Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 22, 2007

A Treatise on Fried Chicken

Filed under: Family,Uncategorized — Janice @ 4:16 pm

It is time to get back to “normal” and write some more. I appreciate the comments and the e-mails about my cousin Judy.

But today I’m going to talk about fried chicken. Something that is all too rare in our modern society. I worry about a whole generation of children that think that chicken fingers or chicken strips or chicken what-have-yous are truly “fried chicken.” They simply are not. When I was a little girl . . . I’ll get back to that, but Mark and I have had some great fried chicken this week. Fried chicken that makes you want to move back to the farm and get up at dawn to plow and have that feeling of accomplishment at the end of each and every day. Or at least fried chicken that makes you want to pull out the cast iron skillet and see if I can do it myself.

Sweetwater, Texas, holds the distinction of having the only restaurant left in the world that can make fried chicken. That restaurant is Allen’s on the business route 20 through town. Next to a Sonic. I’m not real clear why anyone would eat at the Sonic when Allen’s is just next door.

I guess part of the reason is that Allen’s is only open on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 to 2. Fifteen hours of heaven a week. When Mark and I knew that we were going to be going to Amarillo for the funeral we wondered if we could have lunch in Sweetwater. Judging the distance, we could see that it was an impossibility for us to get up that early and make it there for lunch. Sigh. It sounded like such a great idea. So Tuesday we left for our trip and ate at Whataburger just up the road and headed north.

We hit Sweetwater about suppertime and debated whether to eat somewhere along the real route 20 or go into town and just see what was there. We opted to take the business route. We passed by Allen’s and sighed, wishing the dark building was bustling, but, no, it was closed. Mark said, “I’m going to pull into the parking lot, just to make sure we know their hours.” We pulled in and I looked across their small parking lot to another building with lights on and a crude sign that said “Allen’s Buffet 5-9 pm.” What’s that??? I said. To our eternal joy, Allen’s has a nightime buffet, just like the sign said. Different building, same food, just served buffet style. That’s good enough for us! We went in and ate fried chicken to our hearts content. Fried chicken that is on the bone, like God made it, and dredged in flour, not caked with an inch of some crispy batter concoction that is thicker than the chicken. I ate mine with honey. Man, it was my childhood all over again. When I was a little girl . . . No, I’ll get back to that.

We were happy and got on down the road and arrived in Amarillo at almost midnight. The next night, after the funeral, we headed out again and made it as far as Sweetwater (what a coincidence!) before we stopped for the night.

Thursday, 11 a.m. We weren’t the first ones in the parking lot, but the second. There was already a car and a couple sitting, waiting for the door to be unlocked at Allen’s. This is Allen’s:

Allen's Fried Chicken

When we walked in, the hostess/waitress hollers (you holler in Sweetwater), “How many ya got?” We each had two and they had us seated at a table for eight immediately. Then they started bringing out the food. The table was already set with a tablecloth and real dishes and silverware and those great goblet glasses like my Mamma Williams had. They are filling the tea glasses and piling the plates on the table before we could get the napkins across our laps. A plate piled high with fried chicken, bowls of sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, green beans, pea salad, potato salad, hot rolls, okra, greens or some kind, and more. I didn’t pay much attention to anything but the fried chicken. We dug in and visited with the couple from Blackwood, Texas, just south of Sweetwater about 30 miles.

Notice how Mark managed to stop and take the picture, but I remained intent on my chicken? Well, maybe I had stopped long enough to pick up a fork and try some of the corn, red beans, and everything else they kept refilling. Before we were through, our table had completely filled with two related couples of retirement age, the women wearing their Christmas poinsettia sweatshirts. There is something special about looking around a table and seeing eight adults eating greasy chicken with their fingers, just digging in.

Oh, and the cobbler! I stuffed until I was sick on the fried chicken, but then I stuffed some more on the peach cobbler. There are lots of good ways of making peach cobbler, but this was the kind with canned peaches and lots of hot, sweet syrup and good cinnamon-y dough and peaches. I think I ate a whole serving bowl on my own because she had to replenish for the rest of the table a couple of times.

Sigh. Eventually, Mark and I had eaten enough (and our six companions, even the ones that started after us, were through and gone), We paid that STEEP prix fixe of $8 (it used to be only $6), dropped a tip in the tip jar, and then couldn’t resist ordering a whole chicken fried up to go.

Happy? We were happy except for that fact that Sweetwater is just too far away to go for a weekday lunch.

So, back to when I was a little girl… My grandmothers were good cooks, but I don’t really have the memories of their fried chicken. But I remember Mother’s. Great, great fried chicken. On Sunday after church, we sometimes had fried chicken. It seemed to take an interminable amount of time to cook, but it was worth it. The pulley bone was always my favorite piece of hot fresh fried chicken (how come they don’t ever have pulley bones on the menu anywhere?). But if the chicken ever made it past lunch and was in the refrigerator later, I loved that cold chicken leg more than anything else. Especially when it had that one side that was crustier and maybe almost burned. Yum. Thank, Mom, for the great fried chicken, hot gravy, and “light bread.”

4 Comments »

  1. Well, you made me hungry for fried chicken! But, getting up at dawn to plow? I don’t think so!

    Never was able to master the art of frying chicken…always came out soggy until Mom explained her method. Fry the chicken in GREASE! Not the healty-almost-fake stuff off the grocer’s shelf, but good ol’ clog-the-arteries LARD! Cooks hot enough to crispy it up and fast enough to keep it from drying out.

    I’m on my way to raid the ‘fridge!

    Comment by Carole — December 22, 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  2. That was too funny. Sounds like a great place to go.

    Reminds my of Kathy’s Bro-in-law’s mother that is the fried chicken queen of central California. Which became an international event when his mom visited them in Kathmandu, Nepal a few months back. She did make them fried chicken while she was there, which they had not been able to have in over a year. Our first question was “Did she teach the Nepalese how to make fried chicken?”

    But my dad grew up on a farm (in Rising Star) with chickens and he didn’t touch one after he left the farm. Too many bad memories.

    adios, cb

    Comment by cb — December 27, 2007 @ 6:46 pm

  3. […] at new places much, but we ALWAYS on the search for good fried chicken that makes us as happy as Allen’s in Sweetwater does. We tried the new place Lucy’s Fried Chicken near Oltorf and South Congress […]

    Pingback by What a Weekend « Janice Williams Loves Austin — January 29, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

  4. I love your chicken story. I remember going to my grandpa Payne’s house after church on Sunday for chicken dinner. And boy could my Aunt Berneice ring those chicken’s necks. You’ve probably never seen that done, not the prettiest sight. Nothing taste as good as a freshly killed freshly cooked chicken. Boy, would PETA be after my kinfolks today.

    Next time we are through Sweetwater we will be sure to stop at Allen’s, if we’re there at the right day and time. Right now I think I’ll go fix me a peanut butter sandwich, for some reason I’m hungry.

    Comment by Lana Barnett — January 9, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

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