When I was telling Savannahian Whitney Williams about some of my favorite gas-station restaurants, she asked if I had tried Bobop’s, a gas station / convenience store in the village of Estill, an hour north of the city. She told me that her friend Christy Kraeuter, also a Savannahian, had clued her into Bobop’s fried chicken; and that now, no trip in or out of town was complete without a stop to eat it.
I stopped, I tasted, and I now doff my hat to the savvy Savannah ladies for their brilliant suggestion.
Praiseworthy fried chicken in South Carolina? That’s not a shock. There’s plenty of excellent fried chicken throughout the Deep South, as well as some notably good examples in Virginia around Charlottesville and in Kansas City (at Stroud’s). I’d stack Bobop’s up against any of the greats.
First, consider its bronzed crust. It is easy to strip from the meat in small or large segments, however you like. Do so and put a bite-size piece in your mouth. It will audibly crunch, then … magic. It evaporates into a hot slurry of chicken flavor on the tongue — a flavor so zesty and so fat-plush that it will make you think of the piggiest bacon you ever ate.
On a thigh — which I believe is the best way to go — you’ll find moist meat that falls from the bone at the slightest tug and provides a taste that is less intense than the crust, but no less flavorful.
Seriously, friends, eating this bird is a plunge into fried-chicken rapture.
Should there be a chicken frowner in your party, not to worry. The fried fish sold from Bobop’s short cafeteria is sweet and tender, enveloped in judiciously seasoned crust. Or have some pork chops. They’re not as luxurious as the chicken, nor as ethereal as the fish, but they too are enveloped in a seasoned coat that would make cardboard taste wonderful. They’re fairly thin chops, but succulent enough to make you want to eat every bit that isn’t bone.
Side dishes vary from perfunctory (green beans, yellow rice); to good (slightly lumpy mashed potatoes; apple cobbler with al dente fruit and what could pass as lard-crust pastry) to spectacular (sweet potato casserole under a thick, dark blanket of of well-cooked nutmeats; and creamy, crisp-edge potato wedges).
Bobop food is secured from a counter at the back of a room that is mostly devoted to typical convenience-store groceries and sundries, and it adjoins another counter where you can buy a Blimpie sub. Dining facilities are minimal — 5 Formica-topped tables in a little mirrored alcove at the side of the store — and all food is presented in Styrofoam take-away containers.