It’s served up breaded, fried and smothered in homemade gravy, and it aims to be the closest thing to your great granny’s cookin’ this side of the Missouri River.
Stroud’s Oak Ridge Manor is home of the pan-fried chicken. In my family it is the place to go to celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries and any other excuse we can find to get together and fill our bellies with home style cooking. The restaurant is right off I-35 and no more than a 15-minute drive from campus. There are several different Stroud’s locations, but the Stroud’s Oak Ridge Manor gives the most authentic feel, as it is an old white house with green shutters and a stagecoach parked on the lawn.
Walking into the restaurant, the atmosphere is dimmed and the hardwood floor slopes down from the long settled foundation of the house. White-haired patrons filled the dining area, as the older generation knows the secret of the long Stroud’s tradition. Unfortunately, everyone else does too because there is always a lengthy wait, so get there well ahead of time. I went on a Monday night at 5 p.m. and still had to wait, so you’ve been warned.
While waiting, it can be nice to stroll around the grounds of the house—burning as many calories as possible to prepare for the caloric onslaught to come is recommended. Around the back of the restaurant is a small pond with beautiful, but mean swans. Do not chase them.
Seated in one of the various rooms of the house, the table is set with a blue checked tablecloth and there is a full basket of crackers in the middle of the place setting—perfect for challenging your dinner guests to the saltine challenge before the server comes. The waiters bustle about with the Stroud’s saying on the back of their t-shirts “We choke our own chickens.” Maybe a little harsh, but it foreshadows the completely home cooked meal to come.
The meal begins with either chicken noodle soup or salad. I recommend the soup. The noodles in the soup are those fat, doughy ones.
Next, for only the brave, is the appetizer of fried chicken livers and gizzards. It is a favorite for those that have been around for 60-plus years. I ordered a basket convincing myself that I should give them a try. However, when the mix-up of unidentifiable fried organs reached the table, I have to admit I couldn’t do it. So I got a to-go box and delivered the delicacy to my grandparents later that night. I advise saving room and skipping the appetizer.
For the entrée, ordering the fried chicken is a given. The chicken is juicy, lightly breaded and fried to crispy perfection. The chicken fried chicken is also a delicious choice for those that don’t want to gnaw their chicken off the bone.
Each meal comes with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans served family style. The sides are all-you-can-eat so you are guaranteed to go home stuffed.
Lastly, my favorite part of the meal is the cinnamon buns. Don’t tell my grandma, but Stroud’s rolls beat hers by a long shot. The cinnamon buns are like nothing I’ve ever experienced. They are dinner rolls soaked in butter and encrusted in brown sugar and cinnamon. Enough said.
Stroud’s runs around $16 a person, but it is well worth it, as it buys a delicious meal and plenty of leftovers. Take your real family or your Jewell family, and perhaps a designated driver, as there is no way you will be able to fit behind a steering wheel after a meal like this.