Another Take Out: Alternative Fast Food Outlets to the Totalitarian Multinational Offerings

Other eateries are available – and lovingly recommended by Feast of the M60

20 to 30 years ago, a trip to McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Wimpy would have been quite a novelty. The then big three of the 1980s would soon become two, as Wimpy lost town centre branches. By the start of the noughties, the new third force in take out food became Subway.

There’s every chance you may be reading this over a Big Mac, a Tower Burger, or a Meatball Marinara, but the aforementioned three aren’t the only places in town. Just because there’s more of them than other imitators, is down to greater brand awareness. How many KFC or McDonalds adverts do you see on ITV compared with your local favourite? Then there’s pester power thanks to the above. The local favourite having fewer branches doesn’t necessarily mean they are inferior.

In the last two years, the tide seems to be turning towards the local favourites. A Channel Four documentary on the rise of fried chicken shops (focusing on one in Clapham) demonstrated one aspect of its rise: a more adventurous paying public whom are straying from the established order of fast food eateries. This is not only true of fried chicken shops, but also independent coffee shops, bakeries and public houses – be it fast food, ground coffee or cask conditioned ales.

For the purpose of this post, Feast of the M60 will consider each alternative by food and drink type. As ever, examples of each branch or branches denote those local to East of the M60‘s coverage area. Before you read, save me some Peri Peri wings or a pint of real ale.

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Fried Chicken:

  • Brand Leader: KFC;
  • Examples of Alternative Brands/Outlets: Kansas Fried Chicken, Allen’s Fried Chicken, Chunky Chicken, Dixy Fried Chicken, Chicken Cottage.

Two generations ago, chicken was a luxury meat for most Britons. Today, it is Britain’s most popular meat, whether served with Yorkshire Pudding and two vegetables, spiced with Peri Peri, or part of a curry. Owing to its affordability and speed, fried chicken is up with fish and chips as the average Briton’s favoured takeaway. In 1965, the founder of Allen’s Fried Chicken opened Kentucky Fried Chicken’s first UK branch in Preston, Lancashire. Since then, there has been numerous imitators and no shortage of American states to suffix with ‘Fried Chicken’. In Stalybridge, there’s ‘Krunchy Fried Chicken’, one of a small local chain’s network of shops. In Hyde, there’s ‘Chicken Hut’, and Ashton-under-Lyne once had a branch of McTuckys.

If you like your fried chicken, I fully recommend taking a trip to Oldham. The amount of fried chicken shops dotted around Union Street and Yorkshire Street is sensory overload for fried chickenophiles. There’s Kansas, Georgia, Florida and Montana fried chicken shops, as well as Chicken Cottage. The town’s most recent outlet, Georgia Fried Chicken, occupies the ground floor of the former Star Inn, and is akin to an American diner in ambience.

Georgia Fried Chicken is perfectly placed for Oldham College, bus and tram enthusiasts and bingo players as well as the short walk up George Street to Spindles. Their fried chicken is worth a try though a little on the salty. I also recommend the Tower Burger, which has a fillet chicken piece, lettuce and onion rings.

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Peri Peri Chicken:

  • Brand Leader: Nandos;
  • Examples of Alternative Brands/Outlets: Chunky Chicken.

The last decade has seen Peri Peri Chicken tickle our palettes in a big way. Most of which, throughout the UK, could be attributed to the rise of Nandos, on out of town retail parks or large towns. Whereas Nandos favoured dining indoors, this left a gap in the market for customers wishing to take out. By 2005, this was addressed by Rochdale’s Chunky Chicken.

Their principle, ‘only give to your customers what you would give to yourself’, eschews the impersonal approach of larger competitors, with emphasis on rigorous quality control. Since its beginnings outside the centre of Rochdale, it has expanded as a regional player with franchisees throughout the North West and Yorkshire. There are also branches in Nottingham, Birmingham and Glasgow, and another spin-off: Chunky Diner. The Chunky Diner format aims towards Nandos’ market. As well as fried chicken, it was Chunky Chicken’s Peri Peri Burger which put the company on the map, along with boneless Peri Peri platters. All meat served throughout Chunky Chicken’s franchisees and the Rochdale shop is Halal.

