Good to Go: The Comfort We Need From Bubba’s Cooks Country Drive-Thru

The combo No. 3 (left) and an order of fried chicken tenders at Bubba's Cooks Country. The long-standing diner is drive-thru and curbside pickup only right now.EXPAND
The combo No. 3 (left) and an order of fried chicken tenders at Bubba's Cooks Country. The long-standing diner is drive-thru and curbside pickup only right now.
Nick Rallo
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Good to Go is a column where our food writers explore Dallas’ restaurant scene through takeout orders, delivery boxes and reheated leftovers.

There are two sheets of paper taped on the window in the drive-thru at Bubba’s Cooks Country. It’s a typewritten note from the owners. It’s longer than you might have time for in between handing over your credit card and getting the sack of food. It begins like this:

“We imagine that each of you have many different thoughts, concerns, fears swirling around in your minds, just as we do.”

The note continues on to detail what the staff at Bubba’s is doing day to day to clean things neatly and safely — they’re sanitizing counters and napkin holders, and condiments will be individually wrapped and by request only (butter and honey packets, like always, come in a plastic baggie).

When the window cracks open, revealing a cloud of steamy heat from yeast rolls and the warm, fried-crust smell of battered chicken, you can see everyone in the diner is wearing gloves and masks.

Next year will mark Bubba’s 40th anniversary as a fried chicken diner — a relic where you can sit in an art deco-style cafeteria and pop deep-fried chicken livers (extra cream gravy please!) — and it’s never been more important to pull into their snug drive-thru lane.

The line’s empty, but it won’t be for long: Cars rack up as soon as they can at lunchtime. On this visit, it’s a cruelly gemstone-blue sky — too wonderful and warm during this global pandemic when business owners and their staff are suffering. The cars work through the drive-thru lane; there’s a note of comfort in seeing their 40-year-old menu, a local reprieve from the soulless fast food, as you drive.

It’s a good time to return to the old stuff — the stuff that’s weathered storms and has the dings from the years. Fried chicken tenders, squiggled with gold batter, fried okra and green beans make for essential Dallas drive-thru cuisine.

Order the regular, mega-size tenders meal for 12 bucks and change — it’s still one of the best fast-food deals in the city. The combo No. 3, a pile of thigh, leg and bone-in breast with two sides and a hot roll is diner-fried chicken nostalgia.

In the morning, Bubba's bacon, egg and cheese on a velvety-with-Crisco-inside, crusty-on-the-outside buttered biscuit has been wholly underlooked as a fast-food staple. Crunchy bacon melds into the soft ribbon of egg, which all fuses into sticky American cheese. It’s better now; comfort food, the locally-born kind, has a new meaning now. It has a new importance.

Bubba's staff bustles behind the slim window, filling orders as quickly as ever. Curbside delivery is available for now. The best way to ensure that it stays that way is to make the quick trip, order and pick up. Individual pats of butter (the kind that look like Andes mints) are warm from the fried-chicken steam.

On their website, a banner runs along the top that links to CDC guidelines and symptom indicators. The note on the window ends with a request for prayer. At 40 years old, it’s not the same old times at Bubba’s, but the food remains a kind of fried solace.

Bubba's Cooks Country, 6617 Hillcrest Ave. (University Park). Drive-thru and curbside pickup are available.

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