“There’s always that one location, one store location that’s constantly changing hands. Everybody has this in their neighborhood, it’s a leather store, it’s a yogurt shop, it’s a pet supply. It’s constantly changing and nobody can do business there. It’s like some sort of Bermuda Triangle of retail, you know? Stores open up and then they just disappear without a trace. Nobody knows what happened to ’em.” –Jerry Seinfeld, opening monologue of “The Cafe”
In Highland Springs, Va. this “Bermuda Triangle of retail” is the stand-alone restaurant at 1109 East Nine Mile Road. It’s a decent location, right beside the most traffic-heavy intersection in the town. But for whatever perplexing reason, it seems no business can ever survive there.
Easily the location’s most successful occupant in my lifetime was Bojangles’, which inhabited this cursed address for much of my early life. It’s been a number of other drive-thru restaurants since, but none have seemed to attract customers. At present it’s Hawk’s “Famous” BBQ and Chicken according to a sign on the outside. I’ve never seen more than one car in the parking lot, so I have my doubts on how famous his BBQ and chicken is (and how long he’ll will be inhabiting that building).
Anyway, back to Bojangles’. I fell in love with the chain sometime in college. I frequently went on road trips to North Carolina, and Bojangles’ were frequent and cheap meal destinations. And why not? It’s a delicious fast food restaurant focused on three things: fried chicken, biscuits and sweet tea. How can you do any wrong with that?
Well, I saw “The Cafe” episode of Seinfeld this week and it instantly reminded me of the old Bojangles’ in Highland Springs, just like the many other times I had seen it. It struck me, where is the closest one? I had seen one recently in the Hampton Roads area (over an hour away) and another near Emporia (~1.5 hours away) when I was driving back from Austin. After a little research I found out that there was a new location in Hopewell, a little under a half hour away. Cha-ching! I made it my mission to go the next day.
The next day I woke up, mouth watering in anticipation. After a quick jaunt down 295 I cozied up to an old flame: the Cajun Fillet Biscuit combo.
I cracked open a book and nestled in my booth. Impeccable southern cuisine spilled over my table: a spicy chicken fillet enveloped in a buttery biscuit and French fries dusted with Cajun seasonings and side of kicking pepper sauce. In case that wasn’t enough, it was paired with the world’s most divine elixir, a frosty cup of sweet tea. I sunk into the booth in complete satisfaction. And then I got a refill on my tea. And another.
Worth the drive? Yeah, I’d say. I’d say worth the drive weekly.
Though there’s that glimmer of hope that Bojangles’ will trickle back to the old Highland Springs location, at least I know I can find comfort (and comfort food) within a reasonable driving distance.