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Fried Chicken is Out, but Jodie's is So Much More

For the time being, the restaurant's much-loved and renowned fried chicken is not available. But the broad menu and unique atmosphere mean this is still one of Albany's must-visit eateries.

For the past month or so, certain weekend patrons of  have been disappointed to arrive at this pocket-sized eatery expecting its famous fried chicken, only to find it crossed off the menu. 

Reviews of Jodie's often rave about the fried chicken, which, for more than 20 years, was a staple weekend offering.

That all changed about six months ago, when a health inspector paid a visit to the restaurant, and asked a fateful question: "Where do you keep your chicken?" 

Anyone who's visited Jodie's is familiar with the tight-squeeze setting, which both  and provides an open view into the diminutive kitchen where, these days, grandson, Charles Garrison, works his magic. 

Take a quick look around, and you'll see there isn't much space to prepare, or store, more than 200 pieces of chicken, which go through a labor-intensive process to ready them for the weekend demand. 

The health inspector, Royston said, had received a tip that the chicken was prepared and stored off-site.

This had been the case for 22 years, he added, but the process had been off the official radar. Due to space contraints, the chicken has always been prepared and stored in the kitchen at Royston's home. 

"Someone didn't like how we were doing things," he said. "It wasn't a customer. No one has ever once gotten sick off our chicken."

Off-site preparation isn't in line with restaurant food safety rules and, in June, Jodie's pulled the item from the menu to comply with the health inspector's dictate. 

"The day they told us we couldn't have chicken, I cried," said grandson and cook Garrison, who's 25. "I went home and had a long drink."

Jodie's menu may be the most diverse around, so there's no shortage of other delectable offerings. Seemingly every possible combination of eggs, grits, potatoes and meats are posted on the wall behind the register in a dazzling array.

In addition to laminated pages promoting the "Obama Special" and "Gabe's A+," a slew of other offerings are taped up on smaller sheets of paper with handwritten descriptions. 

Want a grilled cheese with a hot link and an egg? You got it. Interested in a combination that includes grits with cheese, smoked barbecue pork, two eggs and a grilled English muffin? "J.R.'s Plain Breakfast" has you covered.

If you can't find the perfect combo on the wall, or would rather throw caution to the wind, just ask Jodie and Charles to make the decision for you.

(This reporter tried this approach on a recent Friday and ended up with two eggs expertly cooked, over easy, on a bed of crispy hash browns settled atop a mound of creamy grits. There was also a flavor-packed slab of sausage and two buttermilk-y pancakes involved. Breakfast heaven? Check.)

It's worth noting that, when the restaurant first opened, said Garrison, fried chicken wasn't even on the menu.

But what of the famed chicken? Garrison and Royston recently posted a sign that reads "We're temporarily not serving chicken because of circumstances beyond our control."

It hasn't stopped customers from wanting more information, but Garrison said it can be emotional to explain the situation again and again.

Royston did want to make it clear that, though the item isn't currently available, "There's nothing wrong with the chicken." 

In fact, a description by Garrison of its preparation leaves one with little room to worry, and more than a bit of a hankering to try a bite: The sink is first washed out with hot water and Palmolive soap, which is followed by a bleach-and-hot-water scrub. That's rinsed out with cold water to clean and cool the area.

The chicken is loaded into the sink, which is filled up with water. The meat is soaked in water and lemon juice for four hours. The feathers are removed, along with the fat, leaving clean skin and meat. The chicken is seasoned and left to marinate in the freezer from Monday through Saturday, when it's cooked to order.

"At Jodie's, everything is cooked to order," added Royston. "Ticket by ticket, so don't be in a hurry."

As it turns out, Jodie's has been looking for a new location, so fried-chicken lovers may not be out of luck forever. Royston was looking into a space in El Cerrito, but it didn't pan out. A Brentwood location also fell through. 

Royston wants an open kitchen, to keep the cooking process transparent, and needs a place outfitted with a range hood, which can cost upwards of $10,000.

