Posted By Chris & Amy Ayers
1/6/2008 5:09:00 PM
Fried chicken isn’t hard to find in Rock Hill, and chicken connoisseurs flock to Lee’s Famous Recipe on Cherry Road. Lee’s is part of a small chain (approximately 146 stores) that emanates out from the Ohio River Valley, north into Michigan and Wisconsin, and as far south as Alabama and Florida. Though many Roadfooders (including us) disdain chain restaurants of any kind, Lee’s should be counted among the more unique ones, including In-N-Out, Maid-Rite, Rubio’s, and Rush’s.
Founder Lee Cummings is the nephew of Colonel Harland Sanders, the man responsible for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which Cummings helped to market in the 1950s. After Sanders sold KFC in the early ’60s, Cummings had already developed his “famous recipe” for hand-breading and honey-dipping his chicken. Striking out on his own, he has developed a faithful customer base of chicken ‘n’ fixins devotees. When Rock Hill residents speak of Lee’s, two basic words are immediately asserted: potato wedges.
Lee’s chicken-breaded potato wedges are the #1 side item sold in Rock Hill (only one of two SC stores), and they may be the finest wedges anywhere in the country. Breaded with the same salt & pepper batter that graces their fowl and fried to a deep brown color, these sectioned, skin-on spuds cannot possibly qualify as mere French fries, for regular fries are also on the menu. Their savory flavor is still present even when they’re eaten cold, as we’ve never, ever had an occasion to consign Lee’s wedges to the garbage.
The chicken is among the best in town: salty, spicy, crispy, and utterly juicy inside. Popular sides include the requisite macaroni & cheese, baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw, though we prefer their porky, tender green beans and their inimitably fluffy, crunchy-on-the-top buttermilk biscuits. To drink, Lee’s “world famous” iced tea is the classic Southern thirst quencher, and customers help themselves to refills from the dining-room urn.
The face of Lee’s Cherry Road location has changed drastically over the years: the Beaty Mall across the street has become Winthrop Commons; the town’s first Harris Teeter grocery store has long closed its doors; the Bookworm, once Rock Hill’s only bookstore, has moved to a bigger space to better serve Winthrop College (now University). The only thing that’s changed at Lee’s (and only as of a few years ago) is that they no longer serve Fanta Cherry fountain soda—which is a miniscule concern, given that their potato wedges and chicken remain such a prominent part of our every visit to Rock Hill.