Charlotte's Famed Price's Chicken Coop Says It Will Close
An iconic Charlotte restaurant says it’s closing its doors after nearly 60 years in business.
Price’s Chicken Coop in South End posted on Facebook on Thursday that its last day would be Saturday, citing rising food costs, a coin shortage and lack of workers.
The business posted that the decision was made “with heavy hearts.”
The lunchtime rush at Price’s Chicken Coop was particularly hectic Thursday after the news of its closing broke. The line was already spilling out of the doors around 11 a.m., and by noon, it stretched down the block and into the street.
Some people took out their phones and snapped selfies with the plain, brick storefront. Others chatted and reminisced with their neighbors in line.
Inside, the store’s owner, Steven Price, was so busy helping his staff take orders, that he barely had time to answer a handful of questions — such as, when did this place open?
"My dad started it in '62," Price said.
And why did he open it?
"Long story," Price said. "Don't have time to go into it."
But wasn't this place named one of the country's best fried chicken joints?
"Some point," Price said. "Somewhere back there."
And finally, why is he closing the place down after nearly 60 years?
"Ah, it's time," Price said. "The neighborhood's changed. It's time."
Price’s opened in 1962 and has been a staple in Charlotte's rapidly changing South End neighborhood near uptown. The restaurant is cash-only, and there’s been a coin shortage since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the appeal of Price's Chicken Coop was that it never was fancy or high-tech. It only ever took cash, and even today, the original menu still hangs over the countertop. Employees joke that the only thing that’s changed are the prices.
“Chicken Coop is the only remnant of what that part of Charlotte used to be, in a sea of flashy, trendy condos,” one fan wrote in response to Price’s announcement.
By 11:30 a.m., a line of customers had already started forming at Price’s.
The restaurant has gotten attention outside of Charlotte, too, being featured in national magazines and television. It picked up rave reviews from the Food Network and Gourmet magazine, and a writer for Bon Appetit once mused that the food was the best in North Carolina, maybe the best in the South — and, therefore, “the best anywhere.”
"There's some soul. I mean, it's love," customer Alex Waring told WFAE in 2013 when one of Price's co-founders died. "I mean, you can get chicken from anywhere, but it's a history, a tradition."
The food attracted customers like Sonny Isenhour. He was waiting in line Thursday to order his favorite — the white meat chicken sandwich.
"I’ve been coming here since I was about 8 years old," he said.
He says his grandmother once owned a shoe store across the street and would take him when he was little, and he feels the way a lot of people do about the pending closure.
"I hate it, because this is the best chicken you’re going to find in the state of North Carolina," he said.
Standing a little farther behind him was Emily Nesbit, who said she’d just learned the news in the morning.
"I’m sad," she said. "It’s been here 59 years, and we’re doing it like once a week and all. I mean it’s just — yeah, it’s really sad."
She was there on a lunch break with her coworker, Miwicke Tolbert, who said he’s been coming to the restaurant since he was 10 years old. He’s now 50, and he says the closure feels like another big loss of Charlotte history.
"It’s just one of the most famous places I knew in Charlotte, you know?" Tolbert said. That was before they had buildings uptown. I’m — lost for words right now. I’m just sad to see them leave."
He said he’ll likely try to visit the restaurant at least once more before it closes for good on Saturday, though the lines could get longer as the day gets nearer.
For now, he’s content to savor his order of crispy fish and shrimp — knowing it could be his last.