a texas original
J.T. Youngblood's - inspired by a Texas legend.
BY JEFF WEINBERGER
When I was a boy growing up in Dallas in the 1950s, there was nothing I liked better than going out to eat at Youngblood’s Fried Chicken. Memories of seeing my dad come home from work carrying that distinctive to-go box still makes my mouth water. Like many who grew up in Texas between the late ’40s and late ’60s, I remember Youngblood’s as the best fried chicken I ever ate.
Cotton farmer Pap Youngblood and his sons, Weldon and Ovid, started Youngblood’s Fried Chicken restaurant in Waco in 1945. It was an immediate hit, and they quickly expanded to Dallas and other parts of
Texas. By 1971, they owned 20 restaurants, and the owners announced plans to go national. Then, a series of financial setbacks and the advent of numerous fast food franchises in the area thwarted their intentions, and by 1969 Youngblood’s Fried Chicken was gone.
So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I was introduced to a gentleman who actually had the famed Youngblood’s secret recipe. He agreed to share that recipe with me, so long as I, too, kept it secret. Within six weeks, our modern version of Youngblood’s fried chicken became our best-selling lunch entrée despite the fact that Shoreline Grill was a white-tablecloth restaurant.
Though Shoreline Grill closed after 24 years of operation, I could not get Youngblood’s fried chicken out of my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that there is a market in today’s Texas for a chicken restaurant inspired by the Youngblood tradition.