Golden Fried Chicken Loaf
Golden Fried Chicken Loaf is locked in the memories of those who frequented the restaurant in the 1950s and 1960s. The perfectly spiced fried chicken, the dumpling soup, the pies. All that remains is an empty lot . . . and the memories.
Golden Fried Chicken Loaf was established in 1933 by Mina Bratton. Bratton, whose maiden name was Wolf and who would later remarry and change her name to Evans, immigrated to the United States from Germany at a young age. She was a stenographer, worrying about seasonal unemployment, when she decided to fry chicken for a living.
Bratton made no claim to having originated the
fried chicken loaf; a friend told her of one he had eaten in
Chicago. Fried chicken was something Bratton knew all about. Her
widowed mother had taught her daughters to prepare the evening meal.
Little Mina liked to cook. There was a family joke she used to climb
back up into her highchair to eat the food she had prepared. Her
friend's story of the fried chicken loaf intrigued her, so she made
a trip to Chicago to see and taste for herself.
With $800 and nothing else but enthusiasm and energy, Bratton opened her first fried chicken loaf restaurant at 748 Hamilton in June of 1933. She told a St. Louis Globe-Democrat reporter in a 1936 interview, "I put all of my $800 directly into advertising, transferred my telephone to my new address and without spending another cent except $25 for some additional pots and pans to add to my kitchen equipment, I opened for business. It was a one-woman enterprise, as I started out doing all the work of killing, dressing and frying the chickens with only the help of a boy who delivered the orders. The first week I sold 28 fried chicken loaves, and I was delighted."
Bratton's "fried chicken loaf" was a chicken weighing exactly two pounds, cut in exactly 14 pieces, fried exactly seven minutes in deep vegetable oil at exactly 375 degrees and then packed between the halves of a special French loaf of bread, toasted exactly so many minutes. Wrapped and boxed, it was rushed to the customer piping hot.
Bratton quickly outgrew her Hamilton location and moved her thriving chicken
business to a larger space at 5631 Delmar on September
2, 1933. But she soon learned that frying chickens and selling them
was only one phase of her business.
In her 1936 Globe-Democrat interview she
explained, "Getting the right size and kind of chickens was more of
a problem than getting rid of them. My advertising brought me
customers, but I had to get out and hustle to find the chickens I
wanted. They had to be young and tender and weigh a full two pounds,
and not over two and a quarter pounds, and they had to be bought at
a price that would allow me to resell them for a dollar. And
chickens just donít grow like that the year round, I discovered.
Part of the year I could not get them the right size, and part of
the time not at the right prices to retail them at the flat price I
had to sell them for. I made up my mind that although I knew no more
about raising chickens than I did canary birds, Iíd have to learn to
raise my own poultry so I could schedule its production to suit my
The demand for Mina Bratton's battery raised
chicken continue to grow. She moved Golden Fried Chicken Loaf yet
again in early 1935 to a still larger space at 5867 Delmar; this
would be the restaurant's longtime home and Bratton's final move.
Initially, Bratton offered only delivery service for her fried chicken, but she soon added restaurant and pick-up service. An expanded menu included her famous dumpling soup. The deep yellow chicken broth contained free-form dumplings, pieces of which would flake off, thickening the broth. The spicy soup was addicting. Bratton eventually did away with delivery service; her customers were more than willing to come to her.
On Sundays, streams of customers would enter
the restaurant through the back door off the parking lot and line up in a crowded
hallway to pick up their orders. They'd inch up to a low counter,
underneath which were shelves filled with Golden Fried Chicken
Loaf's famous pies. The chicken was packed in big white cardboard
boxes, with hinged tops. The dumpling soup traveled home in gallon
glass jars with large diameter screw caps.
Charles Dohogne worked at Golden Fried Chicken Loaf in the early 1950s, while in high school. He had vivid memories of the restaurant and its owner.
Golden Fried Chicken Loaf thrived throughout
the 1950s and 1960s. It attracted the attention of Ben Fixman and a group of investors,
who purchased the restaurant from Mina Evans in 1969.
The new group closed the Delmar restaurant and opened "smaller fast-food carry-out units" at 9773 Olive (at Warson) and 12953 Olive. However, the new endeavor was destined to fail. Mina Evans may have been a vice president, but she was no longer the driving force behind the business. Her son Omar Gerald Evans, Jr. tried unsuccessfully to resurrect the Olive & Warson location in early 1982. Golden Fried Chicken Loaf was dissolved forever on November 1, 1983.
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