TUPELO • A former gas station turned restaurant has already garnered multiple honors from national and state publications.
King Chicken Fillin’ Station was recently named best fried chicken in Mississippi by Food Network. The review said:
“Tupelo’s King Chicken Fillin’ Station, housed inside of a converted gas station, is consistently rated the best fried chicken in the state, but it’s not your typical, rewarmed greasy gas station fare. Chef Mitch McCamey goes the extra mile to brine, air-dry, season and fry his birds in flour and meal.”
King Chicken Fillin’ Station uses a salt and sugar brine and its own special seasoning for both the breading and once the chicken comes out of the fryer. Owner Joseph Lowder describes it as having a little bit of a kick, but the chicken comes out juicy and with a good flavor. Lowder said it was an honor to have their fried chicken be called the best by Food Network.
“It’s great. I feel like fried chicken is kind of quintessential Mississippi. It’s one of the staples of our state,” Lowder said.
Lowder is also a fan of the restaurant’s smoked chicken, which uses all homemade sauces. Sauces aren’t the only homemade item on the menu; the restaurant also serves every chicken meal with homemade pickles, and all the sides are handmade as well. Everything is made from scratch.
“We are a former gas station, so I think people find it unexpected how good the food is. We’re the oldest running convenience store in Lee County,” Lowder said.
The restaurant was also voted as one of the places for Best Fried Chicken in Mississippi Magazine last month, and it was among several restaurants featured in an Aug. 27 article from Forbes naming Tupelo as a potential food destination. Lowder said he was glad the restaurant was among several other acclaimed restaurants in Tupelo.
“I think the better we are all, it’s better for the city. We all push ourselves to be the best and there is a kind of power in that cluster of having so many good restaurants,” Lowder said.
He credited Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen chef, owner and creative director Mitchell McCamey, who he said had a goal to elevate the food scene of Tupelo. McCamey is also the co-owner, chef, and butcher of Neon Pig Tupelo and Neon Pig Oxford, as well as a co-owner and chef of King Chicken Fillin’ Station in Belden, according to his bio on the Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen website.
While the King Chicken Fillin’ Station is only a little under two years old, Lowder said it has seen success thanks to the McCamey’s experience and team.
“There’s a good quality team behind it that helped boost it the right way, and I think the community has been really supportive,” Lowder said.
Lowder said that while every city has chain restaurants, it is the local restaurants that give a city its flavor and authenticity. He hopes more entrepreneurs come in and take chances with the food scene. One of his desires for Tupelo is to have a food hall similar to Jackson’s Cultivation Food Hall, which is currently the first and only one in the state. Lowder said a food hall would allow entrepreneurs to try running a restaurant before buying a brick and mortar location and may draw more people.
“There’s some great new restaurants coming. I think a lot of people are excited about having real food, local food, things that represent … our town and represents our culture, so I hope the food scene keeps growing that way,” Lowder said.
Lowder said the recent honors helped because there are still some people who are not aware of the restaurant. Through the awards, people share the word about them and tell others. Right now, he said King’s Fillin’ Station is still trying to get the word out. In addition to its physical location at 3897 McCullough Blvd. in Belden, the restaurant also has started a catering business which does hot Nashville chicken.
Lowder said that by supporting the food scene in Tupelo, people are supporting growth in the city and culture.
“I think it’s important for the people who live here support local establishments so we get more and more (restaurants) and keep thriving. (The food scene) will not grow without local support,” Lowder said.