I visited Keaton's a couple of weeks ago and was really impressed, with their chicken at any rate. Their chicken makes up for a lot of what is lacking otherwise. We were first greeted by a sign on the door proclaiming "Ice tea today!" When a BBQ place has to advertise they have ice tea, it should give one pause. Once inside, we discovered there was a lot the restaurant didn't have that day: no entrees other than chicken (I wasn't interested in anything but the chicken, but other people in my party asked) and at lesat half the sides on the menu were AWOL as well. The counter person was rather terse, which bothered my wife, but I figured we got off easy--my dad reported that last time he'd visited, the counter person berated the customers in line for only ordering white meat, strange since this is an option on the menu and you pay more for it!
I risked provoking the staff and ordered a quarter portion of white meat chicken with mild sauce. For sides, I settled on the beans and the french fries. I'm pretty sure the former had seen the inside of a can and the latter had seen the inside of a freezer. The plate came with bread, which was, somewhat puzzlingly, a hamburger bun. Enough quibbles though, the chicken was sublime! It was lightly battered or maybe just floured, fried (not sure if pan or deep, I've heard people claim both), and bathed in a slightly hot, slightly sweet, vinegary sauce that left a pleasant tingle on the lips and had me using the aforementioned bun to mop up the last traces after the chicken was picked clean to the bone. I also tried the hot version of the sauce, which featured more heat and less sweet. I preferred the mild.
While basking in a post-chicken-and-sauce-inhaling glow, one can amuse (or trouble) oneself by reading all the prohibitions posted on the walls. No bare feet allowed, nor bare torsos, nor profanity, nor loud talking, nor firearms unless one has authorization from the local sheriff's department (they must be regulars). This place does not exude hospitatliy, but the chicken is good enough to make up for that, no doubt.
What is the orign of Keaton's style of BBQ chicken, I'm left to ponder. According to their webiste, it predates the "invention" of Buffalo wings by about a decade. Reid's in Granite Quarry features a similar style of fried chicken in a hot, vinegary sauce. My dad says he actually prefers Reid's. I've now had both and prefer Keaton's. I believe BBQ King in Charlotte also does a BBQ chicken which is basically fried chicken dipped in sauce, albeit more of a tomato sauce than a vinegar one. Is this pattern random or is "dipped" fried chicken an underground foodway of this part of NC? Thoughts?