Food & Drink

Out of the Box: Chef David Thomas Swears By This Southern Convenience Store Fare

The soul food connoisseur will detour for Parker’s Kitchen

Photo: courtesy of parker's kitchen

Five-piece chicken tenders and Parker's Sauce.
photo: courtesy of H3irloom Food Group
Chef David Thomas.

The chef David Thomas, founder of Baltimore’s much-lauded Ida B’s Table, which closed in 2022, has built his career around modern soul food. His latest endeavor, a Black-owned event and catering company called H3irloom Food Group, creates pop-up and ticketed dinner experiences designed to change the narrative around Black food culture. Even in his downtime, Thomas gravitates toward Southern cuisine, and he makes a point to stop at the twenty-four-hour convenience store Parker’s Kitchen whenever he travels South.

Founded in 1976 and headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, Parker’s operates more than fifty locations just off the highways in coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Beyond standard conveniences of gas, soda fountains, clean restrooms, and packaged snack food, it offers a menu of Southern classics: biscuits and gravy and fish and grits at breakfast, for example; mac and cheese and fried catfish at lunch.

photo: courtesy of parker’s kitchen
The exterior of Parker’s Kitchen.

“Every time I go to South Carolina or Georgia, I go to Parker’s—maybe three or four times a summer,” he says. “I was drawn to it because there’s a place up here [in Maryland] called Royal Farms that has the same color scheme and a similar layout. Parker’s looked so familiar. I saw they sold fried chicken and was like ‘I have to try it.’” 

According to the company, Parker’s chicken is made fresh and double-breaded, resulting in an extra crunch. Thomas’s verdict? “It’s some of the best fried chicken I’ve had,” he says.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Parker’s Kitchen (@theparkerskitchen)

Parker’s Kitchen recently streamlined its offerings, and the fried chicken is available only as legs and tenders. For the breast, you’ll have to travel to Parker’s Market, aka “Fancy Parker’s,” located in Savannah’s historic district in a Mediterranean-style building dating back to 1899. Fancy Parker’s also sells fresh-pressed paninis, gourmet salads, home decor, and jewelry. But for Thomas, who also likes the fried okra and will occasionally opt for the fried fish, the classic fare is the draw. “It consistently tastes homemade,” he says.

Read other articles in our Out of the Box series.