“Saving the World, One Chicken Leg at a Time”
Life on the road was getting pretty tough for Seth Champion. With his wife, Crissy, living in Savannah, Georgia they managed 3 Lenny’s Sub Shops. All the while Seth travelled and advised franchisees. They’d had enough. Chasing a Lenny’s franchise opportunity of their own, they pulled up stakes and set up shop in Chattanooga. Their business got off to a good start and before long, were approached with an offer. Too good to pass up, they sold and decided it was time to venture out on their own. They knew with Seth's business background and old family recipes they were sure to succeed.
In 2009, Seth and Crissy opened Champy's Famous Fried Chicken. To say it’s been a big hit is an understatement. We arrived for dinner the night before Thanksgiving and found the place was almost full to overflowing. Their bar and grill has quickly become a staple in community and has gained plenty of notoriety nationally and as you can tell by this Canadian knowing about it, internationally. Some claim it's the best fried chicken in the nation. While that's a pretty big claim there's certainly good reason. As you'll soon read. Such a demand has also meant expansion. They've now opened 3 other stores. All in Alabama.
The moment Seth and Crissy saw what would become Champy’s Chattanooga location they knew they'd found the place. It sits, very conveniently, directly across the street from UTC.
It’s outward appearance is that of a seaside bar. Inside it has all the trappings of a dive bar. Memorabilia and other paraphernalia adorn the walls as to cover old paint and cracked plaster. In this case, old album covers and dollar bills are among the more notable items. They've tried to capture the feel of the Mississippi Delta that's near and dear to them. Mix together Delta Blues, 40 oz. beers and great food, you've surely got a recipe for success.
As an added bonus for the males in the house, the wait staff are female, young and cute. They’re also very good. Helpful with the menu and given that everything is cooked to order (and fried chicken taking extra time), very expedient.
As we all know, it can be difficult at the best times to live up to a reputation. Well I’m hear to tell ya, Champy’s is “All that.” So let’s have a look shall we??
At the table where the ketchup and sundry items are you’ll find a bottle of their home made hot sauce. Called Mississippi Sweet Heat it’s somewhat your typical hot sauce in that it’s peppery and vinegary. This also has a bit of a sweetness component. It’s actually not all that hot, sweet or vinegary but walks a nice, fine, balancing act. It played nicely on the Fried Dill Pickles. I never used it on anything else but in hind sight, I’m sure it was be a nice addition to the beans. A little acidity in beans is nice.
A really nice way to start off, especially if you’re a group, is the Smoked Sausage Plate. Cajun smoked sausage is accompanied by cheese cubes, pickles, pickled peppers and dusted with seasoning. The sausage is fantastic. Garlicky and smokey and just fantastic. I can’t say it any other way. The cheese is really nice and where the pickled peppers juice got on it, even better. The pickles are really nice but nothing spectacular. Just solid. Nothing wrong with that. The pickled peppers aren’t all that hot. Hot enough if you don’t enjoy but not something the grizzled old vets would consider hot.
The Hot Wings are another nice side. I’m starting to realize that I’m just not a huge fan of smoked chicken wings. Which these are. I think the combination of smoke and wing sauce doesn’t work. The best I’ve had are my own and I do more of a BBQ sauce on them. I think that works better. The night I had them there was no shortage of people ordering. A few baseball teams came by after their games and several people ordered and enjoyed. I would order them again but they aren’t my favourite thing on the menu is all.
I totally get Deep Fried Dill Pickles. They’re pickles which are good. They’re deep fried which is also good. So the two should work. I’ve just never loved them. Not so with these ones. Cut into spear shapes they’re far and away the best I’ve had. The crunch of the breading was exceptional and the Ranch Dressing was a perfect complement.
As you can well imagine, growing up in Canada means that my exposure to Delta Tamales was nil. I didn’t even know there was such an animal. Delta Tamales, or Hot Tamales as they’re called “Down Yonder” are very similar to the Latin varietal but are made of cornmeal not masa. They also seem to be smaller and are usually but not always, covered in a thin tomato sauce or gravy.
These particular specimens are filled with ground beef and nicely seasoned. Definitely with cumin but there are certainly other flavours along for the ride. I loved them. Mrs. Sippi thought they were very good but not excellent. Growing up just above the Delta, she’s far more familiar with them.
Last but more certainly not least the Fried Chicken. IT. IS. AWESOME. Oh my, this, simply, is what God intended when he invented Fried Chicken. Crispy, juicy, “chickeny”, herby and, what put this over the top, slightly spicy. Not sure where it’s coming from but that little bit of bite really gives it personality. By “bite” I don’t mean a lot of heat either. This is not Nashville Hot Chicken or anything close to it. Just enough to bloom your taste buds and give it some character. Not so much as to turn off those not into hot stuff.
I really liked the slaw that accompanied it. It had a good cabbage taste and had a little something, something which I think, was apple. All in all, one of the better tasting slaws I’ve had.
The beans were fantastic. Kind of your standard pork and beans but a little smokier and as you can see they have kidney beans in them as well. They add just a bit of earthiness that I totally enjoyed.
When in season they do Crawfish Boils. Pretty much exactly the same as a Low Country Boil or Frogmore Stew, it’s mud bugs (crawfish) cooked in a fiery, heavily seasoned broth with Cajun Sausage, Corn and Potatoes. As an added attraction they add Mushrooms. The whole thing is just poured out onto a plate and you dive right in. This particular incarnation hit all the right notes and had a strong hint of all spice. Not something I’ve seen but being a Canadian, this was not something with which I grew up. Mrs. Sippi has had this plenty and declared Champy’s version simply the best. Be fore warned though, if you do not like spicy stuff, you will not be able to handle this. By the time we finished, our mouths were on fire.
If you have room for dessert there a couple options for you. Mississippi Mud and Key Lime Pies. The Ms Mud was good and came from a bakery in Nashville. I must admit it didn’t really excite me but a chocolate based pie for a chocoholic is always acceptable. The Key Lime (shown) is made in house and is quite good. I have a bit of a hard time judging this for two reasons. It’s got a bit of a delicate taste and having it on the heels of the power packed crawfish my tastebuds were probably worn out. As well, I made one for my mom just the week before and, as usual, I prefer what I make at home. Make no mistake though, this is some good stuff.
So there you go fried chicken aficionados, some of the best bird this side of Neptune.
You can find Champy’s at 526 East M L King Boulevard, Chattanooga, Tn.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Well that's all for now folks. We'll see ya next time in the food court.