CHARLOTTE – Original Chicken ‘n Ribs is an unassuming eatery almost hidden from the road; you almost have to know about it to find it. And people in the know have been patronizing the place since the 1950s when it opened.
The menu is bursting with home-cooked specialities that, of course, include chicken and ribs, but so much more. The place is an absolute must-visit for historical and gastronomic reasons – a little slice of bygone Charlotte.
Owner Jermaine Blackmon’s grandfather opened Original Chicken ‘n Ribs in 1952 on Beatties Ford Road. Blackmon is the third generation to work at the take-out joint. In fact, his parents met when his mother interviewed for a job at the restaurant.
While the building has undergone several renovations and facelifts, it remains the same friendly, Southern cooking place it was back in the day. And it has an interesting tie-in to the pre-Civil Rights movement. It was listed in the “Green Book,” the African-American-friendly travel guide published by mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966.
“We are the only Charlotte restaurant listed in the Green Book that is still operating in the same location,” Blackmon said.
The name Original Chicken ‘n Ribs almost contradicts the vast array of options on the menu. There are various types of fish including tilapia, whiting, croaker and flounder. Also included are barbecue dinners, hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches featuring grilled pork chops, chicken filets and Philly steak.
The whole chicken wings are often in demand. They are fried to a crunchy crisp with juicy meat underneath. The sides are all made in-house including macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, potato salad and more. Plus the iced tea is brewed on the stove daily, guaranteeing a taste normally reserved for your MeeMaw’s house.
And don’t miss the famous Fat Boy Burger, which proudly boasts two freshly grilled patties, glorious melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, slaw and chili. It is stacked so high, the eater will need to smush down the sesame seed bun to fit it in his mouth. The original Fat Boy Burger had tartar sauce on it, and customers from back in the day will order it just like that. Just remember that every item is cooked to order, so there can be a wait time.
The restaurant is a social venue, with customers chatting while waiting on their food. The patrons consist of construction workers, teachers, city workers, families and seniors. Blackmon and company are also good community members, with a summer feeding program for kids who eat free or reduced-priced lunch at school. It runs every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to noon, and there is no age limit.
“This is my mom’s heart,” said Blackmon. “She can’t stand to think of a child going hungry.”
Original Chicken ‘n Ribs also offers corporate catering. Customers can order off the usual menu or talk with Blackmon about lighter lunch offerings such as sandwiches or salads.
“We are happy to accommodate any sort of catering opportunity,” said Blackmon.
Blackmon feels incredibly supported by the area and his customers.
“This is a strong community restaurant,” he said. “And, in turn, the community really supports us.”
The place has the feel of home; people feel immediately comfortable and all are welcome. It’s a beautiful piece of Charlotte history that is worth a visit for the delicious home cooking and the amazing backstory.