Original KFC still draws the crowds in


By Jeff Birchfield - Johnson City Press



CORBIN, Ky. (AP) — The original Kentucky Fried Chicken still draws them in, just as it has for the last 76 years.

Back in 1930, Harland Sanders opened a service station for travelers in Corbin, Kentucky, off the new Dixie Highway, which ran from Cleveland, Ohio, to Miami. Sanders served food in the back of the service station and it became so popular that he opened the Sanders Cafe in 1937.

After the structure was destroyed by fire, he opened Sanders Court at the present location. It included a hotel and a restaurant, which served such staples as country ham and red-eye gravy. But the signature food was the fried chicken, with the 11 different herbs and spices.

Now off U.S. Highway 25, all that remains from the original structure is the Sanders Cafe Museum, where you can see how the food was prepared years ago, and a modern KFC restaurant.

These days with the interstate system, U.S. Highway 25 isn’t nearly as busy, but the Corbin location still attracts several out-of-town folks. They literally come from all over the world.

Stopping by the restaurant on the Sunday after the ETSU-Dayton basketball game back in December, the customers started trickling in around 11 a.m.

They included one man and his two grown sons, who came all the way from Japan, just to eat at the original KFC and pay homage to the man later known as Colonel Sanders. It seems they love the chicken, gravy and biscuits as much in Tokyo as they do in America.

But there are also the familiar faces. It’s like the Tri-Cities locations on any given Sunday. The customers soon started piling in around noon, as it’s still a popular destination for the after-church crowd.

The original location is different from many newer franchises in that there is no buffet offered. The meals still come in the familiar boxes with a typical dinner consisting of two pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, cole slaw and biscuits.

While waiting on your food, it’s a chance to check out the memorabilia surrounding the Colonel, who has become one of the most well-known figures ever in the mountain region.

Something you might learn is that Harland Sanders made a bid for state Senator in 1951. He also owned a motel in Asheville, N.C., and worked as a cafeteria manager in Oak Ridge during World War II.

You can also see the original recipes for many of the foods, liked scalloped tomatoes, offered at the Sanders Cafe. There is also a Colonel Sanders mask for Halloween and a set of comic books on display.

The dining room sits next to the museum, which includes the plates, utensils, pressure cookers and other items used to prepare what has become one of the world’s most well-known foods.

Down the road from the restaurant is Cumberland Falls, once a popular tourist attraction known as the “Niagara of the South.” For many of the locals visiting the falls, it’s still a tradition to pick up a box of the chicken and fixins’ for a picnic lunch.

Because it’s like the old motto. In Corbin, Kentucky, they still do chicken right.

By Jeff Birchfield

Johnson City Press

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