A Chicken-Fried Institution
St. Nicholas spot piles plates high with Southern goodness
4132 Atlantic Blvd., St. Nicholas
Caron Streibich covers dining out throughout Northeast Florida. If you have information about new restaurant openings, menu changes or other food-related news, contact her here. Streibich is also the host of our regular Folio Weekly Bite Club gatherings. Follow the Bite Club on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about it.
For the past 74 years, locals have flocked (no pun intended) to this no-frills St. Nicholas hot spot. Comfortably nesting in the same location since 1939, when Atlantic Boulevard was the only road to the beach, Beach Road Chicken Dinners is truly a Southernerâ€™s dream. (On the flip side, it is not a vegetarianâ€™s dream.)
We kicked off our feast by devouring bite-sized fried okra and sweet corn nuggets, served with a creamy homemade ranch sauce that had a slight jalapeÃ±o kick. The breading was light, and the okra was both fresh and crisp, as if it were picked yesterday. The sweet corn nuggets were piping hot.
How could I resist ordering fried chicken? Three of my tablemates also opted for it, so I'm not exaggerating when I say a platter of strategically piled pieces of crispy, golden-brown chicken arrived at our table. The need for multiple napkins aside, the chicken was the perfect trifecta: crisp, juicy and flavorful. I also managed a bite of country-fried steak and topped it with some of the gravy from the mashed potatoes; it too was delicious. If youâ€™re from the South like I am, youâ€™ll certainly appreciate the authenticity. And to make Grandma proud, yes, there are gizzards and chicken livers. But thatâ€™s where I draw the line.
Served family-style, the fixins are all-you-can-eat. If you're scooping out the last heap of mashed potatoes, don't fret, y'all â€” just order another bowl. The table quickly became crowded with creamed peas, mini-biscuits (with butter and honey), mashed potatoes, gravy, crinkle-cut crisp French fries, white rice and creamy cole slaw. The biscuits, slaw and mashed potatoes with gravy had the most flavor; the four of us left the creamed peas practically untouched. I longed for mac â€˜nâ€™ cheese and collard greens, but they were nowhere to be found on the menu.
Eyeing the table next to us, I spotted fruit cobbler. Stuffed to the brim, I knew I couldn't hold another bite. Judging from our neighborsâ€™ quickly disappearing dish, the cobbler's a hit.
The low-frills interior was simple and dated with an almost overwhelming presence of yellow paint. Large windows, various dining rooms and open spaces, however, make it feel homey.
Since the portions are so ridiculously large, itâ€™s a smart idea to bring a posse â€” preferably one with a massive appetite. Someoneâ€™s got to help you eat all those sides.