Spaces that offer both haven't been easy to come by, Garrison said. 

"We would like to stay in Albany," added Royston, "but we need help."

How long will it take someone to start a "Bring back Jodie's fried chicken" campaign on Facebook...?

Everybody makes mistakes ... ! If there's something in this article you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at emilier@patch.com. 

Mike Duigou July 29, 2011 at 04:55 PM
I am surely missing the fried chicken but would miss Jodie more if he had to leave Albany.
Amy July 29, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Did Jodie know he was in violation with the food and healthy safety code? and if so why did he keep doing. If not how come he did not know. It's think it pretty common knowledge for people in that business. Either way he should have known what the rules are around food handling and preparation.
Robert Marshall July 29, 2011 at 06:17 PM
Rules were a heck of a lot less stringent 20+ years ago so I'd suggest they didn't change with times. A better question might be did the health inspection department ever say anything?
Monty July 29, 2011 at 06:56 PM
This unnecessary extension of government regulation brings to mind the words of legal scholar Grant Gilmore: "The worse the society, the more law there will be. In Hell there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed."
wayne shipman July 29, 2011 at 07:01 PM
robertjm, you are wrong about that, he has read inspection forms citing clear requirements for proper handling and storage of potentially hazardous foods since he recieved his license. suggest all patrons ask to see the inspection forms
Del Price July 29, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Never had the chicken..but once, I was coming down with a cold and popped in Jody's for a quick cup of hot anything. I asked for water and Jody charged me $1.50. Hot water. Haven't been back to Jody's since. No tears here.
Michael Cabanatuan July 29, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Jodie's chicken is good but I'd miss the breakfasts much more..
John Doh! July 29, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Jodie is such a nice man! I think the Cape Cod space may be available.
Amy July 29, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Jodie is so over price for such unhealthy food. For God sake he using Safeway syrup on pancakes.
Dover July 30, 2011 at 12:52 AM
"We're temporarily not serving chicken because of circumstances beyond our control." Oh please. If your own shoddy business practices are somehow beyond your control, perhaps you shouldn't be in business.
Michael Valladares July 30, 2011 at 01:47 AM
Shame... Jodie's chicken is the best around, and I'm all for him doing the same thing he's been doing for 20+ years, making the best weekend chicken breakfast, can I sign a waiver and get some please?
Emilie Raguso July 30, 2011 at 02:04 AM
My feeling is... if construction requirements in any number of venues can be "grandfathered in," why not the fried chicken preparation? Perhaps the solution will be a catering operation...
Tari Fullerton July 30, 2011 at 03:20 AM
Sad news about the chicken--it sure was yummy! But to echo some of the other poster's sentiments--the breakfasts are pretty darn good!
Ira Sharenow July 30, 2011 at 04:50 AM
Alameda County Food Inspections http://ehgis.acgov.org/dehpublic/dehpublic.jsp Berkeley http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=6098
Colin Epstein July 31, 2011 at 04:10 PM
While I'm all for health and safety regulations, it seems like this is following the letter of the law a little too stringently. Jodie runs a great little place, and any time I'm there I see things like the grill being scraped clean even in the middle of a hectic rush. His chicken has obviously been prepared with care for the past 20 years with no problems, so why not adapt the rules a little? Inspect his home preparation, or something. It'd be a shame to see this nonsense drive out such a unique and beloved Albany institution.
Dover July 31, 2011 at 05:11 PM
1) Scraping the grill has nothing to do with cleanliness. Don't confuse scraping with CLEANING. 2) The onset of food poisoning takes anywhere from 6 to 48 hours. It's very difficult to pinpoint the origins of food poisoning unless a large group of people fall ill at the same time. Most people write it off as something else. Most people never complain. Unless Jodie personally sits with each and every customer for a full 48 hours after they eat his chicken to determine whether they become ill or not, he really can not say that there has never been a problem. 3) Even a "catering operation" must play by the rules. 4) The Cape Cod is much too large an operation for Jodie to handle. A restaurant of that size would at least quadruple his work load. He's just not equipped to take that on. I also don't understand why you would want someone who is too arrogant to follow clearly stated rules and then blames his lack of compliance on someone else to be in charge of a much larger operation. Makes no sense to me. 5) Last, but certainly not least, ask the tenants in the rental units behind Sisters about the ongoing rat infestation. Happy eating!
