I spent this past weekend in Statesville, NC sitting under a canopy/tent on a soccer field for hours and hours and hours. It was 95 degrees and you couldn’t fly a post-it note, let alone a kite the air was so still. What I’m trying to say is it was hotter than hell, people. Really. The only thing that kept my spirits up was knowing that as soon as the kids’ games were over I was gonna get me some spicy chicken at Keaton’s. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Keaton’s chicken you’re probably thinking “so what”. Let me just tell you, this stuff is amazingly good. It’s been raved about by Jane & Michael Sterns on Roadfood (http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overview.aspx?RefID=621). They loved it so much it’s in their Top 5 faves. Lynne has sang it’s praises on The Splendid Table. Go to www.chowhound.com and you’ll see foodie folks travel out of their way to find it. It ain’t easy to find either. It’s definitely off the beaten path in the middle of no where and sandwiched between corn fields.
They open for dinner at 5:00 pm and not a moment before. A line starts to form about 10 minutes ’til. This is a no frills roadside joint and you get the feeling you’re lucky if they let you in and share their chicken with you. The service is slow and nobody is lookin’ to chat so just order clearly and pay up and step to the side. Oh, and don’t you dare step back and help yourself to a beverage in the glass front cooler. They’ll bite your head off quicker than you can say “oops”. There is no air conditioning and it’s hot inside. They keep the air moving with fans throughout the place. There are hand made signs posted everywhere telling you what not to do. Things like “Shirt & Shoes Required”, “If a waitress takes your order, don’t switch seats” and “This is self-serv, throw away your own trash”. Oh, and of course one aimed at us annoying foodies, “Do not take photos of staff without their permission”. Ha!
The chicken is deep-fried (no batter dipping here) and then plunged into hot barbecue sauce. You can chose between mild and spicy. I’m all about the spicy! We ordered the thigh and leg combos. I’m a dark meat girl. I have to tell you, I picked my bones clean. I started off with a plastic fork which didn’t help much so I got into it with my fingers and I worked those bones over. My mother would’ve been so proud as she was a professional at cleaning up chicken bones, pork chop bones, steak bones, etc.
The sides, although many love ’em, I could take or leave. We had the mac n’ cheese, spicy vinegar slaw and fries. Definitely don’t order the crinkle cut fries. They are the rubbery cafeteria variety. The slaw is good but all I really care about is that spicy chicken and a pitcher of tea. They are closed on Sundays. Get out there soon, y’all!