In my quest to find the best fried chicken in town, and because it came highly recommended, we tried the Dinner Bell Cafeteria last Sunday.We had tried going the week before on a Saturday, but they are closed on Saturday. Duh. How would anyone know that a restaurant would be closed on a Saturday? Apparently it's common knowledge. I've been reluctant to write about our experience because, well, it was less than wonderful.
The Amazing Reese grew up in the east end, and his family would go there
every Sunday after church when he was a child. His dad would never order food. He knew that
his kids would order more than they could eat, so he waited until they
were finished, then he would eat their leftovers. Sounds sensible if you
ask me. Apparently the place was hopping in the late 60's early 70's.
We got there between 1:30 and 2 and the place was a like a dark dreary crypt and smelled like the worst part of old, which is incidental considering there's a cemetery just down the road a piece. It was almost groovy, but not quite. Reese did point out the built in ash tray as we walked to the serving line. It wasn't that long ago that restaurants allowed smoking. The decor hasn't changed in decades, if ever. Not that that's a bad thing, but when the vinyl booth seats have duct tape to keep them from splitting further, maybe it's time for a little upgrade.
Our sole purpose in going there was for the fried chicken. After sitting in the main dungeon of a dining room, we unrolled our silverware. Reese remarked that he was glad that my mother wasn't there. It looked like nothing had been properly cleaned or disinfected in 25 years....maybe more. Still holding out hope that the chicken would be stellar, I bit into a piece. It was properly crunchy...only because it had been sitting under a heat lamp for God knows how long. Underneath the crunch was a layer of chicken jerky and under that, something resembling fried chicken taste. It was really more like they hadn't cleaned the fryer ever....it tasted like old fryer grease, not that I've ever tried old fryer grease, but this is what I imagine it would taste like.
Why oh why did we get suckered into sides? Between three of us, we tried the black eyed peas, fried okra, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, and carrots. Nothing was any good. How sad for a cafeteria in the south not to have at least mediocre fried okra and black eyed peas.
It's a flaw in my character (or, depending how one looks at it, really endearing) that I keep expecting something (life, relationships, experiences) to improve when all evidence repeatedly points to the contrary. Hopeful that the bakery would at least redeem our dining experience, I ordered a cookie on the way out. I should have known better. Bleh.
The best thing about the Dinner Bell Cafeteria was the companionship of the two people who bravely joined me on this quest to find the best fried chicken in town. It's not here. Where next?