Not so long ago – right up to the present, in fact – there was a decrepit Shell station at the corner of Lebanon and Preston Roads in Frisco, Texas. It wanted to be a Quik Trip or a Race Trac, or some early version of them, but, after what was doubtless a consultant-heavy process in the inner sanctum of Royal Dutch Shell, they decided to subname it Food Mart. You can see that brand proudly displayed in the photograph.
In the back of that shabby Shell, barely visible from the front door, there was a sad little counter that served as the portal for service of the only Popeye's Chicken for miles around. It was very cramped and because the service area was only a yard or so from the food preparation area, customers could observe what Popeye's International would probably judge questionable quality assurance procedures. From that counter, a rapidly-rotating service staff would serve up ambrosial Popeye's Cajun Chicken, and, of course, the powerfully addictive Red Bean and Rice.
I have been partial to Popeye's Chicken since my Chicago days. I would even travel into sketchy neighborhoods to secure its tasty offerings. A friend and I thought about bringing Popeye's to San Diego when I lived out there.
But, alas, Popeye's Chicken is not favored by the Memsahib, who controls most dining decisions at 7640 Red Clover Drive in Frisco. Sometimes, however, she is out of town or dining with friends, and on those occasions I was able to procure those wonderful, grease-infused chicken parts fried up with that peppery, crispy shell protecting the doubtless contented flesh of their donors. I would usually get an eight-piece all-dark special, which I would eat over the course of several days. And Red Beans and Rice.
But one day, Popeye's Chicken went dark. There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth at 7640 Red Clover Drive and, I imagine, for miles around, for, as I said, there were no other Popeye's Chickens near about.
A sign went up at the poor Shell station. It promised that a Golden Chick would be appearing. Eventually, it did.
I like Golden Chick chicken. But it is not Popeye's. And it does not have Red Beans and Rice.
And lo, it came to pass that I was driving down Preston Road, home to an increasing number of delightful fast-food establishments. I saw a new building, unlabeled, that looked like all of the others on that blessed strip. There was construction equipment on the premises and the usual piles of dirt and rebar and packing materials. It was located next to Randy White's BBQ. In the window was a large sign that said NOW HIRING.
Well, I thought, that's good. One can never have too many fast-food choices in Frisco. Hey, maybe Mexican! Someday I'm going to write an article on the incremental differences in the fare offered by Taco Bell, Taco Cabana, Del Taco, Cristina's, La Hacienda, Casa Rita, Posado's, Gloria's, Cantina Laredo, Blue Goose Cantina, Manny's Tex-Mex, Rosa's Café, Taco Bueno, and, in all likelihood, whatever was going into this new building.
I looked a little closer. There, almost hidden, difficult to read through the reflections in the front glass, were some additional markings:
And there followed great rejoicing at 7640, and in the hearts of all Frisco bachelors, former bachelors, and male children with elevated tastes in fried poultry.
"NOW HIRING." You know, the Memsahib has been asking me what I'm going to do when I retire.
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For other articles on my adventures with fried chicken, see: