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Colonel's Mini Mart

2036 Madison St., Henderson, KY - (270) 826-6643
Posted By Michael Stern on October 28, 2014 5:55 AM
A first taste of Mini-Mart fried chicken, like a first kiss, is a never-to-be forgotten event. It is as stunning as a bite of aged country ham: shockingly spicy, salty, crunchy all at once. The meat itself is infused with a powerpacked spice marinade of cayenne and garlic that penetrates to the bone and the crust on the outside is dark and brittle like the best potato chip ever fried. Dark or light meat, Bon Ton chicken delivers a taste thrill like no other.

The formula for this amazing dish dates back to the 1950s and a restaurant in Henderson known as The Colonel’s Lair. It was a favorite haunt of local high school students and it was run by a man named Bill Koch, whom the kids called Bilko because that’s the way he pronounced it. All who remember The Colonel’s Lair agree that Bilko made the best fried chicken anywhere. In the state where Harland Sanders began a fried-chicken empire based on the secret recipe he used in the kitchen of his service station/café, such judgments are not made lightly.

Bilko is gone, but the amazing chicken is still served every day at the unlikely tables of Colonel's Mini Mart south of town. This pint-size restaurant, which is still a secret even to many residents of Henderson, began as a convenience mart and has slowly dropped the peripheral merchandise to concentrate on what’s really important: great fried chicken, as well as fried apples, hash-brown casserole, and escalloped potatoes.

There are other main courses on the menu, too: fried steak, burgers, pork chops on Thursday, chicken pot pie on Friday, and all are made from scratch by expert hands; but to come to this place and order something other than fried chicken would be like visiting New Orleans on a fast.

Note: Louis Hatchett, who is the Kentucky food authority who first clued us in to this Roadfood gem, recently wrote to say that the Bon Ton now is open on Sunday, from 9am to approximately 4pm. Louis also noted that the kitchen is experimenting with an extra crispy version of their chicken!
5 star rating
Overall Rating
fried chicken
Banana Pudding
Chess Pie
Biscuits

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Posted By Mel Dickerson on December 11, 2013 3:08 PM
Best fried chicken ever!!! Couldn't ask for a better staff!!!
5 star rating
Overall Rating
fried chicken

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Posted By Mr Saul J on December 6, 2013 12:22 PM
Wow! Road Food, you did it, again. What a great little joint! They close at seven which I found out when I called ahead. We arrived at 5:45. All alone, strangely, as their workday was winding down. But, the phone kept ringing for pick up orders. I should have asked her name, but the owners daughter was so friendly and outgoing, just full of that irresistible Southern charm. The chicken: out of this world crunchy, hard shell-like crust that burst open, juicily, with a slight kick. I could not tell the difference between the breast and thigh as in white versus dark. Succulent, both, is all I can say.

Don't rely on GPS. It was a bit further up the road than indicated. Take Highway 41 instead. Also, the owner said, soon, she plans is to open a second location in, Pigeon Forge, TN.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
Choclate Cream Pie

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Posted By Bill Caudill on November 8, 2013 3:29 PM
I am a self-professed "Food Snob". It takes a lot to impress me. When I first heard about Bon-Ton, I wasn't in a hurry to try it out. We live in an area where there is an abundance of restaurants who claim to have the "best" fried chicken around.

Now that I have tried THE Bon-Ton, I regret every minute of my life that I have wasted eating any other restaurants fried chicken! Its not even close! The taste is an amazing mix of spices that cause me to have uncontrollable drooling spells. The sides are good also, but the chicken is what drives me there about once a month for my fix. I have introduced many of my friends to the B.T. since that first magical experience, and all have been impressed.

Now, excuse me while I go get me some CHIKIN'!
4 star rating
Overall Rating
fried chicken

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Posted By Joe Cox on October 8, 2013 1:43 PM
What do you say about the place that everybody already knows is wonderful? I have literally driven out of my way to go to the Bon Ton Mini Mart. It is the best fried chicken I've ever tasted, although I have tasted a few in the non-restaurant world that were in the same ballpark, more or less.

It is remarkably clean tasting chicken-- the breading is just enough to provide flavor without being thick or greasy. The chicken has just a hint of spice in it-- not even a distant cousin of Nashville hot chicken, but just as tasty in its own way.

The sides are pretty much normal fare, and the selection of pies for desert provide a nice cap to a fine meal. I should mention that the portion size is NOT very large-- that is to say, the pieces of chicken are fairly small. Still, the pricing is fair, and if you're hungry, just order half a chicken and you'll be glad you did.

I've been to Bon Ton a couple of times-- the last coming after a recent TV special made them a bit more famous. The crowd was a little larger, but George, Donna, and the crew and still doing it right. The only difference was a few more people enjoying this first-rate fried chicken.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
fried chicken
Coconut Cream Pie
Biscuits

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Posted By Regan Conley on September 29, 2011 8:07 PM
Bon Ton Mini Mart is something of a legend around Roadfood, so my review isn't exactly earth-shattering news: the fried chicken is delectable! Based on other reviews describing the chicken as "spicy" with the emphasis on the cayenne pepper, I thought it might be hot, but it wasn't, so don't shy away if your palate doesn't appreciate hot food. It's the combination of spices that give this chicken it's verve.

I ordered chocolate pie for dessert and was surprised to get chocolate meringue, not chocolate cream. The chocolate is milder than the chocolate pudding-style you get in cream, but has a slight caramel-y flavor and altogether with the meringue makes a very nice pie. I was less impressed with the fries (crinkle cut, probably frozen) and the cole slaw (too sweet) that came with the chicken. Still, as we all know by now, the chicken is worth the trip.

Still in its same bland building with a barely readable sign, it can be a challenge to find, but it's right at an intersection of two state highways (41 and 136), so if you're at the crossroads, you're in the right place.

The Washington Post had a long-running restaurant feature called "Crummy, but Good" and this fits the bill: mismatched old vinyl kitchen chairs, zero decor, a TV, and a view of the back storage make this place pretty divey on the style side. Bon Ton is open for dinner only during the week -- the sign when I was there said 7pm M-Th. Other days they close earlier, so plan lunch or an earlyish dinner. Everything can be had to-go, and fried chicken still takes 20 minutes.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
fried chicken

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Posted By Amy Hall on September 5, 2010 4:55 PM
All we can say is WOW - this place is phenomenal - the fried chicken is really crisp and juicy and the chess pie is out of this world. The only bad thing is that people can smoke in the restaurant.
5 star rating
Overall Rating
fried chicken
Chess Pie

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Posted By Jeffrey Spencer on May 1, 2009 9:52 AM
The building is beyond nondescript. It literally blends into the landscape. Blink and you'll miss it! And if you miss it you'll miss perhaps the best fried chicken you'll ever taste. Incredible... better than you remember your grandma's. My grandma couldn't cook, but the point is that I've polished off a farm's worth of birds in my day so I know that this place is fried chicken nirvana!

How do they get that barest of crunchy crust to stick to it? How do they get the slight heat of cayenne infused INTO the meat? "Flavored to the bone" is absolutely right, and I'd fight my cat over the bones...

First off, it's chicken only. Straight into the trash with the lousy frozen crinkle-cut fries, toast, and coleslaw they serve with it. The pieces are small, so if you don't order the "half-chicken" dinner, you'll be sorry. Or ordering seconds.

Finally, "it takes 20 minutes" (22 actually) which the polite help will tell you repeatedly, as if to make sure you're really a serious chicken lover. Sit back, enjoy the "ambiance," and then take off with your stash to Audubon State Park and enjoy. Life, and fried chicken, rarely gets better than this!
5 star rating
Overall Rating

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Posted By Wade Davis on January 2, 2008 10:28 PM
If you are remotely close to Henderson KY, you must stop by Bon Ton Mini Mart for what a sign inside the restaurant proclaims is "the best fried chicken in the solar system." After a recent visit, my wife and I agree 100% with their assessment!

After the standard 20-minute wait, our fried chicken dinners arrived piping hot. I was so eager to try it, I burnt my tongue a little, so be patient. The chicken is indescribably crispy, like a hard shell which perfectly entombs the extra-juicy chicken. This chicken doesn't get its crunch from excessive amounts of flour coatings; quite the opposite. It appears the skin is transformed into a crispy exterior with help from the slightest dusting of flour. The white meat pieces are just as juicy as the dark meat. The flavor has a hint of spice, but it is not overwhelming (and I can't handle much spiciness). But the flavor is not just in the skin; it permeates the meat all the way to the bone.

With our meal we ordered biscuits, which were not as good as we had hoped for. Ours may have been left over from breakfast (we arrived about 11:15 AM). Other side dishes include black-eyed peas, potato salad (quite good), and buttery stewed potatoes (excellent).

Curiously, we noticed that none of the dozen locals had ordered fried chicken for lunch, so maybe next time we should sample something other than chicken to see what the locals know that we don’t.

Although we were stuffed, we decided to sample the desserts. Unfortunately, the banana pudding was not on the menu the day we visited, so we settled for coconut cream pie, Kool-Aid pie, and chess pie. The texture of the Kool-Aid pie is silky smooth with a tangy-yet-sweet flavor that complements the graham cracker crust. The chess pie is disappointing, but the coconut cream pie more than makes up for it. The crust is light and flaky, the meringue is slightly firm, and the filling is bursting with coconut flavor yet is not excessively sweet or rich. My wife and I both think it is the best coconut cream pie we've ever tasted.

As we ate, the owner stopped by our table to chat. He is a very friendly guy, and we asked him about the “for sale” sign out in front of the building. He said he leases the building, and but the landlord was looking to sell the land. But he let us know he would find a new location if necessary. I sure hope so. It would be a shame for a place like this to cease operation.

5 star rating
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