Chicken liver are best eaten while driving. Pro tip!
We walk among you! We are your neighbors, your coworkers, and even your family. We craft elaborate untruths to cover our tracks and surreptitiously slink away from the prying eyes of those who seek to judge our most base cravings and crass desires. We seek refuge huddled in questionable establishments so that we may briefly escape the disgusted faces of a disapproving society and find solace among others who seek out the same unctuous pleasures. Personally, I have harbored this deep, dark secret for much too long and it is time for me to step forward, emerge from the shadows, and proudly admit, I love convenience store chicken livers. Please don’t look away, just let me explain.
It all started when I was a young and impressionable tot. My grandmother would fry up these golden little lobes of lusciousness by the platefuls and smile tenderly as I devoured them, not knowing the dark path this would eventually lead me down. As I entered my teenage years I began to sense the disapproval of my peers when I allowed my craving for chicken livers to bubble to the surface. By the time I was in my early twenties I had begun to creep off alone to Mount Vernon or Nikki’s to avoid dining table condemnation from those who just didn’t understand the sweet allure of this most awesome offal. When I ordered chicken livers in a restaurant my dining companions reacted as though I had ordered a fresh batch of dolphin milk – with disgust and confusion. Then there was that fateful day when I walked into what’s now a Mapco at 3rd & Holtzclaw and had my first convenience store chicken liver experience. A swirling stew of pleasure, guilt, shame, and satisfaction brewed inside my skull. It felt so wrong but it tasted so right.
Over the last two decades I’ve tried to manage my cravings by reminding myself I shouldn’t buy fried organ meat at a place that also sells condoms and homemade porn DVD’s through ballistic glass. But my taste buds won’t let me forget the late night rendezvous at Kanku’s or when I got crazy and picked up a potato log or two to go along for the ride. I’m tired of hiding and even more importantly I’m tired of pretending I’m alone.
Convenience store chicken livers are the Nickelback of the food world. Despite never being able to find anyone that will openly admit to liking them, they have been sold by the boxful for years in convenience stores such as the Shell Fast Stop at Wilcox and Dodson, the Market and 20th street Kanku’s, and my personal favorite, the Mapco at Holtzclaw & 3rd. Sure, we can all laughingly brush off the occasional encounter with an order of chicken tenders and a biscuit from these poultry pimps, but to admit that we actually like chicken livers from a Mapco could bring the sting of Jamie Oliver’s spatula of judgment down upon our heads.
So what do we do? We lie and say, “Oh no, I’ve never tried them.” or “There was that one time on the way home from band camp.” It’s a condition I call Nickelbacksia: blocking the memory of a preference or purchase when confronted by our peers. Used in a sentence: “I saw episodes of the Jersey Shore recorded on his DVR, but when I asked him about it he developed a sudden case of Nickelbacksia and said he hates that show.” This affliction needs the disinfecting power of light to shine down and cleanse us from the shame we feel after we’ve performed that silent ballet in our cars; balancing the box on the console, carefully squeezing hot sauce packets and quickly scrambling for napkins in the glove box to wipe the evidence from our grease tipped fingers.
Where there are alternatives there is hope and Chattanooga has alternatives to the fried CSL (convenience store liver). The Public House on Market Street uses a more refined touch than you typically find on fried chicken livers but it makes their version served with grits and Tabasco butter one of the best in the city. If you’re looking for a home cooked, Southern style fried chicken liver then almost any meat and three restaurant in town can satiate your chicken liver longings. The Countryside Café out on Mahan Gap Rd, Zarzours, Southside Saloon, and Mt. Vernon all know how to make a good fried chicken liver. I believe that as long as they’re not overcooked, southern style fried chicken livers are like sex; even when they’re bad, they’re still pretty damn good.
Where To Get Them
The Public House
Kacey Home Cooking
Southside Saloon & Bistro
Herman's Souls Food
Wally's East Ridge
Mapco at 3rd & Holtzclaw
Kanku's at Central and McCallie
Shell Fast Stop at Wilcox and Dodson
Kanku's at Market and 20th