Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting.
Sadly, I guess I must’ve missed the carnally rustic heyday of Jim’s Famous Fried Chicken—that loveable ol’ grease-shack in Nicoma Park that so many locals wistfully reminisce about as oily angel-fingers pluck turgid harp-strings—because what and where I ended up dining at was, if I’m being honest, nothing like what those that have continually recommended the place have habitually described.
I mean, I went to the right Jim’s Famous Fried Chicken, right? 10811 N.E. 23rd Street, right?
Completely redone and refurbished with a faux-Western décor and exposed ceilings and air vents like a mid-level Bricktown eatery that, well, would probably serve fried chicken too, regardless, Jim’s Famous Fried Chicken has been a well-known and much-loved mainstay for almost 50 years, one where grease is the word and, per the sign out front, people stand for the Star Spangled Banner, Goddammit. It’s small-town America down to the bone, or at least it was.
Having absorbed the Swadley’s Bar-B-Q chain into the belly of this beast, if the Saturday night crowd that was filling the place to capacity in both presence and girth were any indication, patrons were still coming back for the chicken, plates overwhelmed with multiple pieces hot and glistening out the fryer, an apparent tradition for most yet a first-time for me, purposefully deciding on a basic bitch order of a three-piece dark meal, complete with mashed potatoes and fried okra ($12.29).
Eclipsing the white of the plate with a pair of engorged breasts and a single plump thigh, these cuts of poultry were almost unnaturally too big, completely ensconced in multiple crispy sheets of deep-fried chicken skin, surgically separating with all the slick ease melted butter sliding down the side of my hot rolls. And while the food was plentiful, startlingly, it had little to no flavor other than, well, a wet greasy chicken taste that didn’t even have enough time to drip-dry on a stack of paper towels.
Pass the hot sauce and lots of it.
Maybe I’m the jerk here who’s been spoiled by the likes of Bobo’s and Florence’s, but to these well-seasoned taste-buds, Jim’s Famous Fried Chicken came off as really nothing more than a glorified order of Church’s Fried Chicken, sans the jalapeno. There were seemingly no country herbs and spices, no newfangled Southern heat and, even worse, an absolute lack of culinary soul, brother. Maybe the spirit of the place drifted off when the new coat of paint went on, but my hearty helping was mostly bland, mostly greasy and mostly disappointing.
On the positive tip, the plentiful fried okra, however, was definitely fresh and had a fine earthy crunch to them, and the mashed potatoes were well-intentioned, creamy and stuffed with home-style goodness, partnered to a killer gravy that actually seemed healthier to drink than the actual chicken was to eat, which is great, because you doctors have been telling us to drink eight glasses of gravy a day for years now.
Balling up my translucent napkins and dried wet-naps, it’s ultimately sad to eat Jim’s Famous Fried Chicken, knowing that while it might have been quite something in its day, now it’s really just another roadside grease-trap with a history that sold its soul for positive Yelp reviews from some city folks desperate for something new and not knowing just what that is. ¡Cómpralo ya!
Mexican grilled chicken joints for life. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.