Tired of fancy French restaurants with small portions and snooty service? We certainly are, but we have a foo-foo French alternative, berets optional. Welcome to one of Marietta’s oldest and classiest eating establishments, Le Gros Poulet, where the plates are large and the food is fast.
It’s big and shaped like a chicken. Folks around here call it “Le Gros Poulet”. It even says so on the sign.
Colonel Harland Sandeurs founded the chain in 1952, just after he became a chef for the French Foreign Legion. Evidently, Col. Sandeurs’ chicken was so “finger lickin’ good” that troops could not fire their weapons because of the grease. And so the French lost Vietnam.
“Le Colonel” moved near The Alps to the province of Kentuckie, where he perfected his “secret recipe” of eleven herbs and spices.
Directions in Marietta are given from here. Phrases like “turn left at Le Gros Poulet” are often heard when the locals are trying to get tourists to the right place. Forget about turning left into the parking lot because of the traffic on Highway 41.
Le Gros Poulet became a Marietta landmark in 1963 when the place was called Johnny Reb’s Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake. Johnny’s claim to fame was the only restaurant in the world with three hyphens and three apostrophes in their name. Good thing they got a KFC franchise shortly thereafter.
We even dug up an old menu. If you zoom in, you will notice that they trademarked their name. They must have been proud of it. “Oh, we can’t name our new restaurant Chick-Chuck-‘N’-Shake because it’s already taken? Guess we’ll have to open a car wash instead!”
Notice the “courteous curb service”. Johnny Reb’s was COVID curbside before pickup was cool. Nowadays, you can order delivery on the internet, hit the drive-thru, or pickup at the counter. You can dine inside or “al fresco” on Le Colonel’s patio.
That’s what we did. Soon after you arrive, the maitre d’ greets you and takes your order.
We’ll say this: there is nothing but chicken on the menu. Original recipe, extra crispy, grilled, dark meat, white meat, nuggets, fingers, wings…if it clucks, they’ll fry it.
While you wait, shop in Le Gros Poulet’s gift shop.
In less than five minutes, your order is delivered on Le Colonel’s finest china. We told you it was fast.
Before we open the boxes and look inside, we have some BIG BREAKING NEWS. Our investigative team has learned that, Colonel Sandeurs, who died in 1980, was stuffed and mounted and now greets guests at Le Gros Poulet.
Meanwhile, back on the patio, let’s open up the boxes and see what Le Colonel has prepared. First up is original recipe with white meat.
It comes with a scone and the creamiest potato puree that you will find in a plastic container. The breast meat is really moist. The skin is good, but we remember more flavor out of those eleven herbs and spices.
If you are like us, you probably spend a lot of time pondering this question: which is better, original recipe or extra crispy?
Today, the winner is extra crispy by a long shot. It’s got crunch and a very small kick, outpacing the original recipe by a kilometer on this visit.
It’s been a long time since we have eaten Le Colonel’s cuisine. The whole time we were here, we kept saying, “you know, this is pretty good chicken.” It’s fresh, hot, and we filled up for less than 14 euros. That’s really cheap for all of this fancy French food, which turned into a box of bones in no time.
Good food AND good value. Le Gros Poulet has it all. Tell Le Colonel we said hello, and HAPPY APRIL FOOLS DAY!