Al’s boasts of having the best fried chicken in Hays, Kansas. I would wager to say, they that have the best fried chicken in most of Kansas, as Kansas is not really much of a state, just one big sorghum and soy farm. Sorghum, that genus of plants from the 10,000 strong grass family (Poaceae) used to make bio-fuel, animal feed, and syrup .
Eager to see the recent remodel, the first since their 1949 founding when the blue and pink interior protected against more soviet red colors (ironically useful in today’s post soviet aggression) we hopped off the mind numbing 70 freeway and headed down to Hays. Kansas cuisine is a reflection of it’s culture – not particularly diverse (86% Caucasian, 76% Christian, and overwhelmingly Republican) and I struggled to find something interesting to eat. The reviews on Al’s found online speak volumes. Makes one wonder why the over 6,000 ghost towns of Kansas continue to increase in number, where are the people going when the chicken is supposedly this good?
Driving across Kansas makes one mighty hungry for chicken, civilization, and the love of Jesus – because one is frequently reminded how warm hell is. Kansas has an interesting political history; in 1999 Kansas eliminated evolution from school curriculum, voted to ban same-sex marriage in ’05, and has a minimum marriage age of 15. In addition, Kansas has 29 dry counties where alcohol is not available for sale. Apparently getting drunk on chicken, and partying like it’s 1899 is the only option here.
Starting off with a particularly bland but satisfying yeast roll, served warm and unnaturally round did the trick when balanced with a slab of ice-cold butter. Kind of like a butter sandwich.
The chicken options were both straight forward, and slightly confusing. I grew up loving Foghorn Leghorn, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat him for lunch. I settled on the Wizard, because we most certainly were in Oz.
The crisp on the chicken was gentle, the interior warm and moist. Perfect with a dash of ketchup. The corn was a slight let down, giving off a canned feel of inauthentic sadness, yet it still quickly made it’s way into my empty belly.
I was immediately saddened by the fact that Pot Pie Wednesday wasn’t the day of my visit. One thing they aren’t short on is rhubarb, and the pie did little to excite but generally did not disappoint. Hard to tell if this was homemade, I’d wager it was.
Service was extremely warm and friendly from the youthful staff. Several of the patrons eyed me and my photography suspiciously, yet I found Hays was a very friendly place. The bill for 3 people was only 36 dollars.
I will most certainly be returning to this bastion of chicken taxidermy and down home cooking the next time I find myself driving through God’s country. Be sure to do the same, but get there early as baked potatoes usually run out before noon.