Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pulley Bones and Lazy Susans

I'm not sure if people outside of the southeastern United States have ever heard the term "pulley bone" or, even, if many southerners remember pulley bones. For those unfamiliar with the term, a pulley bone is a particular cut of chicken. Instead of cutting the chicken into two separate breasts, the cut is made by slicing the bottom, smaller, part of the breasts off but leaving the upper, larger, portion of the two breasts connected, thereby keeping the pulley bone (or wishbone) intact. Almost no one cuts a chicken up like this anymore, but there is one restaurant in Chattanooga that is keeping the custom alive. Since 1950, Bea's Restaurant has been serving up fried chicken pulley bones and homemade southern sides, family style, on tables topped with lazy susans. Lazy susans, for the uninitiated, are turntables placed on top of the regular dinner table. Rather than passing food around the table, diners are able to turn the table top to reach platters and dishes of food. Another pecularity of Bea's, visitors in small parties of two or three may find themselves sitting at tables with other diners. The tables seat eight and small groups are combined to fill up them up.

When Bea's first opened, it sat squarely in the center of a comfortable, middle-class neighborhood. Nearly seventy years later, the neighborhood is run-down, not yet reclaimed and renewed as other parts of downtown Chattanooga, but Bea's remains, faithfully serving steaming plates of southern comfort to hungry visitors. Bea's is larger than it was when it first opened and sneeze guards have been added to the lazy susans, but pretty much everything else remains the same. There is no pretense here. Visitors do not come to Bea's for the ambiance. They come strictly for the food, and lots of it. As my mom said when we visited recently, "If you leave hungry, it's your own fault!"



The lazy susans, which spin atop each table, are covered in meats, sides, condiments, silverware, napkins, pitchers of tea (sweet only), water, even bowls of ice. Each time a bowl or platter is emptied (and usually before it is emptied), it is quickly replaced with a fresh one. On the day we visited, the menu included:

Fried Chicken Pulley Bones
Hand Pulled Pork BBQ
Chicken and Dumplings
New Potatoes in White Creme Sauce
Pinto Beans
Potato Salad
Fried Okra
Cole Slaw
Pickled Beets
Yeast Rolls
Cornbread Muffins

Cherry Cobbler
Banana Pudding
Chow Chow
Chopped Onion


Over the years the iconic Chattanooga restaurant has attracted the attention of some pretty impressive visitors. Last year, Bea's owner, the grandson of the restaurant's namesake, was contacted by the Secret Service because President Obama wanted to come to Bea's for lunch while he was in town. Unfortunately, Bea's was closed on the days the President was going to be in Chattanooga, so the President ended up having lunch somewhere else. 

If you only dine on white linen and fine china and never have anything less refined than truffle butter and Wagyu beef, you probably do not want to go to Bea's.  If your palate runs more toward bean sprouts and watercress, Bea's probably will not be your restaurant of choice. Additionally, if your New Year's resolution is to lose weight, Bea's might not be your best friend. But, if you just want some good, old-fashioned southern comfort food, and lots of it, served unpretentiously, then head to Bea's! If you leave hungry, it is your own fault!

                                Bea's Restaurant

Three Friends and a Fork and this pulley bone loving bunch give Bea's Restaurant 3 Southern Fried Yums UP!

Bea's Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Three Friends and a Fork
Three Friends and a Fork

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