Memo to Guy Fieri: Are you looking for a restaurant to feature on your "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives"? Look no further than Dixie Fried Chicken in Belle Glade.
With all due respect to owner Billy Bryant Jr., it definitely falls into the dive category. But what a marvelous dive it is.
Belle Glade is more than 40 miles due west of West Palm Beach. It's known for sugar cane, high-school football and its proximity to Lake Okeechobee.
Add Dixie Fried Chicken to that list.
Billy Bryant Sr. started selling his chicken more than 40 years ago. These days, Bryant Jr. is in charge of a menu that includes not only fried chicken but also fried shrimp ($7.85), fried catfish ($7.95) and fried-catfish fingers ($4.85). Those fingers are now one of the most-popular menu items, along with the fried-wing dinners called wingettes ($4.50/six-piece, $5.50/12-piece, $9.50/20-piece)
The restaurant also serves a pork-chop dinner ($7.75) and a half-dozen sandwiches including a fried-chicken slider ($1.75) made with breast meat. Served on a soft white bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayonnaise, it is one of the best sandwiches I've had in a very long time.
Fried chicken ($5.95/two-piece, $6.95/three-piece, $7.95/four-piece) is also remarkable. It took a good 15 minutes for our meal to arrive, which means this stuff is fried to order. Dinners come with a white dinner roll; house-made creamy, mayo-based coleslaw; French fries; or mashed potatoes. I can't think of anything bad to say about the three-piece dinner. I even loved the retro white box it was served in. If you want white meat only, you'll pay a 95 cent upcharge.
Most of the restaurant's sides and salads are made in-house: baked beans, macaroni salad, potato salad, coleslaw and black-eyed peas. Be sure to try those peas. While the corn nuggets ($1.60) are purchased frozen, these doughy nodules filled with corn kernels are a deep-fried curiosity.
On Mondays, Dixie offers chicken and dumplings ($1.75/half-pint, $3.45/pint, $5.65/quart).
Part of the Bryant family's key to success has been to keep things simple. So don't come looking for diet soda. The restaurant serves just three drinks: sweet tea, lemonade or "mix" — a mixture of the two. (55 cents/small, $1/medium, $1.45/large).
Dixie Fried Chicken is definitely for adventurous foodies looking for a unique lunch spot. The restaurant has a big sign on the side of the road, but the only signage on the building is a red-lettered, barn-wood sign leaning over the entrance. The menu is mounted on the wall. You order from a pink-laminate counter and wait for your order at one of the 10 plastic booths.
The restaurant seats about 30 people, but most of the tables are taken up by folks waiting for takeout. Eat-in guests are welcome, but as the sign behind the counter says, "Anyone using excessive noise or profanity will be refused service and asked to leave."
Before you leave, be sure to order the house-made banana pudding ($1.85/half-pint, $3.60/pint). You'll need it for the drive home.
Dixie Fried Chicken
133 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Belle Glade
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily
Reservations: Not accepted
Credit cards: Cash only
Bar: No alcohol
Sound level: Quiet
Outside smoking: No
Wheelchair accessible: No
Parking: Free lot