There’s Maryland fried chicken and there’s Maryland Fried Chicken. The first is an Old Line State dish – marinated in buttermilk (no eggs), pan-fried, and served under a spill of peppered cream gravy. The second is a chain of restaurants mostly in the southeast U.S. that specialize in chicken that is broasted (pressure-fried). The name Maryland Fried Chicken came about in 1959 when the owner of an Orlando-area chicken restaurant decided to appeal to nearby factory workers who had migrated from Maryland. He changed the name of his place from Constantine’s to Maryland Fried Chicken. Business boomed. Mr. Constantine franchised with great success then got out of the restaurant business in 1975. While many MFCs have since closed, there are survivors from Florida to Michigan.
Being a chain, Maryland Fried Chicken is not true Roadfood. But I confess that when my car comes near the vintage MFC edifice across from Fire Station #1 at the end of Broad Street in Augusta, Georgia, it tends to turn into the parking lot and I tend to eat a box full of darn good chicken (or shrimp).
Amazingly grease-free, this chicken. It has an audibly crunchy crust and the meat inside is moist, but a person could eat a half bird and hardly need a napkin. (Wings often are available, and pulley bones on occasion, too.) Large shrimp, also encased in that firm crust, are not the least bit flabby; instead, they are firm and snappy, surprisingly high-quality considering that a meal featuring six of them is well under $10.
In my experience, the shrimp are fried to order, whereas chicken can loll under a heat lamp for a while. But at mealtimes, business is brisk enough that the chicken does not suffer from its idle. Gizzards also are fried to order, and if you are a gizzard person, they’re a deal: You get a big bag of them for half the price of a meal. Hushpuppies are a bore, but other sides are decent: very cheesy mac ‘n’ cheese, green beans laced with spice and little nuggets of potato.
Much business is take-out. A small dining area with bare tables and molded laminate seats is a nice place to eat and to observe the diverse parade of Augusta clientele that are very happy that this little 20th century fast-food joint is alive and thriving.