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Recreating an Alameda Favorite: Lola’s Pan Fried Chicken Dinners

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, one of the most delectable culinary treats on this island was the spectacular Southern fried chicken at Lola’s Pan Fried Chicken Dinners. Enjoying that mouthwatering chicken required a learning curve, however. The restaurant was located in a ramshackle weatherbeaten brown wooden building at the southeastern corner of Oak Street and Alameda Avenue—now a parking lot.

Alameda Post - a piece of fried chicken

The restaurant was open for take-out only from 4 to 8 p.m. on weekdays. The place sold out of chicken quickly because Lola’s large array of 12-inch black cast iron skillets took around 30 minutes to pan-fry each order of mahogany hued, thick-crusted, steamy, tender and juicy, savory half-chickens

True Southern fried chicken is always brined and pan fried, as the three-step pan frying technique adds an element of steaming, which not only cooks the chicken quickly, but doesn’t overcook it like high-temperature deep frying does.

If your order for chicken was too late, all wasn’t lost, because the historic Lola’s menu included a tender breaded veal cutlet with crispy hash browns smothered in a bacon- cream gravy. There was also a juicy Southern fried pork chop with hash browns in pan gravy as well as a thick ground-round steak loaded with caramelized onions and served with crispy, molten home fries. Cole slaw was the singular greenery, and the food was far too rich and heavy to allow room for dessert.

Alameda Post - spaghetti and meatballs

I committed Italian-American heresy by favoring the historic Lola’s delectable spaghetti and meatballs over my Italian grandmother’s. Lola’s sauce was perfectly balanced between proteins and tomato, the pasta cooked al dente and served “segreto” style–the Italian method of mixing the pasta in a pan with butter and sauce. The spaghetti was presented with a thick layer of freshly grated Parmesan on top.

Alas, in 1972, after KFC and H. Salt Esquire Fish and Chips opened a couple of blocks away on Encinal at Park Avenue, the historic Lola’s turned off its massive gas stove, drained the lard from the cast iron skillets, closed its tiny kitchen, and flew the coop.

Alameda Post - a photo of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and H. Salt Fish & Chips

I was devastated, because at the time I considered the historic Lola’s Pan Fried Chicken Dinners with its down-home delights to be the single finest restaurant in the world. I desperately set out to duplicate Lola’s pan fried chicken recipe, a brutally expensive, frustrating, incredibly fattening, and emotionally taxing adventure that required a two-year culinary school education to accomplish.

Finally, thirty years later, in 2002, I presented my triumph to some veteran historic Lola’s pan fried chicken aficionados. They gave me a tentative thumbs up, saying, “Gil, it’s almost there.”

I settled for almost, and share my masterpiece here.

Alameda Post - cast iron pan

 Almost Historic Lola’s Pan Fried Chicken Dinners Fried Chicken

The Brine

1 quart water
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon Accent (use it, dammit)
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 bone-in, skin-on half-breasts, 4 thighs, and 4 drumsticks, washed
Lard for frying, or vegetable oil if you’re a big wuss

  • Stir all the seasonings into the water, making sure that nothing clumps.
  • In a bowl or container just big enough to hold everything, cover the chicken
  • with the brine.
  • Cover container and refrigerate 24 hours.

The Coating

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Accent
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper

  • Mix all ingredients in a double paper bag.
  • Pull the chicken piece by piece from the brine and shake in the bag.
  • Set the coated pieces on a baking sheet and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  • Heat the lard or oil, 2 inches deep, in the chicken fryer or electric skillet to 360-370 degrees.
  • Cook chicken skin-side down, covered, for 5 minutes.
  • Check oil temperature; it should be about 300 degrees.
  • After 5 minutes, uncover pan, turn and move the pieces around, cover and cook 5 more minutes.
  • Uncover the pan, turn and move the pieces around, and cook 10 minutes more until all
  • pieces are golden brown all over.
  • Drain on a wire rack and serve.

Serves six.

Gil Michaels is the king of fried chicken at [email protected]. His writing is collected at

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