Top Stories of 2017: In Praise of Oxford’s Chicken-on-a-Stick


Move over, Mr. Bill (Faulkner). Oxford’s literary fame around the world may take a back seat to its chicken-on-a-stick.

The late-night delicacy of the Chevron Service Station, located at the Four Corners intersection of University Avenue and Lamar Avenue, is a mystery to those who have not enjoyed it. But for those who have – including several generations of Ole Miss alumni – it’s a culinary adventure never to be forgotten.

Conor DiskinConor was a student at Ole Miss in 2013-14. Now living in Dublin, he says he can never forget chicken-on-a-stick or Four Corners. Thinking of the deep-fried delicacy brought him “right back to my days as a foreign student over from Ireland,” he said.

“Standing in the line after a couple of beers too many, with the lovely lady behind the counter saying, ‘What’ll it be honey?’ was only ever gonna lead to one thing: All of us from Brazil, Australia, Germany, etc. drowning in ranch happiness,” Conor recalls.

Conor Diskin

“I still have dreams about it! ” he added. “The lady behind the counter is Southern personified.”

Consisting of three or four pieces of battered and fried chicken breast folded and skewered on a stick, it has provided sobering late-night relief to Ole Miss students for years.

The tradition started with Mike McPhail, who operated Four Corners Chevron for many years.

“I got the idea from a guy from LSU who was in town for a ballgame,” McPhail said. “He told me how they put shrimp on a stick and suggested I try the chicken. After experimenting with various ways and different batter, we came up with chicken-on-a-stick, and it was immediately a tremendous success.”

The McPhail tradition has been picked up by other convenience stories, particularly in Mississippi. But a Google search suggests it may be unique to the region. Google presents many images of chicken being cooked on a skewer and some fried, but none match the look, and perhaps the taste, of Chevron’s chicken-on-a-stick.

Greg Brock

Greg Brock, an Ole Miss journalism graduate and long-time senior editor of the New York Times, remembered a visit to Four Corners Service Station in September 2016.

“I was visiting Oxford and invited three friends from New York to go,” Greg recalled. “One of them, from Connecticut, went nuts over the chicken-on-a-stick. That’s all he talks about now. Every time I go down, he asks, ‘Can you bring me back a chicken-on-a-stick? He was down again for the film festival [and] went directly to get chicken-on-a-stick – and then he came to my house.”

Bill Dabney of Oxford says “waiting in line (for chicken-on-a-stick) with other revelers becomes an impromptu party,” while Barin von Foregger adds “this place defines late-nights in Oxford and is what makes the new hotel (on the opposite corner) look silly . . . Don’t mess with local fare.”

Galen Smith

Galen Smith Sr. of Bowling Green, Kentucky, recalls driving the late Willie Morris on late-night runs to Chevron in the mid-1980s. “He loved fried chicken and George Dickel whiskey,” Galen recalls.

Brock also remembers the time the lady at the Chevron counter handed his chicken-on-a-stick in a white bag to him in a white bag. “Then she said, ‘Darling, do you want that in a plastic bag?’ A bit puzzled, I said: ‘Ah, no. This is fine.’ Pointing at the bag, she said, ‘Honey, turn it over.” I turned the bag over, and the entire side was soaked in grease after about 30 seconds. I got the plastic bag. I got it to take home. Instead, I sat there in the car and ate the whole thing!”

Ivy McPherson

Memories seem to become sweeter as the years pass, and for Ivy McPherson Hayes of Memphis, a return visit to Four Corners Chevron was particularly sweet.

“The most fun ever was, 30 years later, going there with my daughter and her friends. Loved it then and love it now,” she said.

 


By Jim Roberts, a HottyToddy.com contributor

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