Snappy Lunch Pork Chop

MOUNT AIRY—It’s chilly in North Carolina. But not too bad. A light jacket will do. I am walking downtown. Hands in my pockets. It’s my birthday weekend.

I remember seeing Jack Lalane’s 70th birthday special on television. I’ll never forget it. He dove into the water of Long Beach Harbor, handcuffed and shackled, and towed 70 boats containing 70 passengers for almost two miles from the Queen’s Way Bridge to the Queen Mary.

Jack was always doing strongman stunts for his birthday to demonstrate that health and fitness wasn’t just a hobby, but good for TV ratings.

Which is why this year for my birthday, I’ve decided to follow this healthful tradition by doing something similar. Something I can really be proud of.

Namely, I will eat a fried pork chop sandwich.

In many ways, fried pork is far more dangerous than what Jack Lalane did. Ask any cardiologist and they’ll agree. Sure, towing 70 boats for a couple miles through treacherous waters is fine if you’re trying to impress your grandmother. But batter-fried pork chops? This is for men who look death in the eye.

The particular pork chop sandwich I’m talking about is world famous. It comes from a cafe called the Snappy Lunch in downtown Mount Airy. The Snappy Lunch has been around for almost a hundred years, the building has been here even longer.

The place is a small nondescript storefront eatery. A Coca-Cola sign hangs out front beside an old-fashioned tin awning. There are a few antique cars parked on the curb. The restaurant sits at the rear of North Main Street. There is always a crowd huddled by the front window, and a long line.

They tell me visitors gather here almost daily to watch the grill-cook fry the pork chops. These are mostly tourists who come from all over the U.S. to visit this well-known little township. And if you don’t already know why they visit, I’ll tell you in a second.

But first let me tell you about the crowd at the window. It’s like they’re watching a carnival. Children press their faces against the glass. One overgrown middle-aged redheaded man does the same thing.

A short-order cook in a white apron waves to onlookers from behind the window. The kids and the redhead wave back in unison.

I am told the correct way to order the famous pork sandwich is to get it “Charlie’s way.” That’s sort of the unofficial nickname for the sandwich. Another nickname would be the “Double Bypass on a Bun.” Or “Heartburn on a Stick.”

The sandwich is three and a half ounces of pork tenderloin, sliced down the back, battered in sweetmilk, fried for ten minutes on a flat griddle, served with coleslaw, mustard, a huge pile of chili, onions, tomatoes, a side of Crestor®, and a Holy Bible.

People go crazy for this sandwich. Ask anyone at the window and they’ll tell you all about it. And most of these people haven’t even tried it yet. They’re just glad to be here.

Take Kara, for instance. Kara is from Joplin, Missouri. Kara is 9 years old. I ask her if she knows why this town is famous.

Kara’s brother Mike blurts out the answer before she does. “ANDY GRIFFITH!” he says.

After this, Kara levels Mike using only her left elbow. Then, she stands over Mike’s limp and twitching body and says, “He wasn’t asking you.” After which she smiles, straightens her dress, and says, “‘The Andy Griffith Show’ is why the town is famous.”

She’s right. In 1960, things in America were changing. The economy was good, the Brylcreem was flowing, nobody gave a cuss about cholesterol yet, unfiltered Camels were the cigarette of choice by pulmonologists everywhere. America was entering Vietnam, France tested its first A-bomb in the Sahara desert, Elvis was in the army, and on October 3rd, the “The Andy Griffith Show” premiered on CBS.

From Day One the show was a hit. And it still is. The show was loosely based on Andy’s hometown. Right here.

When the program was in the first season—the seventh episode to be exact—Andy said to Barney, “Hey, let’s go down to the Snappy Lunch and get a bite.”

That sentence might not seem like a big deal to you. But ask anyone standing in this line and they will tell you what one old lady tells me:

“This is the ONLY Mount Airy business Andy ever mentioned on his show. That’s how much he liked it.”

In other words, this is hallowed ground.

I order at the counter. My sandwich comes just like it’s supposed to. Fully loaded with chili, onions, dual quads, automatic transmission, leather seats, and positraction. I find a seat in one of the booths. I take a bite and…

It’s a pretty dang good sandwich. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a 42. There’s a man across from me, eating the same sandwich. His name is Jake, from Lansing, Michigan.

“I just HAD to try this sandwich,” says Jake. “Not only am I an Andy Griffith fan, but I’m gonna be seventy in a few weeks.”

I congratulate him.

His wife Judy says, “This is a bucket list thing for us. We still watch the show every night before bed.”

Jake says with a mouthful, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do two things before I die: One, visit Andy Griffith’s hometown for a pork chop sandwich. And two, kiss Ellie Mae Clampett on the lips.”

Well, one out of two ain’t bad.

Take that, Jack Lalane.

19 comments

  1. Lisa - December 29, 2019 6:41 am

    God, you’re talented! Keep writing.