Some people have rated Chunky Chicken’s offerings higher than Nandos, and I can testify myself having enjoyed a boneless Peri Peri Chicken platter. Its explosion of spiciness, fresh salad and coleslaw made for a satisfying dish. One which I found went well with a can of Irn Bru on my visit.

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Pizza:

  • Brand Leaders: Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza, Pizza Express;
  • Examples of Alternative Brands/Outlets: Pizza Pan, Rajah’s.

Pizza, along with fried chicken is another popular takeaway option. As well as dedicated pizza takeaway outlets, a great number of independently owned takeaways include pizza along with other options (q.v. Chunky Chicken). Along with fried chicken, it is good for sharing among friends and family – especially if you cannot be bothered to switch the microwave or cooker on, nor do any washing up.

There seems to be three types of pizza outlet: one’s the proletarian takeaway; the other’s akin to a bog standard café or chain pub; and the third is one with sumptuous interiors, subdued lighting and equally sumptuous prices to match (though respectable among polite society). But it doesn’t have to be this way, given that neither Pizza Hut nor Pizza Express is likely to have Sky Sports on during a big match. Thank heavens for online delivery then!

Our area has a wealth of local favourites who major in pizza. Stalybridge’s Pizza Pan is part of a small local chain with outlets in South Manchester. If you’re looking for anything different to the norm, I heartily recommend Raja’s Meat Supreme pizza. Not a million miles away from the chicken shops described earlier, Raja’s is also on Union Street, Oldham. Their Meat Supreme pizza is lightly spiced with lashings of Keema, red chilli, sweetcorn, peppers, tomato sauce and Mozzarella cheese. All pizzas are freshly made and of the deep pan variety.

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Sandwiches:

  • Brand Leaders: Subway, Pret a Manger, Greggs, Pound Bakery;
  • Examples of Alternative Brands/Outlets: Bap, Sandwich Pound, The Tripe and Sandwich Shop.

Though Subway are pushing for global domination through Sandwich Inquisitions and meatballs, the sandwich market has a mix of local players at one end, supermarkets at another, and chain store bakeries at the other. As with multinational fast food chains, a Greggs sandwich or superstore sandwich of some description in Salisbury would taste the same as a Stopfordian sarnie from the same places.

Thankfully, Stockport has two very very good rivals to some of our brand leaders in the 12.30 Sandwich Stakes. If you like your butties Subway style, Bap on Merseyway precinct is worth a visit. Specialities include the Bap Burner, which has a medley of chillies, peppers and onions. They can also toast your sandwich and – Subway style – even have a Sandwich Inquisition of their own! Unlike Subway, they are cheaper. Bap also has a second branch on George Street, Altrincham.

Next door to Bap on Merseyway is Sandwich Pound, a rival to Pound Bakery. They offer a more varied range of sandwiches and rolls. Their Salsa style sausage sub roll is well worth trying! Their second branch is a popular outdoor unit in Ashton-under-Lyne’s Arcades Shopping Centre, also ideal for bus spotters.

If a traditional ham or cheese salad is more your forte, I fully recommend The Tripe and Sandwich Shop on Melbourne Street, Stalybridge. Besides being the only remaining dedicated tripe shop in the United Kingdom, they do hot and cold sandwiches, served on sub style rolls or oven bottom muffins. Price wise, always cheap, but the ham salad is out of this world and probably the best one east of our often congested orbital motorway. If you’re in Stalybridge and fancy a picnic in Cheetham’s Park or along the side of its canal, call in the Tripe and Sandwich Shop. Without hesitation.

If you prefer a Sunday afternoon breakfast butty, you cannot go far wrong with Wilberrys on High Street, Uppermill. Their jumbo muffins seem to have half a pig on them as a towering mass of bacon, sausage and fried egg makes for difficult eating (best enjoyed inside the café with a knife and fork). After a walk along Saddleworth, or post-hangover, one of their bacon, sausage and egg muffins is best enjoyed with a mug of Yorkshire Tea (and you do get a choice of tea to choose from)! Sauce is a no-no, it ruins the whole experience.

