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Keaton's

17365 Cool Springs Rd, Cleveland, NC - (704) 278-1619
Posted By Eddie Huffman on 1/19/2010 9:27:00 AM
A friend and I ate at Keaton's for lunch en (a circuitous) route from Winston-Salem to Charlotte. The restaurant sits near the top of a hill on a windy road in the middle of nowhere. It looks abandoned from the outside -- like it went out of business ca. 1972 and has been neglected ever since. No windows. Rusty old Coca-Cola store sign on the roof. Giant hand-painted signs around the parking lot and driveway with messages such as "NO LOG TRUCKS." I wasn't entirely sure it was open until I got inside, despite the cars in the dirt parking lot.

We didn't know the drill, but figured out that you were supposed to order at the counter, then sit down at a table to wait for your food. It took a minute for us to get our bearings, check out the menu. "I'll take one of everything," my friend joked. The guy taking our order didn't crack a smile. A sign on the wall behind him read, "No photo's of the employee's." Some guys in winter hunting gear were waiting for takeout. My friend was having trouble making up his mind, so I jumped in and ordered a leg-and-thigh chicken plate. I was adding mac & cheese to my chicken order when the guy interrupted and said, "Slaw?" Uh, yeah, slaw. "Spicy slaw?" Uh, no, mild slaw. "So you want white slaw?" Yeah, I guess I do.

They gave us a tray with our drinks, including a pitcher of sweet tea for instant refills. We sat down in the dining room. The walls were fake wood paneling. On the wall next to our booth they had nailed up about eight full-length mirrors sideways to create sort of a fake window and reflect some light back into the room. After a few minutes the guy who took our order came out from the kitchen and mumbled something. He was approximately 30 yards away, and I didn't really hear him. A minute later, he walked over with trays of food. "I guess y'all didn't hear me call your number." I guess not.

My plate didn't have any mac & cheese -- but I did get my white slaw. Once I removed the wax paper (with "hot" written on mine and "mild" written on my friend's), the chicken was everything it was cracked up to be -- crispy, moist, and incredibly flavorful. If mine was actually the "hot" style, it was very much on the mild end of the heat scale. The slaw was creamy with medium-sized pieces of cabbage. The tea was sweet and freshly brewed. A plain hamburger bun accompanied the meal.

After I ate I walked back to the counter to see about dessert. A hand-written sign listed several desserts available that day, including sweet-potato pie and Keaton's acclaimed red velvet cake. Unfortunately, the guy behind the counter said all they actually had was coconut pie, so I skipped dessert.

It was quite an experience. Keaton's won't win any awards for customer service, but the chicken is definitely worth the drive.

6 out of 7 people found the review helpful. Was it helpful to you?

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
BBQ chicken
Rate this place
Keaton's chicken is unlike any other:  slightly crisp, slightly caramelized, and shot through with the flavor of the house barbecue sauce.  It is so good it made our tipster weep with joy.
"Keaton's chicken is unlike any other: slightly crisp, slightly caramelized, and shot through with the flavor of the house barbecue sauce. It is so good it made our tipster weep with joy."
Michael Stern





Keaton's excellent macaroni & cheese comes in smallish squares, with a slightly burnt top crust.
"Keaton's excellent macaroni & cheese comes in smallish squares, with a slightly burnt top crust."
Cliff Strutz


Keaten's was selling red velvet cake long before it enjoyed its current vogue.
"Keaten's was selling red velvet cake long before it enjoyed its current vogue."
Michael Stern


Meals arrive under wax paper.  When the paper is removed, the aroma of the chicken envelops the table and will make you dizzy with hunger.
"Meals arrive under wax paper. When the paper is removed, the aroma of the chicken envelops the table and will make you dizzy with hunger."
Michael Stern


Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm good.
"Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm good."
Peter Roaman


This is where you order your food.  Then sit down where you are told and it will be brought to you.
"This is where you order your food. Then sit down where you are told and it will be brought to you."
Michael Stern


From the outside, Keaton's doesn't look like one of America's best restaurants ... but in our book, it is!
"From the outside, Keaton's doesn't look like one of America's best restaurants ... but in our book, it is!"
Michael Stern


You'll need plenty of napkins when you eat Keaton's chicken.  Every table is well-equipped.
"You'll need plenty of napkins when you eat Keaton's chicken. Every table is well-equipped."
Michael Stern


Down to the last finger lick.
"Down to the last finger lick."
Peter Roaman


The main room.
"The main room."
Peter Roaman


Love a good sign.
"Love a good sign."
Peter Roaman


Road sign.
"Road sign."
Peter Roaman


We don't know what 'taste test' this sign refers to, but it must be a good one.  The results are impeccable.
"We don't know what 'taste test' this sign refers to, but it must be a good one. The results are impeccable."
Michael Stern



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