The remarkable story of the Jewish woman behind Golden Fried Chicken Loaf

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Harley Hammerman, Special For The Jewish Light

Have you ever wondered what happened to that restaurant you once loved and have memories of dining at with your family and friends? We did! There is an amazing website called Lost Tables, dedicated to celebrating the restaurants of our past. We are partnering with the site’s creator Harley Hammerman and celebrating these wonderful stories. Hammerman and his wife Marlene are members of Shaare Emeth.


Mina Frieda Wolf was born in Baden, Germany in 1902, the daughter of Theodore and Mina Katharina Wolf. She immigrated to the United States in 1903, and by 1910 was living with her parents in St. Louis. At the age of 19, she married Virgil Bratton, who was working as a tailor.

Virgil Bratton would die of pneumonia in September of 1943.

Golden Fried Chicken Loaf Begins

The Globe-Democrat article describes Bratton’s transformation from stenographer to restaurateur.

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Miss Bratton was a stenographer and worried about prolonged seasonal variations. Although she was only in her late 20s, she had been speculating for some time about making an occupational change, as stenography did not seem to offer much for the future either in security or financial return.

A friend returning from Chicago told with such enthusiasm of a fried chicken loaf he had eaten there that she became interested. The tales of the savory fried chicken loaf intrigued her fancy enough to induce her to make a special trip to Chicago to see and taste for herself. And that was the end for her of stenography, with its dull pothooks and typing. She had found a new career.

The article goes on to recount the opening of Bratton’s initial fried chicken restaurant.

With $800 and nothing else but a lot of enthusiasm and energy, she opened her first fried chicken loaf establishment on DeBaliviere avenue in June, 1933. It was a true shoestring venture, only the shoestring was a frying pan.

“I put all of my $800 directly into advertising, transferred my telephone to my new address and without spending another cent, except $25 for some additional pots and pans to add to my kitchen equipment, I opened for business,” she relates. “It was a one-woman enterprise, as I started out doing all the work of killing, dressing and frying the chickens with only the help of a boy who delivered the orders.”

Moving Around

Bratton’s “fried chicken loaf establishment” – Golden Fried Chicken Loaf – opened at 748 Hamilton Avenue (not DeBaliviere) in June of 1933. But it wasn’t a “one-woman enterprise.”

Golden Fried Chicken Loaf quickly outgrew its Hamilton location. On August 25, 1933, the St. Louis Star and Times reported a storeroom at 5631 Delmar had been leased “to the Golden Fried Chicken Loaf Co. of which E. R. Pratte is principle.”

Whether it was Bratton or Pratte who brought the fried chicken loaf to St. Louis, the concept was a success. After moving to 5631 Delmar on September 2, 1933, Bratton moved her restaurant to a still larger space at 5867 Delmar in early 1935.

Delivery Only

Bratton’s “fried chicken loaf” was a chicken weighing exactly two pounds, cut in exactly 14 pieces, fried exactly seven minutes in deep vegetable oil at exactly 375 degrees and then packed between the halves of a special French loaf of bread, toasted exactly so many minutes. Wrapped and boxed, it was rushed to the customer piping hot.

In the beginning, Bratton offered only delivery service. In 10 minutes flat, after an order was received by phone, freshly fried chicken was on its way to the customer. From one to half a dozen chickens made up the usual order, although once Bratton fried 2000 chickens for a school picnic. Eventually, Golden Fried Chicken Loaf added sit-down restaurant and carry-out service – and did away with deliveries.

After her first husband died, Mina Bratton married Omar Gerald Evans. The couple had two children, Omar Gerald Jr. and Mina Annabelle, who worked at the restaurant on weekends when they were older and in the summer when they were home from college.

In 1947, Mina Evans remodeled her restaurant, expanding into the adjacent property at 5865 Delmar. Seating capacity increased to 165 diners, with a large private dining room for meetings and parties.

Mina Evans’ Golden Fried Chicken Loaf thrived throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Charles Dohogne had vivid memories of his boss.

The owner/boss was a middle-aged Jewish lady. I’m sure she had a conversational voice, but none of us ever heard it, more something between a scream and an imperative bellow. The kitchen was not kosher, but many of the rules were in place, mostly cleanliness. She would have made a health inspector take a shower before he could come into her kitchen.

She checked my dishwashing machine at least ten times a day, and that rinse had better be set just at boiling. Or I caught hell. The least trace of lipstick on a cup was a capital offense! Every piece of china had to be hand-scraped, hard spray rinsed, and put into the machine.

I have painted the boss as an ogre, and she was, but things got done HER way. I worked twelve-hour shifts on the weekends. She was there when I started and there when I left, so she was as hard on herself as anyone else, and we did have a lot of very happy, repeat customers.

Click here to read the entire story of Golden Fried Chicken Loaf’s history on LostTable.com