Emilie Raguso July 31, 2011 at 11:59 PM
I've looked at the health department reports and everything is in order at Jodie's.
Ira Sharenow August 01, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Maybe Patch should look at all Albany restaurants' inspections, especially the one's who get a lot of press within its pages. Several have had critical violations within the past year, even AHS and Cornell and Ocean View. http://ehgis.acgov.org/adeh/insp_results.jsp?trigger=2
Amy August 01, 2011 at 07:42 AM
Ira the link is not working? I don't eat much in ALbany but it's a good idea. However she may not want to publish something like that.
Ira Sharenow August 01, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Click on this link and then go to search. You may have to disable a popup blocker. http://ehgis.acgov.org/dehpublic/dehpublic.jsp This is for the Alameda County Public Health Department. I don’t expect Patch to publish something like that on its own but perhaps someone will want to look up the restaurants and contribute a column. Patch has a very strong editorial slant which determines which stories get covered and how they cover them, but the good news is Patch does NOT censor those who do not agree with its editorial position.
Emilie Raguso August 01, 2011 at 08:20 PM
Patch does not have an editorial slant, and this does seem like it *potentially* could be an interesting investigation. However, I haven't seen anything in the records thus far that has been damning or concerning enough to make it worth the time it would take to pursue it. It would be hugely labor intensive with potentially no real results. It's definitely something I would put on my story idea list, but not something that has a deadline attached to it. The metric I use to decide what to write about, or cover, includes several factors: (1) How many people does this affect? (2) Is this a problem that can be resolved? (3) How big of a problem is it? (4) Will this information be useful to the community? Those are my primary considerations.
Ira Sharenow August 01, 2011 at 08:41 PM
For the summer we were treated to nice pictures. I look forward to finding out more about the pool construction delays and associated costs. Will the district receive a refund because of the delays? Are the classrooms ready? What happened to the families who “fessed up” about using false addresses? What are the enrollment goals of the district? What are the capacities of each building? Where do the legal and non-legal students come from? In general, what is happening with the overcrowding issue? What is up with open governance and the district’s inability to post minutes in a timely manner? Are board members really going to defer questions form the media to Marla (see current agenda)? Anything new on the lawsuits that AUSD faces (PE classes, etc.) I think when those who advocate for the current inner circle at AUSD are writing what are called news articles and Marla and her allies are the sources for a great preponderance of the information and quotes, some are going to have questions about balance.
Michael Cabanatuan August 02, 2011 at 07:19 AM
Not to interrupt Ira's repititious off-topic rant, but it sounds like the concern about Jodie's chicken is that it's not prepared in a commercial cooking facility. That could probably be remedied to the satisfaction of the health department.
Allan Maris August 02, 2011 at 06:57 PM
Jodie is an artist. If you want 'Robot" food, please go elsewhere. Thanks PATCH for the article. I need to get back to Jodie's more often. Thanks Jodie for all you do for our community.
Em Segmen August 07, 2011 at 06:37 AM
Clearly this is not a "food handling" issue ... it's a legal issue. Catering your wedding generally involves offsite food prep, often in a home setting. Good home cooking is almost universally better than commercial cooking. Fast food franchises universally have offsite prep that is open to inspection. There is no issue of shoddy food prep practice when considering all the standards. It's a legal call. My condolences to Jodie and those who thrive on his small business practice. Small business is over 50% of American gross domestic product yet subject to laws often created to regulate corporate business environments. Probably every small business in the Bay area can be nit-picked on a variety of technicalities that local inspectors can very safely overlook in the absence of complaints. Thank goodness for the courage of small business entrepreneurs. May our community practice a surplus of positive regard during times of economic deficit. That's all that community ever is ...

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