Wings and samosas star at the BP station
at 727 SE 14th St., 243-8100. Hours are
5 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily.
Krueger’s BP, Highway 141 at S.E. 37th
St., Grimes, 986-3017. Open 24-7.
Chester’s - University Groceries II, 1621
University Ave., 288-8800. Hours are 8
a.m. to 11 p.m., daily.
Club 2000, 422 Indianola Ave., 245-9769.
Hours are 6 to 2 a.m., daily.
Readers’ enthusiasm for four off-beat joints
persuaded us to check them out. We began with
Chester’s Chicken, a quick service food concept
founded in Alabama some 60 years ago by an inventor
of industrial deep fryers. His grandson began
expanding the chicken end of the business through
franchising in 2004. Named after a character
on “Gunsmoke,” Chester’s is an odd bird. It
has no stand-alone outlets, mostly partnerships
with supermarkets and convenience stores. Its
franchises sell for an average of only $10,000.
In Des Moines, two very different Chester’s
outlets offer addictive fried chicken and other
southern dishes. At University Groceries II,
opposite Goode Park, “liquor, wine and beer”
get second billing to the chicken in an old
convenience store. People objected to my using
a camera until I assured them that I would not
photograph humans. A hot case was stocked with
prepared chicken that ranged from old (and deeply
discounted) to just out of the fryer. Foolishly
I tried both. Eaten hot, Chester’s was divinely
juicy and crisp. The extra spicy option came
as advertised. Chester’s corporate web site
professed these “secrets” — a patented breading
recipe, unique fryers, double breading and using
only marinated chickens. Tenders, gizzards and
catfish were also superb. Okra and half cobs
of corn were breaded and deep-fried. Mashed
potatoes offered disappointing brown gravy.
Potato salad featured larger than usual pieces
of potato in a creamy sauce with chopped peppers.
Des Moines’s second Chester’s option was a slick
modern convenience store/BP station on S.E.
14th Street that also specializes in liquor.
I’ve been told it’s a reliable source of Templeton
Rye when other stores are sold out. Fresh bait
is sold 24/7 in a vending machine. Catfish,
ribs and extra spicy chicken were not available
on my visits. I was also told there wouldn’t
be any fresh-from-the-fryer chicken “for awhile.”
Excellent meaty samosas (Indian fried ravioli)
and a full line of Mexican soft drinks compensated.
Reader tip No. 2 took me to Club 2000 (“C2K”
in southside lingo), a typical neighborhood
bar with an atypical bar kitchen. This place,
in the same family for three generations, had
a very friendly vibe and seemed particularly
lively on a Thursday night when patrons play
beer pong for a $25 bar tab, and on Tuesdays
when large tacos and $3 margaritas starred.
C2K’s Facebook page announces other specials,
with $1 domestic draws being popular. Daily
lunch specials included grilled tenderloins
on Tuesdays, excellent homemade cavatelli on
Wednesdays, Sicilian subs (capacola, roast beef
and fried peppers) on Thursdays and French dip
on Fridays. The latter was served with generous
beef, a good jus and excellent onion rings.
Other $7.50 specials were served with fries
and only between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. A large
menu of mostly sandwiches was offered most of
the day and night.
Tip No. 3 took me to Grimes where another BP
station has been impressing readers with their
pizza. I found pies being made in a short oven
that included a conveyor belt, a model I hadn’t
seen since the 1980s. My pizza maker told me
his oven could get up to 1,000 degrees. It delivered
a perfect example of tavern style pizza — meaning
that super-thin crusts were crisp enough to
hold a fully loaded piece of pie at a right
angle without sagging. Toppings included old
southside specialties like capacola, banana
peppers and Graziano’s sausage. The store’s
burrito grill did not impress me as much as
its pizza. Oatmeal was offered, too, and was
advertised as free on Mondays.
Jimmie Lynch (801 Steak & Chop) announced
plans to open an upscale seafood restaurant
in the western suburbs and also a farm to fork
restaurant called Pig & Finch. CV