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WCCO Viewers’ Choice For MN’s Best Fried Chicken

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(credit: CBS) Matt Brickman
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a food that’s perfect for any season.

Whether there’s a foot of snow on the ground, or you’re packing for a picnic, fried chicken is usually a good choice.

But who makes the Best of Minnesota?

Your votes sent me to a tiny town near New Ulm to try the chicken at Carl’s Corner.

There’s a reason clichés exist.

And when people say a town is so small, if you blink you’ll miss it. They’re talking about Essig.

Population: 60.

“We’d be lying if we said 60, there’s probably 45,” said Pat Berg, the owner of Carl’s Corner. “And, actually, we just had a family of eight move in a little while ago, and that brought us up a ways.”

But because of Carl’s Corner, people aren’t just driving past.

“If the weather is good, we’re busy,” Berg said. “And yeah, it is that way, last weekend was an example of that. We had people standing outside, you know, trying to get a table. Some of them had to leave, we just didn’t have enough room for ‘em.”

Odds are, most people were lining up for the chicken.

“On a busy night, you know, like I said, if we do 150-200 dinners, three-fourths of them are going to be chicken,” he said.

To hear the owners tell it, they aren’t doing anything special.

“We marinate it overnight for 24 hours, then we dust it up and then we bring it back here and then we throw it in the Broaster. It’s pretty simple,” said Kenny Berg, Pat’s brother and co-owner.

There’s the key: The Broaster. It’s the catalyst of Midwest chicken goodness.

“And this is where the difference is gonna come in,” Kenny Berg said.

The end result looks the same. Crispy golden brown skin on the outside.

“We get some people, some clientele, that come in just for the chicken skin,” Kenny Berg said.

On the inside? Steaming hot chicken that seems juicier and less greasy, than most fried chicken.

“I’m not a big chicken fan,” said one Carl’s Corner customer, “so when I eat chicken, here’s the place I come to eat it.”

But for Essig, it’s more than the chicken. Carl’s is what holds the town together.

“There was a different bar-restaurant on this site and it burned down, and the town was lost without it,” Pat Berg

Carl rebuilt it.

And when Pat Berg took over for him 25 years ago, he and Kenny just tried to keep a good thing going.

“When Carl first started this place way back when, that was kind of what he had, and we stuck with it,” said Kenny Berg. “And we were smart enough not to change anything that he did.”

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