I think the first time I ever heard about Babes Chicken Dinner House in Roanoke was when I worked construction in the mid 90's. I'd listen to The Ticket all day driving a truck and Babe's was a big sponsor back then. I've never heard anything negative the place other than you might have to stand in line for a seat. They have a limited menu (chicken or chicken fried steak) and serve "Family style".
Last night on my way back from Dallas I decided to finally sit down and try some of that famous fried chicken. The parking situation in Roanoke is nothing to brag about, but I was able to find a spot a block away. I hit at a good time because there was no line for a seat. The staff was prompt and friendly even though the place was pretty full. My tea glass never reached empty which is always a good sign. The Mashed potatoes were awesome, the gravy was good and I liked the biscuits.
Those were the good things. Now for the bad.
Their chicken sucked. It was, to quote Sir Charles Barkley "turrrable". First let me say that I know you want to serve fresh food, but you should let the food stop cooking before you serve it. My chicken had to have been out of the fryer less than a minute before it was on my table. It was too hot to touch, much less try to eat. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing because I got to load up on the mashed potatoes and gravy waiting for it to cool. So at least I wasn't starving any more.
The other side dish they served was creamed corn. Not a fan of creamed corn.
When it was finally cool enough to eat I took a bite of breast and almost drowned in the water and grease. It wasn't "juicy" it was watery grease. The chicken must have been frozen when it was put in the fryer. That's the only time I've ever seen it do that. It also made the crust bubble away from the meat which filled with the aforementioned grease and water. After wading thru all that, I was let down again when I tasted the meat. It was bland with no seasoning or flavor. Another sign the chicken was frozen when it was cooked.
I expected a lot better than this, especially after all they hype. Then my check for $16 arrives. Wow.
I went to pay and didn't intend on complaining about the meal. When the girl at the register asked me how my meal was I should have said "fine" and went on my merry way. Instead I said "Do you really want to know?" and she said yes. I told her I thought their chicken was awful, but everything else was OK. The girl takes off and goes to find the manager. I didn't say I don't want to pay, wanted a discount or anything. In fact I had my card in my hand waiting to swipe so I could get the heck out of there.
The manager shows up and asks what the problem was. So I told him the chicken was bland, watery and greasy. He told me there would be no charge but I told him I ate most of the meal and I'd pay for it. I didn't ask for a discount or to speak to anyone about it. She asked and I was honest with her, I didn't like the chicken. Now I'm having to argue with the guy to take my money and the line is starting to build up behind me. We finally settled on him charging me for the sweet tea and I tipped 50% of what the meal would have cost because the waitresses did nothing wrong.
Maybe it was a fluke and I hit them at a bad time, but they are very sensitive about their chicken at Babe's.