Every Friday through the end of 2018, the Rant will feature a dish that stands out among Lee County’s restaurant scene. We’ll usually focus on lunch, but there aren’t any rules – we just want to let you know (if you don’t already) about the many dining options we have that are owned and operated by people right here in Lee County. Today we’re giving you almost a full week’s notice about the pan fried chicken special at Mrs. Wenger’s, which only comes around about once each month.

Mrs. Wenger’s Restaurant has been serving downtown Sanford for the better part of a century now. The establishment has been in the same family since 1965 and you’d probably be safe making a bet that the recipes haven’t changed much, if at all, in all those years. And that’s fine, because they don’t need to. The home cooking offered at Mrs. Wenger’s isn’t pretentious – whether it’s their traditional breakfast offerings, their roster of sandwiches, or their daily lunch specials, what you see is what you get. And what you get is pretty much always delicious. We’re focusing today on one of those lunch specials, and while we’ve never chatted up the staff to find out of if the pan fried chicken schedule is set in stone, we’ve noticed in recent years that it seems to only show up on the specials menu every four weeks or so. It’s available next on Thursday, Sept. 13. Make your plans now.

THE DISH: The pan fried chicken special ($8, with a drink, two veggies and your choice of bread) isn’t the on-the-bone variety you’re probably more familiar with (although Wenger’s has a more than serviceable version of that available on a daily basis). Instead, it’s a boneless, skinless breast breaded and fried to perfection. Don’t be afraid of boneless and skinless meaning flavorless – it’s perfectly tender on its own, and the heaping coat of viscous white gravy means an added depth of flavor that in no way soggies up the chicken’s crispy coating. Your choices on the vegetable front include fried okra, greens, mac and cheese, and any number of other delicious southern sides. A word to the wise – on pan fried chicken day, don’t go showing up late in the lunch hour expecting there to be lots left. They only make so many, and when they’re gone they’re gone. Show up at a civilized hour and you’ll be fine.

WHAT ELSE TO TRY: Wenger’s serves breakfast until 11, and the whole menu is good (we can’t vouch for the pork brains, but they’re still selling ’em, so someone must know something we don’t). But if you’re there for lunch, the daily specials are the best place to start. Some of them are available most, or at least multiple days of the week – the on the bone fried chicken we already mentioned, the hamburger steak with brown gravy – and others show up on specific days (salmon patties on Wednesdays, catfish or chicken wings on Fridays). Others, like the pork snitzel – a pounded thin fried pork cutlet – are as elusive as the pan fried chicken, but just as good. Whichever you choose, you’ll get a lot of food for your $8. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the restaurant’s homemade desserts will more than appeal to you.

Mrs. Wenger’s Restaurant is open from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 5:30 to 11 a.m. They can be reached at (919) 776-2131. Visit their Facebook page – where they post their monthly special menu – here.

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