This is the first post of my "Great Roadtrip of 2010" series. Our trip was unfortunately cut short (more on this in later entries), but we were able to eat some amazing food in the short time we had. So without further ado...
My brother and I got a late start out of Cincinnati on a bright Thursday afternoon. Our goal: Atlanta. We planned on making a stop at Benton's Ham south of Knoxville, Tennessee to stock up on bacon and ham, but a quick phone call revealed the closing time to be 5pm. Would we make it? Not unless we drove 90mph+ (which was probably not a good idea). So we slowed down to a leisurely 80mph and debated our options for out-of-the-way places along I75. It was between a small diner in Kentucky, or push on to Knoxville for BBQ. Figuring we would probably have our fill of pork and ribs throughout the trip, we decided to stop at Burger Boy in southern Kentucky. I was intrigued after reading praise for the fried chicken, but had heard almost nothing about the burger.
Burger Boy is a London, Kentucky landmark along with world famous 2009 Miss Kentucky Outstanding Teen of the Year Melissa McGowan (may she reign forever).
Walking in, we were transported back a generation (or two). Burger Boy opened in 1961, which is likely the golden years of most of the clientele. Brown and tan were the colors of choice. Old formica tables lined the wood paneled walls, and an imposing jukebox hunched alone in a corner. Nearby, a group of serious looking men gathered at a long table. A shrine to Dale Earnhardt Jr. was set up in the corner; support for him was strong, as evidenced by bumper stickers on pickup trucks in the parking lot. For a mid-afternoon, the place was packed with locals. Incongruently, an old, grizzled man in a full denim getup answered his cell phone to the sounds of "All Star" from Smash Mouth (proving that although the people may look 50 years behind the times, their music is only 10 years off).
The food was classic diner fare, with fried chicken options thrown in. After initially being told the chicken would take 25 minutes, we were informed that there was some chicken already fried up. Why not? So we ordered a drumstick and thigh, plus an "Original Burger Boy" apiece. The chicken was well-seasoned, but in retrospect we probably should have waited for a fresh batch, as it was slightly soggy. It looked like it would have been quite good fresh out of the fryer. Next time.
The Original Burger Boy itself was strikingly similar to other burgers in the decentralized Big Boy chain (I grew up on Frisch's Big Boy myself). Two thin patties were seared on a griddle until thoroughly cooked. The sesame-seeded bun was soft and fresh, with a third piece of bread separating the two patties. The beef was well seasoned, but otherwise nothing special. A single piece of American cheese was melted on the top burger (why not one on each?) The burger was piled with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, recalling the Big Boy burgers of my youth. I liked the tartar sauce, it added a nice tang to the burger, but the rest was eminently forgettable.
Forlorn that our first choice hadn't blown us away (I know, the perils of high expectations), we continued down 75, crossing over into Georgia as dusk approached. My brother, sensing we had truly reached The South, began to demand Chick-fil-a. Why? Because it's fucking delicious! (NSFW)
Terrorists will never blow up the Chick-fil-a.
For those of you not aware of the awesomeness of Chick-fil-a (pronounced "Chick Filet" not like the shoe brand), I, a Jew with a deep-seated unease around conservative Christians, will destroy an original chicken sandwich regardless of whatever loony Christian beliefs are perpetuated by the ownership. Plus waffle fries. Hand-spun milkshakes. And breakfast (how can I quit you chicken breakfast burrito). Yes, I will publicly deface my religion, spit on a Torah, and drop prayer books for that shit. I miss few things from my time in the South, but Chick-fil-a is at the top of the pantheon (if you can call it that).
The original chicken sandwich is simplicity on a bun: a meaty, perfectly seasoned fried chicken breast with pickles. You can slather your sandwich in some of the many sauces they offer, but it hardly needs any (if you must, I prefer the Buffalo sauce/mayo combo). Their breakfast is unassailable.
Keeping with the Christian overtones, every Chick-fil-a franchise in the country is also closed on Sundays, no exceptions. This policy has pissed me off on many a long drive as I angrily devoured a Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. Everyone who works there is always creepily friendly, which is OK in the South but awkward elsewhere. However, I will overlook this due to the fact that they now have a spicy chicken sandwich (I guess God does answer my heathen prayers).
A day before I flew out of NYC, I had lunch at Shopsin's, where my eye was drawn to the "Big Bird," a fried chicken sandwich with pickles. Kenny told me it was his take on the Chick-fil-a. It was good, but no Chick-fil-a, which has the seasoning just right (the Big Bird needed a little more salt, but the habanero chipotle mayo didn't hurt). Eating the sandwich only made my Chick-fil-a craving even stronger. Within two minutes of getting my order, I had inhaled my sandwich and a large waffle fries (always crispy). And so, after a long day of riding in the car, controlling the iPod and watching my brother drive for 8 hours, I was finally satisfied.
Next: Shitty pizza and a return to a Salvadorean favorite in Atlanta (I promise there will be pictures).