    Reply
  2. Sandi. - December 29, 2019 7:25 am

    Reading this article made me soooo hungry for a fried pork sandwich like you described! The power of suggestion is strong!

    Reply
  3. Sharon Brock - December 29, 2019 7:31 am

    I want that sandwich but at 67, I only travel when absolutely necessary. To Kentucky twice a year, Ft. Meyers every other year, and Washington, D.C. in 2021 when my grandson graduates from high school. My left knee is shot, airplanes give me the heebeegeebees, my digestive system is allergic to about everything, and as I found out the hard way, long road trips do a number on my right hip joint.

    So Dude, I travel vicariously through your column. Keep up the good work. I know on the computer, a column is referred to as a blog. Horse hockey. Anything written every day is a column. I either laugh or cry depending on the subject matter and I figure either was needed.

    Reply
  4. grantburris - December 29, 2019 7:50 am

    I enjoyed that, Sean. Made me hungry to read it. I never knew about it til now. Thanks. Next time I’m back there, I’ll have a pork chop and think of you. Reminds me of a place in California. Jocko’s Steakhouse in Nipomo. North of LA a mile east of Highway 1. It will spoil you for any other steakhouse. It’s in the middle of farm country. Definitely cowboy. Santa Maria style. You almost need a map to find it. Go on Friday night or Saturday night to see the cowboy cooking the steaks over the long open grille. It is definitely not his first rodeo. Unbelievable. So is the taste. Portions are beyond generous. Check out the web site. It is definitely a bucket list place.
    Grant

    Reply
  5. Meredith Smith - December 29, 2019 10:44 am

    Did I see that it’s your birthday weekend? Happy birthday!! 🎂 And keep dishing the Andy trivia, I love it, I have Andy on DVD in the whole set, I pretty much can memorize any episode (though not as good as you).
    Have a beautiful weekend.
    Meredith

    Reply
  6. Alice Roose - December 29, 2019 12:32 pm

    Happy Birthday Sean I love your stories and I love you God bless you🎁🎉🎂❤️

    Reply
  7. Sonya Tuttle - December 29, 2019 1:03 pm

    Been there, got the T shirt! Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  8. Jimpa - December 29, 2019 1:03 pm

    Dammit, Sean. I told you after you wrote about cornbread how susceptible I am. Now I have to have a pork chop sandwich, Charlie’s way…Road trip!!!

    Reply
  9. Edna Barron - December 29, 2019 3:01 pm

    Happy BIrthday. I’ve never had a pork chop sandwich, but now I may have to try one. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  10. thispedestrianlife - December 29, 2019 4:35 pm

    Loved the town, sandwich and this post! Discovered you through friends in Chipley (Val and James) and look forward to the smiles and laughs your words always bring! PS Happy Birthday!

    Reply
  11. Linda Moon - December 29, 2019 4:58 pm

    I’m glad the positraction was fully loaded onto the dangerous sandwich to help you navigate through it safely. Kissing Ellie Mae would’ve been O.K. for you, but only if Jamie’s O.K. with it too. Eat healthy, be true to your wife, and maybe one day you’ll be a few weeks away from 70 like Jake. I hope I’m still around to wish you HAPPY BIRTHDAY then! If not, save this one for a long time: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SEAN!!

    Reply
  12. aleathia nicholson - December 29, 2019 6:19 pm

    Aunt Bea and Opie and Barney Fife et al…………….FOREVER ! I/m a displaced Tar Heel.

    Reply
  13. Shelton A. - December 29, 2019 6:27 pm

    Glad you had yourself a pork chop sandwich. Could you mail me one?

    Reply
  14. Berryman Mary M - December 29, 2019 6:31 pm

    Happy Birthday weekend to you, Sean! I wish you many happy returns, even if you keep eating friend pork shop sandwiches!

    Reply
  15. Margarett Jane W Vaught - December 29, 2019 7:27 pm

    Happy Birthday weekend !! Love you and your writing ..

    Reply
  16. Anne - December 29, 2019 7:55 pm

    Happy Birthday! Fellow Red Head
    It’s my Birthday weekend also! It’s a milestone one for me. Took a trip from North Alabama to St. Louis then Springfield, IL. Two cities I had not traveled to before. Lots of good food, laughs and interesting stories.
    May you celebrate many more Birthdays 🎂
    ~Anne

    Reply
  17. Patricia Gibson - December 30, 2019 12:10 am

    It is my birthday today so Happy Birthday!!

    Reply
  18. Harriet from Atlanta. - December 30, 2019 3:52 am

    How do you write like that? I never get bored with your stories.

    Reply
  19. that's jack - December 31, 2019 12:20 am

    Next time I’m up ‘air I will try it. The time we were there last we had a Collard sandwich. I ain’t even gonna talk about it. But next time imma try the porkchop.
    Sherry & jack

    Reply

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