Since many people are fans of food and travel shows on cable, perhaps a few readers saw Tuesday night’s episode of Food Wars featuring Pittsburg, KS.
Pittsburg is kind of my second home-town behind Shawnee, OK. I spent more than a dozen years in Pittsburg as editor and publisher of the local newspaper, with stints as a city commissioner and mayor when I wasn’t doing newspaper work there.
What’s been interesting to me is how many people outside of the small (and somewhat socialist-learning) Mecca of southeast Kansas are very aware of the “chicken wars” that go on between two prominent fried chicken restaurants -- Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s.
Food Wars, on the Travel Channel (that’s 68 here in Enid) filmed a taste-off between the two chicken restaurants in January, and the episode aired last night (Tuesday, March 16). The two restaurants have been around 70 some-odd years, and are located literally just yards from each other on 600th Avenue, just outside of Pittsburg.
There is a rich history to the restaurants -- one started by “Annie,” who started selling chicken dinners to miners after her own mining husband was injured and couldn’t work. The other was started about 10 years later by “Mary,” who had admired Annie’s success, but had a recipe of her own that also became popular.
It was fun to watch the episode and see many old friends and familiar faces. A good friend of my daughter’s has waitressed at Chicken Mary’s since she was 14, and I caught a glimpse of her on the show. And, a local celebrity, Jack Overman, who is a beloved Pittsburg State University alum and former director of the student center there, cast the deciding vote.
It looks like they had a good time filming the episode, and I hope a lot of people caught it. If you are interested in seeing it, you can see some clips from the Travel Channel’s Web site at www.travelchannel.com.
By the way, in my tenure at Pittsburg, I gravitated toward Chicken Annie’s. My mother loved to go out there when my folks would visit, and she liked Chicken Annie’s crust the best. I have to concur; however, I also never turned down an opportunity to go to Chicken Mary’s.
The flavor of the chicken in Pittsburg is different than what we enjoy locally at Eischen’s. I love Eischen’s, too, but I have to admit the flavoring and sides in Pittsburg are unique and definitely worth a trip if you’re ever in that corner of southeast Kansas, or Joplin, MO for that matter. Joplin is only a few miles from Chicken Road!
You’re really close if you ever go to the Precious Moments chapel in Carthage, MO.