Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On the Road 2: Bon-Ton Mini Mart

BACV050C1V0 fig. a: my kind of UFC

I haven't had a chance to test out Bon Appétit's "ultimate fried chicken" yet, but that damn cover image has had the appropriate Pavlovian effect on me. I need ultimate fried chicken now.

Thing is, good fried chicken takes a while. There's definitely a bit of commitment involved. So, I'm pretty sure I won't be frying up a batch of UFC tonight. And true fried chicken--the real deal--can be exceedingly difficult to find.

But that cover does have me thinking about fried chicken (obviously). And, these days, when I think about fried chicken, my thoughts tend to take me to Henderson, KY, sometime last August.

Nearby Owensboro, KY, is one of a number of American towns and cities that proudly proclaims itself the "BBQ Capital of the World." And they've certainly got a claim to that title. That town runs on hickory smoke (and bluegrass).

Henderson, too, is home to a number of reputable BBQ establishments, most of them specializing in the same mix of pork, beef, and mutton that has made Owensboro famous. But as soon as you get to Henderson, what really stands out is the unusual number of fried chicken joints they've got there. None of them major chains (at least, not that I saw). I mean, this town is swimming in Kentucky fried chicken.

Is Henderson the Fried Chicken Capital of the World? I can't rightly say. For one thing, I didn't get a chance to conduct a survey of Henderson's fried chicken scene.  For another, I haven't had the pleasure of visiting any of the Fried Chicken Capitals of the World (Barberton, OH? Gordonsville, VA?) yet. But Henderson certainly looks like it could be a Fried Chicken Capital of the World.

And I can tell you that there's at least one championship fried chicken joint there: Bon-Ton Mini Mart.

Great name. Bold, even. But it's a little hard to find, and it's the most nondescript place imaginable. Just look at it:

Bon-Ton 2 fig. b: Bon-Ton Mini Mart

Is there any indication whatsoever that this is a premium fried chicken joint?

I was going on good authority (Jane & Michael Stern), it certainly seemed legit, and it was pretty busy for 2:45 in the afternoon. But you never know.

I had a pretty good feeling when I entered the Mini Mart, though. It smelled good in there, and the set-up was home-style.

I had an even better feeling when I placed my order, however. I was told, "Go ahead and grab a seat. It's going to take about 25 minutes." In other words, real fried chicken, skillet-fried and made to order.

And I had the best feeling of all when those 25 minutes were up. I mean, just look at that crust.

bon-ton 1 fig. c: Bon-Ton's UFC

Those ladies know their fried chicken.

Oops. I did it again. I'm driving myself crazy. Kentucky Fried Crazy.

Bon-Ton Mini Mart, 2036 Madison Street, Henderson, KY, (270) 826-1207



Rex and Mary Ann said...

Just at the D'Agostinos this Sun at check-out and "DITTO" regarding cover of this Bon Appetit issue....miss you guys - when are you coming down to visit? We have some new recipes to share with you...

aj kinik said...

Hi, R & MA,
great to hear from you--did you get my message on FB?--let's get in touch!