A well worth it trip for some well made chicken

Photo: Welcome to Buckeye Jake’s

By Paula Johnson

In Gainesville, Georgia, it is illegal to eat fried chicken with a knife and fork. There is a city ordinance that says you must use your hands. It’s possible that the good people of Gainesville are familiar with critic Mimi Sheraton, who wholeheartedly agrees, saying, “Pieces of fried chicken should be edible by hand, forks and knives obviating the sensuous pleasure of biting in and getting a big mouthful of crust and meat all at once.” There’s even a day devoted to the celebration of fried chicken—it’s July 6th. But I don’t advise waiting till then to avail yourself of some crispy, crunchy fried joy—I advise you to hop in the car and go to Buckeye Jake’s in West Alexandria for a Sunday fried chicken dinner you can’t beat.

You should cross the road for this chicken.

You might say that’s a “fer piece” to travel for some fried chicken, and for most readers it probably is. But I will outline several reasons why it will be worth putting some miles on the family sedan, and I’m fairly sure you’ll be convinced. First, I will start with the price: $7.99 for all you can eat. If you are like me, I would assume that price plus that quantity must equal poor quality. And so I had real reservations when PIP (Palate In Progress) and I arrived on a Sunday evening to see if what we heard was true—that Buckeye Jake’s makes some of the best fried chicken anywhere. I suspended my contempt prior to investigation as we were greeted warmly by Adam, who seated us on the patio deck which spans the length of the restaurant.

No wine-ing

While we chose patio seating, the interior of Buckeye Jake’s is worthy of a mention. The first floor of this gracious old house contains several lovely, intimate dining rooms. A trip up the gorgeous narrow, winding staircase reveals two more upstairs. All rooms are done in deep rich tones and feature high ceilings, tall windows with wood shutters, and lovely mantles. Despite the inviting interior, and even though the Dayton sky was still sputtering with drizzle after a day-long deluge, outdoor seating was a must for me—and apparently a lot of other folks, as well.  A large church contingent nearly filled one side of the patio, while a couple, fresh from a softball game, relaxed with a bucket of cold beer on the other side. Adam proffered menus, but we waved them away stating plainly, “We’re here for the Sunday special chicken.” He smiled knowingly. “Great! Can I start you with a drink first?” I asked about wine and his smile wavered a bit. ”We have a limited Sunday license, and can’t serve wine. BUT, I have an idea for you.”

I was all ears, but couldn’t imagine a satisfactory stand in. “Are you a sangria fan?” he asked. He had my attention. “I suggest a Liefmans Fruitesse. It’s like a Lambic Framboise. It’s served over ice in a wine glass.” Sold. I really like the Lambic and sangria, and liked this a lot. It was a great solution, and a perfect save. Points awarded to Adam. He then advised us on our chicken choice. “All of our chicken is done with local Henny Penny flour—it’s why the coating is so crunchy and good. So you can have all of the pieces done simply fried plain, or you can do a couple of wings with sauce along with the fried.” More points to Adam, as we selected the Sweet and Spicy sauce and the Carolina Reaper for maximum heat. The $7.99 dinner comes with one side and the stipulation that a drink is purchased. I went with the homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, which turned out to be peppery and fluffy and very homemade tasting. PIP went French fries. Here they are coated with the same Henny Penny flour mix, and they proved absolutely delicious. Most coated fries are gloppy and excessively coated, usually with an unpleasant chemical aftertaste. I always avoid them. These however were fresh cut and lightly dusted with a perfect salty-peppery seasoning. Both were great with the chicken, but we were missing veggies so we added coleslaw ($1.95), another win. Only lightly dressed, the chunky cabbage strips were fresh and crisp, a far cry from the awful milky confetti that coleslaw can often be.

Hot and fast

Hannah ably stepped in to relieve Adam, and she checked back often to see if we were ready for more chicken. We were. It arrived quickly, another thing to be impressed with. Attentive service and prompt delivery are really important for an all-you-can-eat special. We’ve all had that awkward experience where the server has disappeared when you’d like more and when you do finally order, it takes a prehistoric era for what you ordered to arrive. Prompt and happy to fetch more of that delicious perfectly crunchy chicken had us awarding points to Hannah too. At last we had reached chicken saturation, but she pointed out the desserts are made in house by one of the owners. So peanut butter chocolate pie ($3.45) and cheesecake ($4.95) it was. PIP’s pie had a nice flaky crust and my cheesecake was really nicely done, dense but still light with a crunchy graham crust.

Do you realize?

The bill arrived. It came to a whopping $35.71. PIP scratched his head. “I know this total is correct, but it just doesn’t seem possible. You realize we each had a drink, added on a side, and had two desserts?” I did. “You realize we are coming back here next Sunday.” This was not a question, and I realized that as well. I also realize there is other food at Buckeye Jakes, including nightly home-style specials, and a lot of smoky BBQ, plus breakfast on the weekends. I realize we will eventually have to step away from the chicken to try some. I just can’t say when that might be.

Buckeye Jake’s Eatery is located at 13 E. Dayton St. in West Alexandria. For more information, please call 937.839.5253 or visit buckeyejakes.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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