“This place is like a fancy Chick-fil-A,” said Kurt, my good lookin’ husband, as he took a juicy bite of his “Build Your Own” fried chicken sandwich at Boxcar Betty’s on Saturday afternoon. Kurt has a way of putting everything in layman’s terms, so there’s no mistaking the meaning. I thought his perception was spot on, as this “purveyor of gourmet fried chicken sandwiches” is known for its high-end take on a classic Southern delicacy. Their philosophy is simple: Pair the best chicken with locally sourced ingredients. They take one thing – fried chicken – place it between a soft bun – and offer a variation of toppings and sauces so customers can customize their sandwiches. This is a place where only FRIED chicken – not grilled, baked or roasted – reigns supreme.
As a resident of West Ashley, I had driven by the place a hundred times. Intrigued by the look of the outside, and the inviting words “Chicken Biscuits” that often appear on the sign, we pulled in to discover a real delight. Upbeat music plays over the speakers, and regulars bring books to read by the window as they await lunch.
We started the meal with an order of fried pickles, served with house-made ranch dressing. With just one look, I could tell they were done right. Crispy with a thin coating of seasoned flour, the recipe starts with cucumbers sourced from Joseph Fields Farm in Charleston. Just $4 will get you an order. Check out Food Editor Hannah Raskin’s take on these pickles in The Post & Courier. The handcut fries (pictured below) are seasoned while they’re hot and have a nice crunch. Growing up at home, my dad would make them like this and let them drain on a paper grocery sack on the countertop.
Here’s how it works: You can choose from three predetermined sandwich options – #1 The Boxcar including pimiento cheese, peach slaw, house pickles and spicy mayo; #2 The Chicken “Not So Waffle” with bacon jam, maple syrup, pimiento cheese and tomato; or #3 The Buffalo with blue cheese sauce, tomato and bibb lettuce. If the three of those don’t get your mouth-watering, opt to Build Your Own, with toppings such as Kentucky beer cheese, sweet chili sauce or shallots. There’s something for everyone! Kurt built his own and kept it simple with Swiss cheese and honey mustard and an order of handcut fries, and I chose The Chicken “Not So Waffle” with sweet potato fries. That bacon jam combined with pimento cheese and the crispy skin of that fried chicken was SOME KINDA GOOD, now! With a big bite of my sandwich, I happily bobbed my head to the beat of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” as the lyrics perfectly echoed my emotions toward the sandwich.
The space is quaint & cozy.
Boxcar wall art fills the dining room.
Customers receive a table number to take to their seats.
Inside the restaurant, antique, exposed wood creates a retro vibe while a mix of colorful boxcar wall art and modern lighting combines old with new. Guests can sit on bar stools or at tables in the quaint dining area. Nothing on the menu is over $7, and aside from the chicken sandwiches, the menu offers chicken tenders for kids, and a few salads. Pecan pie is served in a cup and floats are also available for dessert.
When you eat at Boxcar Betty’s, you’re also helping the environment. All the materials on your tray come completely compostable. You’ll find the chicken + bun stamp on everything from the paper-wrapped sandwiches and order numbers to the front doors. If it’s fried chicken you seek, Boxcar Betty’s does it well. It’s refreshing to discover a place that takes pride in every ingredient. Dine here for a truly unique and memorable meal – they’ve genuinely mastered the art of the fried chicken sandwich!
Now based in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the former Statesboro Herald food columnist and past host of the television program Statesboro Cooks. From 2012 – ’14, she appeared regularly as Celebrity Chef at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market and wrote as a guest blogger for Visit Savannah and The Local Palate. In addition, Faulk’s work is published in Moments magazine and Connect Statesboro. Her culinary accomplishments are recognized in two publications: She is a featured alumna in Georgia Southern Magazine (Spring ’14) and the “Go Girl!” in Moments magazine (March 2104), a tabloid for Moms and Modern Women. To learn more, visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.
Local restaurants are the jewels of small towns. You may have your go-to dish at a well-known chain, but exploring indigenous places to eat–that’s where the magic happens. The truth is, I love Red Lobster’s Seaside Shrimp Trio and the Crispy Chicken Tacos at Chili’s. I can’t go to Cracker Barrel without ordering hash brown casserole as my side dish. However, no matter where I travel, these great restaurants will only offer more of the same. To understand the real picture of a city’s culture, people and food, you’ve got to venture outside the chain-restaurant-comfort-zone. It’s there, at places like downtown Statesboro’s 40 East Grill, you’ll find homegrown flavors, and in this case, experience the true vibe of small town America with a modern twist.
Offering lunch and dinner, 40 East Grill opened in August 2012. With a locally focused menu that changes every few months, they pride themselves on cooking with a fusion of native products featuring B&G Honey Farm, cheese from Flat Creek Lodge and beef produced by Southeast Georgia farmers. Chicken and seafood are other great options. My go-to lunch combo is She Crab Soup paired with the Three-Cheese Panini, pictured below. I often add a side of crispy sweet potato fries to round out the meal. My co-workers and I have made 40 East Grill a regular lunch stop. It makes for a fantastic date night too.
The menu, presented on a clip board with a clothes pin, even includes fun drink choices outside the norm, like an Arnold Palmer (half tea/half lemonade) or blended coffee. Most recently, they’ve added a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich to the menu! That’s not something you see every day and that’s exactly what’s to love about 40 East Grill…it’s creative, classy and unpredictable. The restaurant’s best sellers include the Southern River Farms Ribeye , Chicken Pot Pie and the Maryland Style Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes topped with a lemon beurre blanc.
Buffalo chicken sandwich served with crispy sweet potato fries.
The buffalo chicken sandwich is topped with a cold tomato slice and ranch dressing.
A great lunch combo! She Crab Soup with half a sandwich.
Grilled ham & cheese panini. Warm, crunchy and melt-in-your-mouth fabulous.
Dinner is served! Pasta in a tomato-based sauce topped with Parmesan cheese.
Utensils are bundled in black napkins with a clothes pin. It’s all in the details!
The featured wall art was created by Georgia Southern University’s Art Department.
A typical mid-day crowd at 40 East Grill.
Community support and outdoor dining are big attractions.
The front entrance is bright with natural light.
40 East Grill has a quaint, urban feel that’s trendy and warm with exposed brick throughout, a welcoming chalk board at the entrance that lists daily specials, original hardwood floors, earthy paint colors and modern lamp lighting. Outdoor seating is available with a great view of downtown Statesboro, onlooking the Emma Kelly Theater and Averitt Center for the Arts. Live music happens often too, varying from country, rock and bluegrass. Even the talent is local! Additionally, the ladies restroom is among the cutest I’ve seen complete with a luxurious crystal chandelier and vessel sink.
Happy hour is every evening from 5 – 7 p.m. Stop in for a signature cocktail at the 18 foot copper top bar, like the 40’s Perfect Margarita or Cucumber Melon Martini. During Happy Hour, wells and house wines range from $2 – $3. Not quite ready to go home? Stay for chicken parmesan or a 12-ounce bone-in, pan seared pork chop and watch a game on the flat screen TVs.
Aside from delicious food, the thing that sets 40 East Grill apart is the service. Time and again, I’ve been impressed by the servers’ attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile. They’re consistently well dressed, friendly and accommodating. The restaurant is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 – 9 p.m., also on Saturdays from 5 – 9:30 p.m.
When quality like this exists in your own neighborhood, it’ll make you think twice before venturing out-of-town.