Whenever I miss our old home in Charlotte, North Carolina I start to crave Ding Dong Chicken. For those of you who have never experienced the awesomeness that is Ding Dong Chicken, follow me down this rabbit hole, you won’t be sorry. I first discovered Ding Dong Chicken at a local place in Uptown Charlotte called Pinky’s Westside Grill. This is one of our favorite restaurants in Charlotte, but we have a rocky history together.
The first time Jerimiah and I met for lunch at Pinky’s we ran across it while we were exploring Uptown not long after we moved to the Charlotte area. At the time we lived one county over, in a small town called Denver, NC that lacks any real places to eat good food. There were the local favorites like the Mexican place by Aldi’s or the Sports Page, but if you wanted one-of-a-kind, cool, new food you had to go to Charlotte.
Jerimiah had just started his new job and was making the 40 minute drive into Uptown everyday. On Fridays I would sometimes meet him for lunch, once school started and Jackson was securely in his fun, safe kindergarten class all day. These occasional lunch meetings were good for both of us. At the time I was considering applying to grad school in Charlotte, he was just learning the area, and we had started to think about moving into the city. We originally stumbled upon Pinky’s because of the VW Beetle that sits on the roof of the place. We liked the outward appearance of the place and we just knew the food would be tasty.
But we didn’t go that day, we went somewhere else. It wasn’t until some of the people at Jerimiah’s office were telling him he had to try Pinky’s that we actually went in one day. On this particular day it was spring, and just starting to get warm outside. The restaurant was full, which is normal at lunchtime, so we opted for the outside patio so we could get seated immediately. We don’t normally sit on patios, so I was feeling a little off already. Then there was the fact that it was our first time there, there were so many options on the menu, and I’m not great with options, and the fact that I could see inside and it looked cool and fun, and we felt banished to the patio. I dunno, I guess I am saying I let all these things get to me when I ordered, so I did what a naive person does, I sorta freaked out and ordered something I wouldn’t normally order: A tuna melt. Even Jerimiah looked at me and said, “Tuna?” Like, I don’t even really eat tuna, ever. I shook my head frantically and handed the menu back to the server. A few minutes later my tuna salad sandwich came out, along with Jerimiah’s awesome-looking turkey burger and I quickly resented my decision. I was mad at myself and at Pinky’s. But I didn’t give up.
Below is a sample of their menu, maybe you can see my frustration.
So the next time we went to Pinky’s we waited for a table inside. We soaked in the fun, cool atmosphere. We asked the server what to get. And she said, “Anything, as long as it is Ding Dong Style.” Well I had no idea what that meant but I said, “I’ll have the Ding Dong Chicken!” And my life was transformed.
Listen, I know this sounds nuts. Like Missy, a damn chicken sandwich can’t change your life, but if you’ve been following this Popeyes v. Chick-fil-a thing, you know it can. PS… Had the Popeyes sandwich, and yeah, it’s awesome. Way better than those Chick-fil-a sandwiches dripping in closeted homophobia and kindness. But still, neither are better than the Ding Dong Chicken at Pinky’s. Allow me to introduce you:
What is that, Missy?! It is a marinated and grilled chicken breast, free from antibiotics and all the gross stuff. It is smack dab between a yummy sesame seed bun (though your bread options are immense, even gluten-free if you are one of those nutcases). Then it is topped with crunchy peanut butter, sriracha, and coleslaw. It is important to know that everything is topped in coleslaw in North Carolina. I’m not a fan of coleslaw, but this one is a cilantro-honey slaw, and it’s amazeballs.
So what do I do now, that I live so very far away from my Ding Dong Chicken? I make it at home, duh! Here’s how I do it, if you want to try it yourself.
10 Easy Steps to Homemade Ding Dong Chicken
- First you go to your favorite place to get chicken breasts. Mine is wherever they are on sale that week, usually Kroger. Then you buy your meat. Then you marinate your meat in either a Thai marinate, or in Teriyaki. Both seem to give the flavor you are looking for.
- Then one evening, while you are trying to do a bunch of things, remember that you have that chicken you are marinating and you have to cook it that night or it will go bad. So run outside and fire up the grill.
- Keep the dog away from you by shouting, “Get back, asshole” whenever he approaches. Throw a ball if need be.
- Once you think the grill is hot enough (because your thermostat thing has been broken for like seven years) throw the marinated chicken on the grill.
- Close the grill, throw the ball, and continue to spray paint that bookshelf you bought at the Goodwill. Remember to only spray paint in the grass because you can just mow it. Don’t do it on your deck, lest you accidentally get your thrift store patio furniture covered in white chalk paint. You realize you paid more for the paint than you did the actual shelf, right? Nevermind, what’s the dog licking on the ground by the grill?
- Check on the chicken. Ohhh, it smells good. Okay, flip it.
- Go back to spray painting. Should you be using a mask? Are you getting a little high off this spray paint? How do people get high off it? Is that called huffing? Is that how people get high really quickly? What was the K2 stuff someone was talking to you about the other day? Hey did you get crunchy peanut butter at Kroger?
- Yell for your kid or partner or cat to bring you a platter so you can put the chicken on it to take it inside. Abandon the bookshelf, you will finish it before the next hurricane comes through.
- Plate the chicken. Here is where you can really let your personality shine. Do you want to use your nice Fiestaware? Or do you prefer that plate you got to help you with portion control? No, that one will just depress you. Just use the platter.
- Spoon out some crunchy peanut butter that you found in the back of the pantry (scrape off the marshmallow fluff that is stuck to the top of it, or don’t your call, might be good). Then grab the sriracha from the fridge and squirt it over the top. About this time other people will start to walk into the kitchen because the smell is so good. Your partner may say something like, “What did you make?” Take the platter, grab a knife, yell something about how you are the only one who has any damn sense in this house, and run into the laundry room to eat your Ding Dong Chicken in peace and quiet.
Oh yeah, add coleslaw if you live in North Carolina.