Chicken Annie’s

Review by: Michael Stern

600th Avenue, a narrow farm lane between Frontenac and Pittsburg, Kansas, is known as the Chicken Dinner Road because a couple of hundred yards apart are a pair of nearly identical destination restaurants known for fried chicken. Having only recently been to Chicken Mary’s, I decided to visit Chicken Annie’s on this trip through. I probably should have eaten at both places to accurately compare and contrast; but frankly, I don’t believe there is a huge difference. Both serve good meals at low prices in big dining halls to hoards of pilgrims.

Mary and Annie have long ago gone to their reward. Several years ago, Mary’s son – no spring chicken himself – explained that in the hard times of the 1930s, his father and Annie’s husband both worked in a nearby mine. In 1934, Annie’s husband lost a leg in a mine accident. To make ends meet, Annie opened a little restaurant and served her specialty, fried chicken. Only a few years after that, Mary’s husband had to quit work, too, because of a bad heart. “There were three of us kids to feed,” the old man recalled. “And my mother could see how well Annie was doing selling chicken dinners out here. She took a hint and opened her own place, Chicken Mary’s, just down the road.”

A tradition was begun. The rivalry has made this unlikely farm road a chicken-lover’s mecca for six decades and has inspired some half-dozen restaurants all around to serve their own version of the same ritual meal. Crunchy, deep fried chicken stars, served along with German cole slaw and German potato salad (or such other side dishes as mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, French fries, and spaghetti). The slaw is great stuff, very Kansan: shot through with garlic. Also essential is an appetizer of onion rings, which are a ragged heap of crisp, crunchy squiggles and a few fatties encased in batter with a faint sour tang. I love the way the batter clings to the onion, eliminating the possibility of that awkward onion-ring-eating moment when you bite one and the onion slithers all the way out of its batter casing.

The chicken arrives glistening with grease. There’s lots of chewy, fat-rich skin and the meat below is fall-from-the-bone tender, even if its flavor is somewhat distant. You can get whatever you like in whatever quantity: dark meat, white meat, wings, and backs, even an appetizer of livers, gizzards, and hearts.

Meals arrive on partitioned unbreakable plates – nothing fancy here! – and a large group of people can sit at the round table up front with a lazy susan in the center and avail themselves of Annie’s family-style meals. Poultry-frowners can order chicken-fried steak.

Directions & Hours

4pm - 8pm
  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 4:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 4:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Thursday: 4:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Friday: 4:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday: 4:00 – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM

What To Eat

Chicken Dinner

DISH
Onion Rings

DISH
Chicken

DISH

Chicken Annie’s Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Chicken Annie’s?

2 Responses to “Chicken Annie’s”

Joe Seiwert

August 7th, 2011

The chicken here is a little different: it has a bread crumb crust, unlike the chicken at most of the places I’ve experienced, such as Stroud’s. The reason for that is the originators of this restaurant were Austrian immigrants, and the style of chicken they serve is called Backhendl in Austria. It is very similar to the Backhendl served at a chain of restaurants in Germany and Austria called Wienerwald, which means Vienna Wood (and has nothing to do with hot dogs).

Chicken Annie’s is a very busy place on weekend evenings, but even with a full parking lot we were seated quickly and served efficiently. The prices are surprisingly low and the portions are large. The potato salad and coleslaw are also in the German style. The potatoes are diced small, thoroughly tender and losing their shape, making for a creamy/chunky consistency. The dressing is a sharp vinegar and oil base. The coleslaw is similarly served with a vinegar,oil, and herb base.

This is very simple and basic food, like your Oma might have made if you had one. At any rate, I would guess that the food hasn’t changed much since it was started in the ’30s.

Reply

susan Newcomb

February 4th, 2011

Chicken Annie’s has been a household word in my family for generations. As I heard it, Annie and Mary were sisters who worked in the family restaurant. They fell out over whether or not they should use garlic on the chicken and if spaghetti should be a side dish. Long story short, Mary went out on her own and opened Chicken Mary’s. Since my grandpa was a local and ate there at least once a week, I think the story is probably true.

The last time I went home, I took my husband to Annie’s and Mary’s in honor of my parents (Annie’s was their favorite restaurant in the world). My husband is a big “gut” man, meaning livers, gizzards, and hearts. You cannot imagine the haze of delicious delirium he fell into when his plate arrived. Every side dish was perfection. We went to Mary’s the next night (I said he was hardcore). In his not-to-be-discounted food opinion, Annie’s won hands down.

Anyone who wants wonderful, home-style chicken and sides needs to eat at Chicken Annie’s. If you have time, eat at Chicken Mary’s, too. You should decide for yourself who holds the title of “Chicken Master of Pittsburg.” In either case, you won’t be disappointed. Just go hungry. The plates are not for dieters.

Reply

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