ESSIG-For years, Brown County residents have called the fried chicken served at Carl's Corner the best.
Last week this claim became official when the small town diner was awarded WCCO Viewers' Choice for Minnesota's Best Fried Chicken.
Carl's Corner was among several nominees for the coveted title, and after a few rounds, of voting their chicken received the most votes.
Staff photo by Clay Schmidt
The co-owners of Carl’s Corner in Essig, brothers Pat and Kenny Berg, were informed that the small town diner was awarded WCCO Viewers’ Choice for Minnesota’s Best Fried Chicken.
The co-owners of Carl's Corner, brothers Pat and Kenny Berg, were informed of the news last Wednesday, and since then business has skyrocketed.
"This has been a lot bigger deal than I thought it would be," Pat Berg admitted.
To keep up with demand, the restaurant had to double its normal supply of chicken. During the noon lunch rush, the restaurant serves around 30 customers, which is impressive, considering Essig's population is a little more than 50 people total.
In a sense, the chicken at Carl's Corner has literally put Essig on the map. Pat Berg commented that in the last week, many people interested in trying the best fried chicken in the state have been unable to locate Essig the map. Even a few GPS systems have incorrectly placed Carl's Corner in New Ulm. This error has since been corrected.
"Two woman drove down here from Bemidji just for the chicken," said Berg. "I asked if they planned on going to any of the stores in New Ulm, but they plan to drive straight back."
Customers from the Metro area have been common over the last week. Berg stated the customers from the Twin Cities were easy to spot, as they tended to be astonished by the low prices.
"I see people taking photos of their bills. They cannot believe a chicken dinner only costs $7."
Berg warned that prior to receiving the award, he and his brother had intended to change some of the menu due to increased expenses.
"I know some people are going to say it is due to the award, but this was a long time coming."
As to the secret to their success, the Berg brothers have no qualms about divulging how the chicken is prepared. The chicken is marinated for 24 hours, dusted up and thrown in the broaster to be pressure fried. What makes the chicken special at Carl's Corner is the service and clientele.
In addition, all the chicken is served extremely fresh, since Carl's Corner can always count on a steady stream of regular customers.
For the Bergs, the only downside to the increased business is that many of the regular customers have been unable to get a table. The Bergs credit their loyal customers as the real reason their chicken was voted number one. It is a type of loyalty only seen in small towns.
The award given by WCCO is currently displayed behind the bar. In the last week, several regular patrons have asked to have their photo taken with the award. These photos are sent to family and friends who have since moved away from Essig, but fondly remember Carl's Corner. It is a point of pride of the small community.
The locals have long know Carl's Corner had the best chicken, but now all of Minnesota knows it too.