‘Knuckle-sucking good’ chicken restaurant reaches 80th anniversary

‘Knuckle-sucking good’ chicken restaurant reaches 80th anniversary

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – Everyone knows the Baton Rouge restaurant famous for its fingers, but there’s another, much older one that is famous for its knuckles. And the “Knuckle Sucking Good” fried chicken restaurant is celebrating a big anniversary.

On Two-Piece Tuesday, work at the Chicken Shack starts early. There’s 17 cases of chicken to be cut, batter to be hand-whipped, and of course spinach, potato salad, and red beans and rice to cook. The task falls to a small army circled around a heavy-duty fryer. Some of whom have been doing it for more than 30 years.

They have no time to waste. Customers begin lining up for knuckle-sucking good chicken well before noon

Hot grease seems to pulse through Joe Delpit Sr.’s veins. He started working at the Shack when he was just five years old.

“I started toasting bread, making certain it didn’t burn. Then washing pots grew into cleaning up the restaurant,” Delpit said.

He now runs the city-wide empire, but it was his father who founded it.

Back in 1935, Tommy Delpit opened the original Chicken Shack with his wife Edmae on what was once the corner of East and Lettsworth. The couple sold their chicken from a small kitchen he built on the front of the shotgun shack where he raised his family.

“I caught many whippings between the Chicken Shack and our house,” Joe said.

Those whippings taught him an important business lesson. “He [Tommy Delpit] was serious about honesty,” Joe said.

Joe remembers one whipping he got over a fib about playing with matches.

“He said, ‘I’m not whipping you because you were playing with matches. I’m whipping you for lying.'”

Joe says his dad also taught him generosity. In the early days of McKinley High School, before the school had a cafeteria, the school would dismiss for lunch. Lots of students ended up at the Chicken Shack. Joe said Tommy served hot lunches to all of them, many of them for free.

“It was just so they had something hot to eat,” Joe said.

Many of those students grew up to work at the Chicken Shack.

Henry Baptiste was one of them. He delivered chicken to south Baton Rouge on a bicycle. To him, the Chicken Shack has always been about family.

“You always felt like you were at home. Everybody that came in the door, you knew them,” Baptiste said.

Now Baptiste operates one of the three Chicken Shack locations.

People still keep coming back for that family feeling and the food. The secret to the Shack’s crispy-crusted chicken comes from Tommy Delpit’s time, not as a fry cook, but as a pastry chef.

“It’s old fashion cake batter,” said Joe. “We’re still using it today — the same batter. Nobody makes that batter but my wife.”

Joe said that is what has kept Chicken Shack’s chicken knuckle-sucking good for 80 years and made it the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in Baton Rouge. Now Joe has his sights set on introducing New Orleans to his cake-battered chicken.


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