While it is probably not the most heart-healthy choice, fried chicken is one of the great staples of the road food diet. And one of the best places to get fried chicken on Route 66 is Hodak’s in St. Louis. In business since 1962, Hodak’s is a relative newcomer to the Mother Road, serving its first chicken plate at the corner of Gravois (Route 66) and McNair in 1970. Back then, it was a lot smaller than it is now; in the 1990s, the owners purchased a nearby trucking company, expanding and refurbishing the place and making it what it is today, a fine eatery along Route 66.
What Hodak’s is best known for is its fried chicken, for which it has received local and national acclaim (it was featured on Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels a year or so ago). The chicken platter ($7.99) is a half chicken, crispy on the outside, juicy on the outside, with fries and cole slaw. You also receive a separate plate for your bones. While the half chicken is likely enough for most palates, if you are still hungry, they have bulk orders of up to 200 pieces of fried chicken available.
While chicken is their specialty, Hodak’s does offer a considerable selection of alternatives. Plate lunches and dinners, including country fried steak, roast beef, and chicken Parmesan dinners complete with sides, are also available. They also have great steaks and fish dinners, and a wide selection of sandwiches and appetizers, including chicken wings, toasted ravioli, and, if that isn’t filling enough, bacon cheese fries. If you are in the neighborhood at lunchtime, they have daily luncheon specials from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a little under $6.00.
While the bar does not boast a huge selection of beer and wine, there is certainly sufficient selection to satisfactorily wet most palates.
Hodak’s does not have the same mom-and-pop look that it did 20 years ago when I first ate there, which was more appealing to the “roadie” in me. However, it has a nice “neighborhood eatery” feel, it is comfortable, and the waiters and waitresses are great (because of this, and the food, it is also very popular, so you may have to wait a bit for a table). Also for the roadie in me, Hodak’s could do more to emphasize its connection with Route 66. There is a sign or two in the place, but not much else to let you know that Route 66 runs right by it.
That minor critique aside, what can definitely be said about Hodaks is that it pays wonderful homage to the Mother Road through the great food that it serves, great Route 66 road food, in healthy portions, at a reasonable price. Definitely a place you want to stop when you are cruising down Route 66 through the city of St. Louis.
Route 66 Spirit: B-