Bojangles vs. the Bear

From the desk of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

There should be a rule for national sports broadcasts that you can’t air commercials for restaurants that aren’t in your market.

I watched Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest on ESPN on a recent evening. One commercial showed a delicious chicken meal. It looked so good I wanted to make note of the restaurant to try it in the future.

The restaurant was Bojangles’ Famous Chicken n’ Biscuits. The closet location to Des Moines is Marion, Illinois, about 7.5 hours southeast.

I won’t be trying that anytime soon unless somebody in my family gets sent to the federal prison there. Even then, it’s a push.

The best fried chicken I ever had in a restaurant was at the Bear in Ankeny. They managed the impossible: a perfectly crisp, flaky skin with the juiciest meat underneath.

I ate at the Bear a lot with my dad when I was young. My mom was sick and spent time in the hospital. My dad would visit my older brothers who lived in Ankeny. They would talk adult things while I devoured the salad.

The side salad impressed me: croutons, purple cabbage, half of a hard-boiled egg and one of those wrinkled, juicy hot peppers. I always gave that to my dad in exchange for his egg.

The fried chicken came in a kids’ portion, but I wanted no part of that. I got a full leg and thigh with a wing and breast.

My mouth waters at the thought of that delicious white meat. It came out so hot you could watch the steam against the dim candlelight on the table.

The fried chicken came with your choice of side. I got steak fries. I think I’m the last person in America who prefers steak fries. More people probably like sweet potato fries than steak fries. But I loved them, slathered in Heinz ketchup that took two years to come out of the bottle.

The Bear was so popular in Ankeny they opened a second one. They called it Bear II. I never went there. It eventually closed, though me not going there was probably not the cause.

The original Bear stayed opened until a few years ago. After I moved back to Des Moines in 2005, I hung out with a group of guys. We called ourselves the Royal Order of Big and Tall Men, Local 47.

We had nicknames. There was the Kid, the youngest; the Slake, the eldest; and Joy Without Pleasure, younger than me, older than the Kid. His nickname was an inside joke. Most of our talk was.

The Slake didn’t eat chicken, but he loved the cavatelli. I think I got the Kid to try the chicken. I don’t remember what J.W.O.P. ate. He was an independent fellow. But it was a grand time, the kind you remember years later even if you can’t recall a thing said.

I have this picture in my mind of the Kid laughing so hard he almost choked on his drink. At least I think it was there. That happened a lot to the Kid in those days.

The Bear closed abruptly a few years back. There were rumors as to why, but nothing lasts forever. I never had that delicious fried chicken again.

And I won’t have this damn Bojangles chicken either, because just like the Bear, it isn’t here. Even if it was, it wouldn’t be as good as the Bear.

But I can at least thank their out-of-market ad for this fond memory.

Daniel P. Finney abides. is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. I’m freshly unemployed and have a big tax bill to pay. All donations are greatly appreciated and needed. Visit

1 Comment

  1. Allison says:

    Having lived down south, I really miss Bojangles. It is every bit as good as the commercial promised. 🙂


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