Thursday, March 8, 2007

Golden Skillet: Chicken fried just right

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Bryan Haynes⁄The Star
Golden Skillet restaurant in Forestville is known for it’s great chicken. The owner says he’s looking to expand with more locations around the county and into Baltimore.
This yellow-roofed fried chicken joint offers carry-out, a small area for eating in, and a drive-through if you are in a hurry. The owner, a native of Seoul, Korea known as Mr. Lem, thinks fast-food eating establishments need to have a drive-through window. He estimates that about 70 percent of his business comes from drive-through customers.

Golden Skillet restaurants have been around since 1975, and Lem opened his in Prince George’s County location nine years ago. He plans to open more locations in the county and expand into Baltimore.

Lem says that the meat is fresh; he has it delivered from a chicken farm. All of the chicken is fried in peanut oil. It comes in a variety of meal deals and quantities and large orders are available if you make arrangements in advance.

According to Julian Dickson, who has worked there for two years, the five-piece special ($4.76) is often requested. You can also choose from meals like three chicken breasts for $6.49, 20 wings for $14.99, or a three-piece dinner that comes with two sides (white $6.49, dark $4.79, both $5.49). Side dishes, including baked beans, macaroni and cheese, potato wedges and creamy cole slaw are 99 cents each.

Michelle Waller-Smith of Forestville says, ‘‘I love their chicken sandwiches!”

Dickson agrees that it is his favorite menu item as well.

The Golden Skillet’s chicken sandwich, known as the Big Skillet, is the real deal, not dry, not too greasy and fried just right. There are no uniform, circular patties here: boneless pieces of fried chicken with lettuce and mayo are placed in a sesame seed bun with a pickle on top and wrapped in wax paper. By itself, the Big Skillet is $3.49; the combo, which includes fries and a drink, is $5.29.

Fried fish is also available, if customers don’t want poultry. One piece of whiting is $1.89; a dinner is $5.99.

The Golden Skillet has two popular menu items that are not often seen these days in fast-food restaurants: chicken liver and chicken gizzards.

A 12-ounce box of liver or gizzards is $4.76, and for that same price you can have a 14-ounce box with a combination of the two. Both Lem and Dickson say that customers are buying more and more of them. Customers have told Lem that they like to pair the gizzards with beer.

Not only will the menu remind customers of times past, but many are likely to see an old acquaintance if they are from the neighborhood. Dickson, who now lives in Bowie used to live in the area, and has run into old friends. He says he sees people he knew in high school and college.

Dickson has also seen more than a few people reunite with friends or relatives they have not seen for a time. Once a woman at the drive thru saw her niece, whom she hadn’t seen in a while, was inside the restaurant.

It is the kind of place where you are likely to run into someone you know. And even if you don’t know someone, you eventually will if you stop by often enough. Dickson says he has developed relationships with customers. ‘‘I love serving the people,” he said.

When asked what influenced him to open a Golden Skillet restaurant, Lem says that he liked the fried chicken recipe. Indeed, the Golden Skillet’s reputation has been built on its fried chicken, and as Lem says, ‘‘It’s just good.”