Editor's note: Occasionally what looks at first glance to be a conventional guidebook transcends the genre in surprising ways. John T. Edge's Southern Belly is just such a read, which is why I'm pleased that he has allowed us to excerpt selected items from it on Serious Eats, where they appear every other week. —Ed Levine
By John T. Edge | Thinly battered, well-salted deep-fried chicken, dumped unceremoniously from cook baskets and served with hushpuppies, coleslaw, a marshmallowy white bread roll, and a jumble of so-called Tater Rounds. That's what you get when you quit the more well-traveled and gentrified precincts of Charlotte's Uptown neighborhood for this South End favorite, in business since 1948 as a chicken market, since 1952 as a kinda-sorta restaurant.
The exterior is a plane of redbrick, fronted by plate glass windows which, when the place is bursting at the seams–and it almost always is–fog with clouds of chicken grease. The white cinder-block interior is utilitarian. There may well be an air-conditioninig unit in use somewhere but, come summer, it's no match for the combo of roiling oil and broiling Carolina sun. And there are no seats. Most meals are eaten in the front sea of cars or vans parked at teh curb or, for those with a bit of lolling-about time, beneath the boughs in nearby Latta Park.