"The Steak Sandwich" is the only item on Jack Pirtle's Fried Chicken menu with a "the" in the title. "Hamburger," "Foot Long Hot Dog," "Smoked Sausage," "Chicken Sandwich" and other items don't have that three-letter article preceding them.
So, it must be good, right?
I bought one Sunday afternoon at the Jack Pirtle's location on Thomas. Asked what I wanted on it, I replied, "Everything." The chicken-fried steak sandwich includes cheese, slaw, gravy and pickle. I took a bite in the parking lot before I went back to the office. I was a fan.
The steak sandwich was one of the original items "when we first opened the first drive-through restaurant in 1957," said Cordell Pirtle, son of Jack Pirtle.
His dad also had another first. "My father has the first KFC franchise in the state of Tennessee" Cordell said.
Cordell remembered Col. Harlon Sanders being impressed with the steak sandwich at Pirtle's.
They use minute or cubed steak from a company in Nashville. "Part of the preparation process is to work the flour and seasoning into the meat itself," Cordell said.
The meat then is put in a pressurized deep fryer.
When they first introduced the sandwich " it was a very popular alternative," he said. "A great many people liked it. It's a sandwich you could eat with one hand."
Well, maybe not always one hand, said Cordell's wife, Tawanda Pirtle.
Some employees "tend to get carried away with the gravy," Cordell said. "It may be a two-hander when they get through with it."
Elaine Taylor at the Thomas location has that special touch when it comes to the steak sandwich, Tawanda said. "Miss Elaine's been with us 34 years," she said. "She works six days a week, never misses a day. Steaks are her specialty. People at all the stores are good at it, but Elaine does something -- we have no idea what she does and I think it's TLC."
Jack Pirtle's Fried Chicken has multiple locations in the area, including 890 Thomas; 527-7790.
-- Michael Donahue: 529-2797. firstname.lastname@example.org