If you’re from the South, you most likely know O’Charley’s. And whether no weekend is complete without their $20.99 16-ounce prime rib, or if you’ve only had the chicken fingers and rolls, we bet there’s a lot you didn’t know about this popular chain.
O’Charley’s was founded in 1971 by a 47-year-old former Marine Corps major named Charles Watkins, Jr. The first location was opened on 21st Avenue South in Nashville, Tennessee, across the street from Vanderbilt University. Watkins sold O’Charley’s in 1984, and over the years the company has passed through a handful of owners, with varying degrees of aggressiveness in the expansion plan. Today it’s owned by Fortune 500 company Fidelity National Financial under the umbrella of American Blue Ribbon Holdings, which also owns smaller chains such as 99 Restaurant & Pub, Village Inn, and Bakers Square. There are 213 locations throughout the country, all of them in Southern and Midwestern states.
O’Charley’s may not inspire the cultish devotion of other Southern-based chains like Cracker Barrel and Waffle House, but the chain has still staked its claim as a generally dependable destination for Southern-inspired fare, brunch, and pie. It offers a surprisingly expansive menu, with new items being added all the time. Favorites include chicken fingers, tater tot fondue, fried pickles, potato soup, prime rib, chicken pot pie, and Southern fried chicken. If you haven’t visited in a while, you might be surprised to learn that new menu additions include fried green tomatoes, bananas foster French toast, and a Nashville hot chicken sandwich.
It’s obvious that the chain is making strides to embrace its Southern heritage: Since American Blue Ribbon Holdings purchased it in 2012, it’s been working hard to bring it into the twenty-first century, renovating nearly every location and revitalizing the menu.
Have you visited one of the renovated locations? Let us know about your experience in the comments, and read on for 10 things you didn’t know about O’Charley’s.