August 22 2012
Champys Famous Fried Chicken
Southerners take porch sitting very seriously. And while the advent of air conditioning has cut down on the practice, there’s still one patio that brings Chattanoogans out in droves – Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken.
Of course, this isn’t your typical sweet-tea-sipping, rocking-chair-sitting, how’s-the-family kind of front porch. Seating more than the actual restaurant, Champy’s patio entertains crowds year-round thanks to a roof and removable plastic sides. And while Tennessee table wine (aka, sweet tea) isserved, so is beer…in forty-ounce bottles.
Not to worry – those with high standards of personal decorum can buy a coozie for their oversized frosty beverage. They’ll even hang on to it until your next visit. Southern hospitality at its finest.
It isn’t the scenery that draws crowds to Champy’s, surrounded by boarded up buildings on East
MLK Boulevard in downtown Chattanooga. Nor is it the restaurant’s décor, designed to look like a Mississippi juke joint (owners Chrissy and Seth Champion’s home state). Of course, the mixture of rusted corrugated steel and worn wood does have a certain je nais se quoi. The couple personally collected it one summer off old shacks in the Delta.
But no, it’s definitely the chicken.
NOTE: If your mouth isn’t watering, you may want to check your pulse.
Marinated for 24 hours in a blend of secret spices, each piece is hand breaded and cooked to order, offering a just-right peppery kick. The recipe is a forty-year-old family favorite from “down in the Delta.” Also imported from the Birthplace of Blues are Champy’s made-from-scratch tamales. Taking hours to assemble, Seth simmers ground beef in spices, placing it in a blanket of maza and wrapping it ever-so-neatly in a corn husk. He’s also managed to perfect Key Lime pie after an inspirational trip to Savannah, Ga. He squeezes each little key lime, imported from Key West, Fla., by hand.
This month also brings the first batches of crawfish, cooked under a tent in the front parking lot each weekend and offered until they sell out. (Don’t expect to order any mudbugs on Sunday – they’re most likely gone.) The weekly boils last until the season runs out, usually in late May or early June.
Open since 2009, Champy’s has become an institution in Chattanooga’s dining scene. Their secret to success? Honest food, prepared correctly without an ounce of pretention. Now that’s something we can all raise a forty to.