The time on the clock reads 3:50 pm. There’s a city commission meeting in less than three hours and a restaurant feature yet to be written. We’re nine miles to Old City Hall, we have an apple, and we’re wearing heels. Dion’s is on our left, and a chicken dressed like a tourist wearing a ball cap beckons us in.
“Do you have any livers?”
Diane Bubbus, a six-month resident from Roseville, Arkansas declares Dion’s livers are the most mouthwatering this side of the Mississippi. She would know. She and her husband used to own a fast-food chicken chain.
“He’s fishing, so this is for me. Normally, when he goes fishing he comes here to get the chicken and all the trimmings to take on the boat.”
Plus, in Arkansas chicken is king. Tyson Foods Inc., headquartered in Springdale is the world’s largest processor of chicken, beef and pork. Dion’s uses Tyson chicken, and marinates it to the company’s specs before the food finds its way to the south Florida stores.
Mr. Bubbus isn’t the only fellow who has to have the tasty bird on his boat. Cudjoe Key’s Richard Cooper popped in looking for gizzards. His fishing buddies opt for a 20-piece box.
“They come from Ormond Beach and Daytona. They love Dion’s chicken. We always take it out on the boat. 20-piece boxes. That’s what they want. In fact, when we went and watched the sinking of the Vandenberg with a 20-piece box. Everyone ate Dion’s chicken!”
Stay-at-home mom, Miriam Garmas, known as “the mother to many sons,” is working her way up to that tall order. Every day she pops in to pick up a nine-piece bag for her four hungry boys, ranging in age from seven to 10-years old.
“Every day I buy a nine-piece chicken. I don’t get it for dinner. I get it for their after-school snack. Being that it’s white meat it’s healthy. Then, I’ll make them dinner later on.”
“It’s only $7.59,” Jean Cajuste points to the price.
Cajuste cooks the cock-a-doodle-do, and on some nights, he prepares as many as 20 birds during his shift. The cuts come marinated from Tyson, the secret to the taste. Then, employees like Jean wash it in water and do a “dip and roll.” After the flour and seasonings are on, the pieces go for a 13-14 minute swim in the fryer. Canola oil heats up the hens at 335°.
“We see everybody come in,” testifies Dion’s manager Sherrie Grodzinski, “Key Haven residents, single men who don’t have anyone to cook for them, people from the golf course. We see all walks of life. They come in after the bars close. Captain Tony, we used to see him.”
She says the barnyard foul saves islanders from turning on the stove. Plus, she points out, you can’t buy the biddy and all the seasoning for what Dion’s sells it for. One chicken breast is $1.89, a 21-piece bucket less than $20.
Pullet priced for every mom’s pocketbook.
Garmas said without guilt, “I don’t think the price is bad. If you buy a pack of meat, it’s about the same, and you don’t have to cook this.”
Besides, the foul is fried just right for this customer craving chicken.
“We’ve been getting this chicken for a long time,” Diane dishes. “It’s fresh and well-done just like I like it.”
Stay-at-home mom, Miriam Garmas, picks up a nine-piece bag of Dion’s Quik Chik every day for her boys’ after-school-snack. “If I forget, they want me to come get chicken. They like the breasts and macaroni and cheese.”
Jean and friend
Jean Cajuste is the Quik Chik cook on Stock Island. He’s pictured with chicken connoisseur Diane Bubbus. Diane and her husband used to own a chain of 63-fast food chicken joints before selling to Church’s. “Jean is great. We owned chicken restaurants, so I know how good it should be!”
Sherrie Grodzinski is the manager of Dion’s on Stock Island. “Last night we did six bags… that’s 18 chickens!”
Hungry customers can buy Dion’s Quik Chik by the piece or a whole dinner. Who needs to cook when the sides are mac and cheese, rice, corn, or carrots?