Grub Scout: Chandler's is hog heaven, with or without feet
- Food: ★★★★½
- Service: ★★★½
- Atmosphere: ★★★½
- Overall: ★★★★
- Address: 3101 Magnolia Ave.
- Phone: 865-595-0212
- Restaurant hours: 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Fridays; 12-8:30 p.m. Saturdays; 12-6 p.m. Sundays
- Seating: First come, first served
- No alcohol service
My recent lunchtime visit to Chandler's Deli marked two firsts for yours truly: It was my first trip ever to the oft-praised barbecue place on East Magnolia, and it was the first time I had no choice but to navigate around the SmartFix 40 mess.
The latter wasn't daunting at all. A quick exit off I-40 and a few downtown turns later, I was headed out Magnolia toward Chandler's, which has been open since 2000 in an old Taco Bell shell.
The overhead menu quickly confirmed for me everything I had heard about Chandler's - that it's not so much a deli (in the traditional sandwich sense) as it is a barbecue/soul food/meat-and-three kind of place.
If you want chicken, you can get pieces either fried or rotisserie-style, or you could opt for chicken salad, chicken livers, chicken and dumplings or a pulled-chicken sandwich.
Other meats include cube steak, pork chops, tilapia, pigs' feet and chitterlings (or chitlins, if you prefer).
Then there are the mighty barbecued ribs, sold individually, in multiples or in pulled-barbecue form, between buns.
The vegetables zero in on the tastes of those who prefer the soul food or country-cooking milieu. Items like pinto beans, cabbage, greens (turnip, mustard and collard), fried okra and sweet potato casserole are just some of the selections offered.
Once I got my thoughts together, I ordered a pulled-pork sandwich, a single rib bone, a side of green beans and a serving of banana pudding. Then I got an order of cornbread and pinto beans to go for The Grub Spouse, who had a real job to attend to. I was in hog heaven soon enough thanks to Chandler's smoky, meaty, zesty barbecue. The sandwich was so loaded down with delicious 'cue that I couldn't even pick it up intact. A fork did nice backup duty in helping me savor each bite. Meanwhile, the single, giant rib reminded me of one of those Fred Flintstone bronto-ribs, and as the Chandler's sign suggests, it was indeed bone-sucking good.
The green beans were down-home satisfying as were the pinto beans and cornbread. (As much as I would have liked to report to you about the chitterlings and pigs' feet, I simply couldn't go there. You know - pearls before swine, or perhaps even swine before swine, in this case. But those who appreciate such country delicacies should know that they are at least there for the eating.)
The banana pudding was the meal's only disappointment. It is mostly bananas and wafers that are held together with a minimal amount of actual pudding.
I got a lot of great food for only $11.60 that day, making Chandler's a terrific value, and it was clear that the restaurant has its share of loyal patrons of both the blue- and white-collar ilk. It was amazing to me how many of the customers knew each other and were on familiar terms with owners Charles and Gwen Chandler.