Blame it on John Hartness.
At a local reading in Charlotte in November, writer Hartness hurled the bomb:
A Shell station at Eastway and Shamrock has better fried chicken than Price's Chicken Coop.
He said it. I was there.
I won't mess with Hartness' claim about Price's. There are third rails of food that you just don't touch. But go to a gas station to try the fried chicken? That, I can do. I went, liked the chicken, and wrote about it on my blog.
It generated a lively exchange. Some people offered their own nominations for gas-station food, mostly fried chicken but also specialties like potato wedges and wings.
More research was clearly needed. I made a list of five places with reports of good food and picked up Hartness, a writer and poet who's active in local theater, for a 72-mile lunch.
We also took along Observer restaurant reviewer Helen Schwab. For a skinny girl, she can hold more food than a Costco warehouse, and she dissects flavors with the precision of an electron microscope. (On the trip, I asked her about an iced tea I had liked. She said, "Mine tasted stale at the bottom, but at the top, it was fine." Who notices strata in iced tea?)
Read the complete story at charlotteobserver.com