Some people keep tire jacks and emergency flairs. I stock my car with fork-and-napkin packets from takeout places. I usually have 5 or 10 stuffed into the pocket of my driver's side door.
In nice weather, I might perch on the hood. But mostly, I end up with food spread across my ample lap or on the passenger seat. I've stopped apologizing for the feed stains on my shirts. I don't think I own any item of clothing that hasn't been annointed with something.
For this edition, I had to spread out on my lap because Tom Hanchett, learned curator of a perfectly legitimate museum, the Levine Museum of the New South, had accepted the invitation Friday when I called with the magic words: Shell Station.
Tom and I both were at a Story Slam reading in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago when poet John Hartness threw out a provocative claim: "The best fried chicken in Charlotte is at the Shell station at Eastway and Shamrock." Stick to your iambic pentameter and line scans, buster. You're making claims about gas station fried chicken and that's my business.
I had to wait for Thanksgiving to get out of the way, but I was ready at the first open lunch hour. Yes, the Shell station does indeed have fine fried chicken. You can pick between spicy (kind of red in color) and plain. Huge drumsticks. Excellent crust. Meaty thighs.
Sides include things like nicely cooked lima beans and cheese-saucy mac & cheese. I sampled a couple of Buffalo wings, which were slightly disappointing -- decent crust and chewiness, but no heat.
So I will offer up the Eastway Shell station in two categories: Best gas-station fried chicken, and almost certainly best late-night fried chicken. I can't personally vouch for that last one, not being a late-night kind of girl anymore, but my youth isn't so far gone that I don't have a feeling for things like that. If I were out bar-crawling, I would be happy stopping there to gnaw a thigh as insurance against a hangover.
What do you think? Care to offer up your own nomination for best gas-station fried chicken in Charlotte and the immediate vicinity?