I, like many of you out there, love some good Southern Fried Chicken! There is just something about it that makes me smile and rejoice. Really there is nothing else like it, and when folks put their own signature stank on it (translation their own spin) - baby, this is when the magic really happens. With that being said, I have a few local favorites that are so different in taste; the fact they are chicken is really the only thing they have in common. They are Frenchy's Chicken, which offers up a Creole spicy flavor and Max's Wine Dive offers theirs with a tex-mex soul (totally stole that description from Travel & Leisure) kind of kick. So, when I was told by some friends that Barbecue Inn must be added to my list I was more than curious. Especially since it was called Barbecue Inn and secondly because they have been around since 1946 and I've never visited them!
My curiosity got the best of me one Tuesday evening as I traveled back into Houston and was trying to decide what I should eat. As I approached the light in front of the restaurant, I could not help but notice there was a soul food spot right across the street. My mind could not help but think, "You will probably get better chicken at the soul food spot!" At the same time I also noticed all the vehicles in the Barbecue Inn parking lot - "WOW they are packed like this on a Tuesday night!"
As I entered the building it felt like I walked into the 60's with the décor and layout of the restaurant. The next thing I noticed was the wait staff seemed to know most of the customers; based on some of the conversations I overheard. Being the person I am, I decided to ask my waitress how long she had worked there and if most of them had been there a while. She told me she was one of the babies with her 30 year tenure, and yes, most of them and the cooks had been there 50 plus years! OMG, "that would be reason enough for me to visit this place if my chicken turns out to be a flop," is what I thought. I was seated in a booth that gave me a direct view into the kitchen; where I could not help but notice everyone looked like me (for those that are confused - they were chocolate like me). This was a good sign for me because I know my people, and we know our way around some chicken - Urban Swank rule #3, we call it like we see it, and don’t get caught up in being politically correct.
Anyways, I grabbed my menu as if I did not know what I wanted before coming through the doors. It was divided into several categories: BBQ Dinners, BBQ Plates, Fried Chicken, Grilled Steaks, Seafood, and Sandwiches were the entrée categories. Since many of the folks dining that evening were regulars, looking at my menu caught a few eyes. One couple decided to stop by my table and give me a little Barbecue Inn 101 after they had finished there meal (I live for this kind of stuff). They'd been dining at the restaurant for 37 years and always ordered the same thing - Shrimp. They told me there were 3 kinds of Barbecue Inn people: Shrimp People, Chicken Fried Steak People, and Chicken People. Okay, but what about BBQ people - it is named Barbecue Inn?!?! This was only a thought in my head, because I was a little afraid to make my point out loud ;-). Then from the table across the way an older gentleman jumps up and add his two cents to this lesson..."The ribs are some of the best anywhere! Don't put any sauce on them because that will ruin them. Some ribs need sauce but these are not that kind." Finally I was able to interject with, "Aaahh, fried chicken is what I'm having tonight."
They all had good things to say, and told me to make sure I come back and try each of their favorites. I was little upset with myself for not ordering sooner (could have talked while I was waiting for my food), since the menu clearly tells you to allow 25-30 minutes on fried chicken orders. I decided to go with the Southern Fried Chicken, which comes with white and dark meat; however I don't really like thigh meat so I asked if I could substitute my thigh for a wing. This is a big NO-NO!!! My waitress said the cooks really don't like change and she would see what she could do. Well she handled it for me, and I ended up with a breast, leg, and wing. The meal also comes with a house salad and fries. The chicken looked amazing and had a beautiful color. It was cooked with a crispy and crunchy exterior, and very moist and juicy interior. The one and probably most important thing missing for me was the seasoning. It was way too bland for me! So was this a meal or deal breaker? I would say no, because I'll just ask for extra seasoning (there I go with changing things up again) next time.
The one thing I could kick myself in the ass about was not substituting my fries for a baked potato. WHY was it a mistake? It has nothing to do with the fries or even the damn baked potato. Confession time: The condiments for the baked potato are served on a Lazy Susan! I know this is the dumbest thing you probably read all day, but I love random types of things. Even though this fried chicken will not replace any of my favorites. I definitely think they put their own stank on it and would recommend it to anyone that likes good fried chicken, but may not like a lot of seasoning or spiciness. Next time I will try the seafood or ribs with a baked potato; since I still need to figure out which Barbecue Inn person I am.
~ Felice "Swanky Girl" Sloan