GOLDEN FRIED: Local restaurants vying for title of Bama’s best fried chicken

Published 3:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2018

Feathers will be flying this week as two area restaurants will be scratching to stay in the running for the title of Bama’s Best Fried Chicken.

The Chicken Shack in Luverne and Red’s Little Schoolhouse in Grady are among eight Alabama restaurants set to duke it out for the title of Bama’s Best Fried Chicken.

In round one, the Chicken Shack will go up against Ruby’s in Abbeville on Tuesday and Red’s will be pitted against Charlotte’s in Dothan on Wednesday.

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For Michael Money, who owns the Chicken Shack with his brother, Drew, the heat won’t be so hot that he can’t stay in the kitchen.

Money is the chief cook at the Chicken Shack and that’s the way he wants it.

“We want satisfied customers and the best way I know how to do that is to be in the kitchen,” he said, as he dumped a basket of golden brown chicken from the fryer to the pan.
Money has owned the popular chicken restaurant business for five years. His dad Henry Money ran the restaurant for 13 years before him. The original owner Nick Nichols opened the “shack” in 1968 and its reputation for the “world’s best fried chicken” has held for a half century.

“Why, it’s an institution. People come from all around just to eat at the Chicken Shack,” said Andee Lowery. “No drive is too long if it ends at the Chicken Shack.

“You can’t live in Luverne and not eat at the Chicken Shack,” said Scott Miller, a 26-year patron. His son, Mason, a 12-year connoisseur, said it’s better than finger-lickin’ good.

Visitors to the World’s Friendliest City vow that you can’t visit Luverne and not eat at the Chicken Shack. All roads lead to the Chicken Shack for those who have an overwhelming desire for the chicken that never disappoints.

And, it’s the little things that set Chicken Shack fried chicken apart in tenderness, taste and reliability.

“I don’t ever want a dissatisfied customer,” Money said.
To accomplish that tall order, Money depends on a salt-based marinade and his secret spices.

“There’s a trick to it, though,” he said with a smile. The Chicken Shack serves chicken fried in strips and on the bone, baked and as salad and it’s “treated’ just the same.

“About 75 percent of our business is take-out. Our goal is to offer the best tasting chicken and get it out fast. We haven’t messed with the original fried chicken recipe. We want to continue to honor the folks that came before us. We offer good food at good prices. We could charge more but our customers keep coming back and we’re good with that.”

Just up the road in Grady, Red’s Little Schoolhouse Restaurant has the goal of putting the best food possible on the table.

“If you eat any better, your grandma cooked it,” is the motto at Red’s Little Schoolhouse and to a one, the customers agree.

“I’m not sure my grandma cooked this good,” said Cathy McKinney, a regular at Red’s. “It’s all good, very good.”

Red’s is known far and wide for its lemon icebox pie and fried cornbread. But topping it all is Red and Debbie’s fried chicken.

And it has been that way since the daddy-daughter duo Red Deese and Debbie Deese opened the restaurant in 1984. They had been cooking at state fairs and making a name for themselves but wanted a place of their own. So when the old Grady schoolhouse property became available, they were sitting on the realtor’s doorsteps.

Red’s Little Schoolhouse Restaurant has fried chicken on the buffet and, diners are inclined to break line to get to the fried chicken which is fried juicy tender and in cuts like grandma used to make.

“Is this a breast?” newcomers will often ask. “Naw. It’s a pulley bone and a big one. I’ll fight you for it,” someone will reply with a smile.

Red’s fried chicken is cut up just like grandma used to do and, just like grandma, Debbie and Red don’t mind sharing their recipe. It’s seasoned with seasoning salt, dipped in buttermilk, floured and fried in a well-seasoned iron skillet.

People come from four corners to have Sunday dinner at Red’s Little Schoolhouse Restaurant.

“People from Prattville ride by all those restaurants in Montgomery to eat at Reds,” Mac Thomas said. “And I’m one of ’em.”

People from all walks of life find their way to Reds and they all give the chicken two thumbs up.

Hank Williams, Jr. frequents Reds on the recommendation of his Aunt Loretta Fleming.

“She says it’s as good as it gets, and it is as good as it gets,” Williams said.

And who could argue with that country boy?