Leaving Charlotte, driving west, we stopped to eat at Bojangle’s. Outside of Price’s Chicken Coop in Charlotte – which is quite simply the greatest fried chicken in the world (if you have doubts, ask the writers of Gourmet and Bon Appetit, who’ve heaped praise on the place) – Bojangle’s is your best bet for fast, delicious chicken in North Carolina. And their biscuits are unbeatable. We hit the tail end of the Sunday after-church lunch rush, which is a great time to visit because everyone just looks so happy and fulfilled on a spiritual as well as a gastronomical level.
Fast food places usually make me feel a little depressed and soul-less, but somehow Bojangle’s is different and special. I don’t know if it’s because the place is a little more localized and less corporate than national chains, or because its association with my adolescence gives it a kitschy, ironic appeal (it was a oft-resorted-to antidote to the angst and furor of being a teenager, which we typically celebrated by gleefully pronouncing the name of the establishment as though it were written in Spanish), but scenes like the one above – which might ordinarily make me feel guiltily implicated in a tangled American web of SUVs, text-messaging, Waffle House, fried foods, parking lots and the kind of disconnect that leads us to do things like leave cups of super-sweet tea on our car roofs – somehow leave me basking in a warm, appreciative, America-loving glow when they happen to occur near Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits.