Mastering my fear of chicken

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Mickey’s chicken among best in the state

By Kevin Smith
Guest column

“Do I need to cook you some chicken, Kevin?” asked Shelby Moree in the back of Mickey’s kitchen in downtown Pageland.
I hesitate. I stutter.
“Uh, yea, uh…”
I grew up with relatives who never found anything they wouldn’t deep fry.
“You want white or dark meat?”
“Uh, white. Definitely white.”
Growing up, I would sit at a table and watch my family eat chicken like they were a school of piranhas swarming a baby cow.
I would stare at the leg on my plate while my aunt would suck the marrow out of a bone and my cousins would fight over whom could make a wish with the bones of what used to be a chicken.
“Why’d you think about that so hard?” Shelby asked, probably noticing the concern on my face.
When I was asked to write about Mickey’s Family Restaurant being recognized as having some of the best fried chicken in the state by Charleston’s The Post and Courier, I paused for a second. I shook my head, agreeing this is a hometown story that needs to be told.
But, “I don’t eat chicken on the bone.”
Progressive Journal Editor Don Worthington didn’t smile and seemed to take that more as a personal challenge for myself instead of an “I can’t do this.” I rubbed my chin as I dropped my eyes from his, wondering if the sweat had already started to show.
“So I’ll have the business story and the Mickey’s this weekend?”
Clearly, he went the personal challenge route. It’s as if I’m crying in line before boarding a terrifying roller coaster and he’s asking what side I’m sitting on. He ignored the obvious fear in my voice and figuratively shook me by the arms while screaming “be a writer, man. BE A WRITER!”
Well played, Mr. Worthington. Well played.
“We get requests through the various levels of tourism offices in the state,” said Darron Kirkley, director of Chesterfield County Travel and Tourism. “The requests come from the state tourism board, down through the regional directors and then to the county directors. We receive requests for all sorts of things, including this request by the Post and Courier for nominees for their Best Backroads Fried Chicken honors. We submitted our nominee and didn’t hear back from them until two days before the announcement was made, which we were very excited about.”
“We didn’t know who she was,” said Chris Faircloth, co-owner of Mickey’s Family Restaurant. “She called and asked about the history of our chicken and the restaurant. Next thing we know, she showed up. We didn’t know it was her until she got here.”
Mickey’s has been a staple of Pageland for as long as most can remember. The Griffin family has owned it for the past 25 years.
Lunch had already started the day I visited, but I keep glancing over to Shelby at the deep fryer, knowing there’s a piece of meat with a bone in it with my name on it.
Although everyone cooks the dozen-plus cases of chicken each week, no one particular person knows the recipe of Miss Lucille Cato’s fried chicken.
“She never would give us the full recipe,” said co-owner Randy Griffin. “She would come in and do nothing but cook chicken, livers and gizzards all day long. Nothing else. She’d sit at that last deep fryer from 5 to 9 in the evening every day.”
Shelby walked over to the deep fryer, pulled out a breast, puts it on a plate with a roll and walked it over to me.
The crust looks absolutely amazing. If I was a better man I’d throw a deer across my shoulders, put on a Duck Dynasty hat and carry my piece of chicken to the table and stop chewing when I hit bone.
I try to imagine it as a big, giant chicken finger – a beautiful chicken finger.
“You want me to pull it off the bone for you?” my girlfriend, Kim, asks. I consider it, but then remember Editor Don’s imaginary and somewhat violent “YOU’RE A WRITER!”
“No. No, I have to do this myself.”
I take the fork and push it into the meat and pull it away. I forget about the bone long enough to notice how juicy the meat is under the breading. I hope you’re happy Mr. Worthington; I’m eating meat on the bone for the first time in 25 years.
“It really is good,” said Kim after swiping a piece from my plate.
My plate, Kim. My plate.
But she’s right.
The Post and Courier is right.
Yes, there are other great places in Pageland that serve wonderful chicken as well, but for right now I can see the moisture glisten off of a big chunk of white meat on my plate.
I take a few more bites of pieces that I inspect thoroughly to make sure it’s only meat and then I push the plate away. I walk back into the kitchen to give my compliments. I thank the staff and head on my way.
Hannah Raskin of the Post and Courier said this about Mickey’s: “It’s preternaturally flaky: ‘Fried chicken as dessert.”
I also found decade-old write-up by then Charlotte Observer food editor, Kathleen Purvis, who called it ‘the fried chicken answer to pie.’”
If you haven’t tried fried chicken recognized by one of the largest newspapers in the state, visit Mickey’s at 114 N. Maple St., Pageland or call them at (843)672-7757 and place a to-go order. Hours are Monday-Wednesday 5 a.m. -2 p.m., and 4-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 a.m.- 9 p.m., Sunday 6-10 a.m.