Food is a big deal where we live, people.

And by that I mean it’s a Big Honking Deal.

Eating out is the distraction of choice for most of the county on Friday and Saturday nights, and the lines for Sunday brunch are nothing to sneeze at either.  When the entire country slumped into a (whisper) recession, folks around here were still hitting the restaurants full steam ahead.  Come hell or high water, these folks are getting their eat on.

Now, we’re kind of a small town.  We have a few nice restaurants, yes, as well as a number of chain restaurants.  We also have a boatload of fast food joints so you can always get your grease fix.  When I really think about it we seem to have more eating establishments per square mile than is logical for an area with our population.  (I guess the secret’s out about that food thing.)

Due to this food fixation, when a new restaurant opens in town (and by “town” I mean “anywhere within reasonable driving distance”) it gets swamped.  Like crazy.  Last month an upscale-ish burger joint opened near the BJ’s and there were cars lined up into the road for a week.  A week.  And don’t even get me started on people pulling their dumb ass cars across my lane to enter a completely full parking lot that is backed up to the road.  Then they sit there, staring at the car stopped in front of them as if the very force of their gaze will make the line move, while studiously avoiding any eye contact with the crazy lady glaring at them with loathing.

Maybe I just needed a burger and shake, I don’t know.  But it really pissed me off.

At any rate, the kids have been watching a Burger King renovate into a Popeyes on our route home for over two months now, and they paid an inordinate amount of attention to the contractors’ progress.  There was a whole lot of talk from Bear about how much she wanted to try it once they were finished (she would be the other fast food addict in the family – that’s right, I own my problem) and I could tell she was counting down the days.

So guess what opened this week?  That’s right – the Popeyes.

Interestingly enough, the first clue wasn’t the giant banner hanging out front saying “Now Open.”  It was the traffic jam in the parking lot, complete with two police officers and two employees attempting to direct traffic.  Sweet Jesus in heaven, what do they sell in that place that would attract half the county for lunch?  Gold dipped chicken?

Please note:  I’ve had no contact with the Popeyes corporation whatsoever.  What follows is purely my own opinion and in no way an endorsement or condemnation of this restaurant.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that Bear’s first reaction was, “Oooo, it’s open!  I want to go!!”  I took one look at those cars and said we’d go when it calmed down.  There was no way I was fighting my way through those crowds, I didn’t care what they served.

Except…T-man has been in basketball camp all this week, so Bear and I have been spending “quality girl time” together.  This involved a great deal of shopping on day one – ironically, this was also the day that I learned a lot of people with our company credit card had fraudulent charges popping up on them so I shot BrightSide an e-mail to check our account.  He replied that things looked fine along with a comment of “Payless, Target, Chic-fil-a, and PetSmart today.  You’ve been busy!”  Ummmm, yeah.

I kept us in on day two by promising a “girls lunch” on day three.  Two guesses where Bear wanted to eat (and you won’t need the second one).  Popeyes, here we come.

Having seen the crazy parking lot situation for a few days, we decided to go for an early lunch and headed over just before 11:30 am.  It turns out they open at 10:30, though, so by the time we arrived there were literally four open parking spaces left.  Really?!

The inside of the restaurant was no less shocking.  There were people everywhere – people placing orders, lots of people waiting for their food, people seated and eating…it was a lot to take in at 11:30 in the morning.  On the up side, there would have been a whole lot more to take in at noon.  (See, BrightSide?  There’s the glass half full attitude.)

The other interesting facet of this outing was my total lack of knowledge about the Popeyes menu.  I kind of figured chicken, but beyond that?  Not a clue.

Turns out the sign out front might as well read “Popeyes – Chicken, Shrimp, and Anything Else You Can Drop into a Deep Fryer.”

By the time Bear and I took off, the police officers had arrived to try to prevent parking lot fender benders.  (Or maybe parking lot road rage.  Who knows how passionate those people get about their fried chicken?)  So after relinquishing my parking space and carefully creeping past the double stacked drive-through line, I managed to inch out of the lot as three more cars entered.

It was quite a girls lunch, though I don’t think my cholesterol levels would tolerate a return visit anytime soon.

As for now, I’m placing bets on exactly how long those police officers will be out there.