Southeast Kansas chicken houses inspire novel

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SOUTHEAST KANSAS — A new book is bringing national attention to Kansas.

How is the fictional book putting Kansas chicken in the spotlight? Reese Witherspoon has added ‘Chicken Sisters’ to her book club pick. While the book is fiction it has similarities to two chicken houses in Kansas.

We spoke to Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s in Pittsburg about how they got started.

Devin Gorman, Executive Director of Crawford County Commission and Visitors Bureau, said, “Fried chicken has been a big deal in Southeast Kansas for quite some time with the original restaurant starting back in the 30s and 40s.”

Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s are two chicken houses near Pittsburg. The author of “Chicken Sisters” KJ Dell’Antonia grew up in Texas and Kansas. Her parents are from Pittsburg and Frontenac. Dell’Antonia says she’s eaten at Chicken Annie’s often and the idea of two chicken restaurants next door inspired the idea of her book.

Donna Lipoglav Vice President of Chicken Annie’s, said, “I watched the author on Facebook today and I think the idea of the book came from our situation both restaurants being out here. And the Food Wars things was true. We both did the Food Wars thing several years ago.”

The Crawford County County Convention and Visitors Bureau hope the book will bring more people to Kansas.

“We certainly hope that the book and being named as one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club books inspires people to look in the background of what inspired the story,” said Gorman.

Both restaurants hope the new book will inspire people to try chicken houses in Pittsburg.

Lana Brooks, Manager at Chicken Mary’s, said, “Well if you’ve never tried it I don’t know what you’re waiting on. You need to be down here trying it. Give us a chance. Give all the chicken houses, we are all local family owned businesses trying to make a living.”

“I hope it does. Maybe it will bring people to the area because everyone needs customers right now. Not only us and Chicken Mary’s there’s six other chicken restaurants in the area too, so gosh if it would do that it would be wonderful,” said Lipoglav.

Both restaurants tell us they plan on reading the “Chicken Sisters” book. To see the full timeline of the history of chicken in Southeast Kansas follow the link below.

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