There isn’t much to eat between Leland and Vicksburg, Mississippi. Along the flattest stretch of Highway 61 is Anguilla, a community hard hit by Delta flooding. One of the few lively places in town is an old gas station called Maranto’s Corner. At first, it looks like just another mini-mart selling Dr. Pepper, oatmeal pies, and lotto tickets. A closer look reveals a radiant hot case of golden fried chicken.
This is some of the best fried chicken we’ve had anywhere. It generally is sold as a lunch box that includes an unusually large potato log — a full quarter of a russet potato that has been battered and fried. A slice of white bread is included to help balance the meal.
The chicken may not be fresh from the frier, but it’s piping hot and audibly crisp. The breading, which coats it completely, features panko-like pockets of crunch. The seasoning is very simple — salt and pepper mostly. A dash of Texas Pete’s goes far to enhance it. The breast is as juicy and tender as white meat can be. What makes it excellent is a deep infusion of brine and oil into the meat.
We recommend buying more chicken than you want in the moment. It will still be crunchy and rewarding the next time you stop for gas, even if you’re trucking all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Mr. Maranto works the register and receives our effusive compliments about his chicken with a humble smile. Most people eating here are locals who appreciate the good, cheap food. He is delighted when strangers walk in.