There comes a moment in every college student’s life when finger-licking food conquers all. Forget kale, forget chia seeds and forget almond milk—what you need is some southern style cookin’. Cue fried chicken. Crispy skinned, perfectly seasoned deliciousness. Just blocks away from the University of Virginia’s grounds next to Bodo’s, the Preston Avenue Shell Station is the answer to your cravings—morning, afternoon or night.
Perfectly cooked fried chicken—from the oil, to the seasoning and frying technique—is an art. The staff at the Preston Avenue Shell Station has it down to a science. Upon entering the mini mart, your senses will be enveloped with the familiar smells of a home cooked meal. You’ll make beeline to the back of the store, passing by the familiar conveniences—displays of potato chips, chewing gum and beef jerky, to where the magic happens.
The old fashioned signage and location may have some questioning the hype, but during lunch hours, the mini mart is crowded, as locals stop by for their favorite sides, and most importantly, the fried chicken.
As you assemble your “chicken dinner,” you’ll have the choice of breasts, thighs, legs, or wings, and a number of classic southern side dishes including mac and cheese, collard greens, spiced apples or potato wedges. As you head towards the cashier, you can’t help but notice the homemade red velvet cake sitting on top of the counter, and the friendly staff will only encourage your temptation.
If you want the full gas-station experience, you can eat at the tables out front, but I took my meal home, prolonging the anticipation.
PSA: The chicken lives up to its expectations; its golden brown, perfectly seasoned skin, still lightly glistening with grease is mouthwatering. The spiced apples, which resemble the filling of a warm apple pie, and the peach cobbler, are also musts.
The best part? Two pieces of chicken, two sides of your choice, and a roll are all yours for just $5.99. If you’re looking for a place to grab a delicious, quick and cheap meal, the Preston Avenue Shell station has got your back. Check out this review by The Splendid Table or discover Charlottesville’s other finger lickin’ gas station fried chicken destinations on The Daily Beast.
Location: 601 Preston Avenue, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours of operation: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm