as long as they’re happy, it doesn’t matter how much you fight in the kitchen. At the end of the day, if we’ve managed to cater a party of, let’s say, a hundred people and have managed to feed the people and everybody is happy, we’ve done our job.

Figueroa: I left the hospital as a steady gig and went freelance our own business, so the uncertainty of “Is there gonna be business? Are there gonna be customers? Was that a good move?” That was probably my biggest fear, making it work. And it’s been making a turn for the better. The city’s coming back to some sense of normalcy, but that was probably the biggest fear going out —  none of the safety nets of corporate life.

Is there anything that you’ve noticed that’s particular about the neighborhood or serving food in Williamsburg?

Santiago: It definitely it feels like a family. And it may sound cliche, but our regulars are really regular. I felt it on the fifth-year anniversary of Crystal Lake, the party that they had. We walked in and people were like, “Oh, we thought you were gonna hang out with us since it was your first anniversary also.” We were like, “Well, that’s the whole point. Want you to guys to eat. You know, you guys made us stay here for a year.” So we stayed over for a couple hours, but I felt it so much. Because I came in and we saw a bunch of our regulars there who enjoy our food, and I went up to each and every one of them while Mike was in the kitchen getting everything ready. It felt homey.

What are your hopes for the next year?

Santiago: Take over the world. Our hopes are to be able to get some people in so that we don’t have to be there five days, six days a week. Our vision is hopefully a food truck and we would love a bar or a little popup by the beach, but we’ll start with Grand Street right now.

Anything coming up that you’re excited about?

Santiago: I would say Super Bowl. That was our big test last year actually. That was our first big event. Our first catering gig was on Super Bowl Sunday, but it was pretty exciting and for us to come in as two people new in that kitchen, I think we’ve hit it off pretty well.

What dish would you recommend on the menu?

Figueroa: Probably the wings, the chicken sandwich, or the chili.

Santiago: The fried chicken sandwich our staple, I wanna say our holy grail right there. That fried chicken sandwich with some chimichurri mayo, that’s our golden ticket. But definitely the chili. The chili is amazing. It’s not for the vegetarian in a person for sure, ’cause it’s got ground beef and Spanish pork.

How did you come up with the name Bitchn Kitchn?

Santiago: We started off with it as a joke with him being the kitchen and me being the bitching. But I think it’s grown to have its own personality now. Because there’s so many different ways to explain it now. It started off as that, but then, you know, we’re older, so back in the day “bitchin'” used to mean that something was good. And it’s great! It’s good food. But then for the first time being in a professional kitchen setting, I did not realize how much complaining happens, and where everybody gossips is in the kitchen. I realized over the past year that this is where everybody comes to vent, to scream. So yeah, it’s taken on its own meaning.

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