Jack Pirtle’s approach to business was a simple one: Good food and good prices. The same philosophy and Pirtle Pride is what keeps customers coming back today, just as it did more than 50 years ago.
“Here was the main thing about Mr. Jack,” said longtime employee Elaine Taylor. “He wanted the food done right.”
Right meant two things: Homemade, and Jack’s recipes. After splitting from Kentucky Fried Chicken, Jack and his wife Orva created their own special blend of seasonings that Jack prepared himself—tucked away in his locked seasoning room—several times a week. He took pride and care, and his expected the same of his employees.
Take the chili, for instance. One person cooked the chili for all the restaurants.
“And you better not spoil it,” recalled Carrie Watts. “That’s why he had one person cook it. If it was messed up, that way he would know who did it.”
The chili for the hot dogs was made from chicken gizzards, not beef, and it was thickened with leftover biscuits. This was testament to both Jack’s frugality and his ingenuity.
“He didn’t believe in throwing away anything,” Elaine said.
Nowadays chicken comes to the restaurants pre-cut, but for more than 20 years, employees cut whole chickens. Livers and gizzards have always been on the menu, but there were more coming in than going out. When he was a teenager, Jack’s son and present owner of Jack Pirtle’s, Cordell Pirtle, would sell the surplus to a local grocer for pocket money. When Jack figured out how much money his boy was making, he those gizzards had value. That’s when he came up with the recipe for the chili.
“It tasted just like beef,” Carrie said. “You would never have known.”
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