While visiting the old neighborhood I noticed how so many things have changed including the restaurants and fast food joints. I say joints for the names that follow are not classy enough to be referred to as restaurants.
When I was a lad, the late 1960’s – early 1970’s, there were plenty of locally owned fast food shops plus a few national chain ones. And it seemed that chicken was the fast food of choice in Boardman, Ohio for there were many instances of chicken franchises dotted across the township. Sure there was McDonald’s and Burger King, even Burger Chef, hell we even had the very first Arby’s Roast Beef right here in Boardman, but chicken stands and restaurants seemed to be everywhere.
Of course there was Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Colonel Harland Sanders was still alive back then) Always wondered how the store made the chicken since the recipe for the herbs and spices were kept secret. Good guessers I presume.
Red Barn Chicken: Yes, the building was shaped like a barn and was pained red. Your order was packed in a cardboard box in the shape of a barn painted red. The chicken was pretty good as I recall. The fries were not as they were cooked in the same oil as the chicken. The rolls were terrible.
Next up was Minnie Pearls Famous Recipe Fried Chicken. The building was painted canary yellow. I believed the glare from the building caused several car accidents. This chicken was honey dipped, (Whatever that meant) and was more crispy than the others. It was damn good. And the honey butter rolls were the best I ever had. Seriously, people would just come in and buy several dozen rolls. And yes, there was a huge cardboard cutout of Minnie Pearl in her blue dress and Sunday best hat with the price tag still attached. Hee Haw!!!
We also had Wing it, Ring it, Then Fling it Fried Chicken. The name told you how to buy their chicken. First they winged it readying it for you to buy it. Then they would ring it up at the register when you bought it, and then after you finished eating it, you would fling it. (I’m not kidding you.)
About a year after Minnie Pearls chicken restaurant opened, it closed and in it’s place was Famous Recipe Fried Chicken. They just took out the Minnie Pearls. Copyright or legal battles with the franchise was it’s demise. The chicken was the same recipe, same rolls, same everything, except the Minnie pearl name.
Mister Chicken: This was a variation between the Red Barn and Minnie Pearls. The rolls were almost the same, just not as good, and the is the first restaurant that offered the “Keel” which wasn’t a breast, nor a thigh. The keel was a good meaty piece of chicken that was cheaper than the breast. It became my favorite part.
Crispy’s Chicken was a late comer. They usually burnt the chicken but when they didn’t, it was alright. The mashed potatoes were good for processed fake potatoes. Way better than the Colonel’s and Minnie Pearls.
There was also a Famous Amos Fired Chicken. This was yet another variation on Minnie Pearl’s famous chicken. It was almost as good, but a little dirty, the walls oozed with grease. Perhaps that was part of their mystique, but when you walked in, (There was no drive through) you could smell the grease, not the chicken.
Over the years, these chicken shacks have all flown South (Please note the pun inserted) except for KFC. Although the original location closed and moved to a more well traveled area. But fear not, more joints took up the slack.
Church’s Fried Chicken came in to town and I had to try it. I have to say that it was the greasiest chicken I ever had. it was so greasy it was difficult to even hold onto it. Church’s Chicken came and went in a couple of years.
Along came Popeye’s Chicken. My wife and I stopped on a whim and bought a box of chicken and mashed potatoes. Hands down it was the worst tasting chicken I ever tasted. I mean, it was terrible. It should have been named Nightmare On Elm Street Chicken.
Boston Market was a fancy chicken restaurant. The chicken was adequate at best. I should have known better after watching the commercial for Boston Market where they tout eating beef instead of chicken. “Eat steak, eat a big old steak.” It’s good advice when you’re at Boston Market.
Jumpin-Jacks Chicken Shack The name is cool, the chicken pretty good, the service is lousy. Not only will they screw up the order, they will make you wait while they screw it up. they do have some good chicken tenders, but really, I don’t like the hassle when ordering from them.
Long John Silvers. Although they are known for their deep fried battered fish, they also serve chicken. Not the conventional chicken, but parts. Chicken parts. Of course it’s deep fried and battered. This is a national chain and well, you can tell by the quality. Pretty lousy. It’s like ordering a pizza. When you call Domino’s, you know you are getting a frozen pizza warmed up and the taste is the proof. Buy a pizza from Cornersburg, Cocca’s, or Wedgewood, and you can see and taste the difference. Same with chicken. Long John Silvers tries, just not good enough.
Arthur Treachers Fish And Chips. Although it has been around since the 1960’s, Arthur’s didn’t offer chicken until the 90’s so I have added them as a modern chicken shack. Regrettably, the last one just closed a year ago. The building was demolished and anew restaurant, Five Brothers, a hamburger joint, now stands in it’s place. But getting back to Arthur’s, th chicken (Chicken parts, pieces) was deep fried and battered up pretty thick. But, it was good tasting, and for a national chain, delvered the goods.
That leaves us with one place left. Chick-Fil-A. Although you cannot order the traditional breasts, thighs, wings, you can order the nuggets. And Chick-Fil-A has a hell of a chicken sandwich. One of the best, if not the best around. The fires are excellent as well.
This concludes our history lesson on the great and not so great chicken shacks in the greater Youngstown, Ohio area past and present.
LURKING ON THE GRASSY KNOLL