Hopocan Gardens – One of the best places to enjoy Barberton Fried Chicken

Why am I so obsessed with Barberton Fried Chicken, people? I can’t explain it, beyond a general love for regional culinary curiosities. But ever since I read about the Northeast Ohio dish on Gastro Obscura, I’ve been on a quest to try every restaurant that offers it, starting with the original, Belgrade Gardens.

And as we return for a second entry: Hopocan Gardens.

Quick primer for those unfamiliar with the style: Barberton, Ohio is called the “Fried Chicken Capital of the World” by fried chicken, a type of fried chicken served by Serbian immigrants in the 1930s. Now known as “Barberton Fried Chicken,” these are whole freshly butchered chickens in brine, left overnight in an egg wash and battered, then fried in lard.

Hopocan was Barberton’s second fried chicken restaurant to open, in 1942 it was first served. It is located at the west end of Hopocan Avenue, technically in neighboring Norton.

To enter the restaurant is to enjoy local history. You will certainly feel like an outsider (but not an unwelcome one) in a place steeped in decades of tradition. Everything is fine, from the clearly long-standing servers to the wood-paneled walls, carpeted floors, and photos on the wall.

The extensive menu includes their signature chicken, but morphs into other favorites like sandwiches, hot wings, fish, chicken chili (which gets double billing with the chicken on the front sign).

Before you order, you will receive some bread on the table.

The order is the signature fried chicken, which you can order as white meat, dark meat, legs, thighs, breast, half chicken, whatever you want.

Chicken dinners can be paired with all kinds of side dishes: French fries, mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, coleslaw, green beans, applesauce. A house favorite is the hot sauce, a tomato and rice stew that’s also served at Belgrade Gardens.

Last time we went for dinner, and although the restaurant was quiet when we arrived, the dining room soon filled up, with a steady stream of takeout orders also coming out the door.

As we were leaving, another customer saw me taking pictures of the signage and insisted on taking a picture of me next to the chicken. We chatted a bit and I learned that she and her husband grew up in the area. He said he loved Hopocan better, but his family grew up going to Belgrade Gardens, so that was his preference.

If you’re ever passing through the Barberton area, I highly recommend detouring for lunch or dinner at one of these places. It’s a wonderful bit of local flavor, and it’s hard to argue with a fried chicken dish.

Hopocan Gardens
4396 W. Hopocan Ave. Ext
Norton, OH 44203
(330) 825-9923

Website: hopocangardens.com
FB: DeVore’s Hopocan Gardens

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