Keaton’s: Chasing Barbecued Fried Chicken in North Carolina

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Restaurant North Carolina

"Original" barely begins to describe Keaton's barbecued fried chicken.

Keaton’s has been located on the same desolate stretch of Woodleaf Road since 1953. Just when you think you must have overshot it, you’re almost there.

Burette Walker Keaton, better known as B.W., founded Keaton’s in 1953. After B.W. passed in 1989, his nephew Lefty took two years to reopen the establishment. Happily, the second generation kept using B.W.’s recipes.

Restaurant North Carolina

Keaton’s has a simple dining room. Not that it matters. Once the chicken hits the table, life’s a delicious blur.

Barbecued Fried Chicken North Carolina

Keaton’s barbecued fried chicken comes either mild or spicy. Their breast & wing combo ($4.33) was spicy, which added a comfortable heat.

The chicken was tremendous, pan-fried then dipped in BBQ sauce, caramelizing the skin and locking in the meat’s juices. Baked beans (8 ounces for $0.90) were just fine, but I didn’t drive to rural North Carolina to eat beans.

Barbecued Fried Chicken North Carolina

Their mildly-spiced thigh & leg ($3.26) were especially luscious, due to their naturally higher fat content. The macaroni & cheese ($1) square featured a chewy crust and yellow cheddar folds.

Dessert North Carolina

Keaton’s offers several dessert options, including many “yum yum” variations. Cherry yum yum touts a Graham cracker crust, a half-inch-thick cream cheese topping, and candied cherries, served cold. Dessert was fine, but hardly spectacular. You’d be better off ordering more chicken instead.

Inexplicably, Keaton’s sells a gallon of tea for $7.68. Only a whole chicken cost more. I like sweet tea as much as any temporary Southerner, but I settled for a cup (with refill) for a buck.

Yet again, I found myself following Jane and Michael Stern’s gastro-path. Their photo lined the wall. Keaton’s was far from the first terrific regional restaurant they led me to. I’ve been a Roadfood adherent for over 10 years.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

This extraordinary restaurant may cease to exist within the year. My wife and I ate here in mid-february. We were talking to the grandson of BW Keaton and he said business is in bad shape because of the economy. So much so, that they can’t afford to keep the phone turned on, so customers can’t use credit cards. They also find themselves without the money to buy provisions, so, as was the case when we ate there, they couldn’t afford to have pork shoulders for those customers that didn’t want chicken. Please help to support wonderful places like Keaton’s BBQ.


That’s terrible news. If Keaton’s goes out of business, the world will be a less interesting place to eat. I certainly hope that the local customers rally to support such a terrific restaurant.

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