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Pies:

  • Brand Leaders: Greggs, Pound Bakery;
  • Examples of Alternative Brands/Outlets: Bradley’s Bakery, Greenwood’s, Carr’s The Bakers, The Chicken Barbecue.

The North of England is a happy hunting ground for decent pies with enough places being formidable alternatives to nationwide offerings.

For the best pork pies anywhere east of the M60 motorway, Bradley’s Bakery is a 231, 331 or 333 bus away from Ashton town centre. Their shop on Kings Road, Hurst, offers pork pies with black pudding and chilli as well as the traditional pork pie. Steak and Cowheel, and meat and potato pies are also available. They also offer a good range of sandwiches and cakes.

Once more, on the same three buses out of Ashton, is Carr’s The Bakers on Mossley Road. They have a second branch, a 387 or 389 away on Springs Lane, Stalybridge. Their meat and potato pies are always a joy to devour, and have for the last 12 years, the meat and potato pie of choice for Stalybridge Celtic AFC. Carr’s pies are also available at Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar, in steak form as well, served with black peas or mushy peas and gravy.

Also in Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne, the Chicken Barbecue’s pies are well worth trying, particularly the peppered steak ones. Formerly sold in the Toby Jug Chicken Barbecue shop on Market Avenue, their pies are flat with a pronounced funnel, and akin to saucers. As for flavour, tons. On the site of the former Toby Jug shop, Trifles’ Chicken Tikka pie is well worth considering.

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Bakery products:

  • Brand Leaders: Greggs, Pound Bakery;
  • Examples of Alternative Brands/Outlets: Greenwoods, Taylors, Greenhalgh’s, Carr’s The Bakers.

Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside is good independent bakery territory. Ashton-under-Lyne is hailed as the birthplace of the Oven Bottom Muffin, which enhances many a sandwich with the right balance of salad and meat or cheese.

For tarts, cakes and buns, Greenwoods (Vulcan Street, Derker and Tommyfield Market), and Taylors (Ripponden Road, Watersheddings) are an 83 bus ride away from Oldham town centre. As for the Tameside area, need I say more with Bradley’s Bakery and Carr’s The Bakers. Instead of finding ‘mass produced’ oven bottom muffins in your local superstore, the Tripe and Sandwich Shop in Stalybridge, Hyde Market Hall, and The Pantry (Ashton-under-Lyne Market Hall) are the best sources for Real Oven Bottoms.

If you’re on a budget and prefer to make your own butties for work, don’t skimp on the oven bottom muffins. I prefer the flatter ones with a burnt halo and a defined crust as sold at The Pantry. Their consistency is better if you wish to add salad or tuna onto your muffin.

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Coffee:

  • Brand Leaders: Starbucks Coffee, Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero, Rhode Island Coffee;
  • Examples of Alternative Brands/Outlets: Shubar Café, The Mcr Coffee Company, Sorrento’s Café, Wright’s Café Central.

A Conservative leaning Twitterer said to me that some time in the future, we will all be selling coffee to each other. Two years on, it seems as if you’re never far from a coffee shop, or a coffee machine which does lattes and mochas at a premium price. For me, they’re a good addition, especially between public transport connections, but they seem to be a muchness. You can now get a Costabucks coffee of some description at your local chain store chemist or petrol station, but a lot of local outlets can hold their own against national and multinational chains.

Ashton-under-Lyne has no shortage of commendable alternatives. I heartily recommend the Americano at Sorrento’s Café on Market Avenue, which goes well with a Mamma Mia! breakfast. If you’re looking for a good latte and Costabucks style ambience without the expense, Wright’s Café Central is a good alternative to the nearby Costa Coffee in the Ladysmith Centre. They also do traditional English breakfasts (beat that Costabucks!) as well as the usual cakes, pastries and biscuits. On Old Street, the upstairs café in Shubar is worth a visit, and their latte’s splendid (the prices are also agreeable).

If you prefer something more Bohemian, The Mcr Coffee Company is well worth calling in. Situated in the Northern Quarter on Oldham Street, it occupies a former Coffee Republic unit. As Manchester prices go, very reasonable, and the coffee compares well – or surpasses – the major chains. It is well placed for local bus termini and ideal for coffee loving bus spotters. Particularly those who love vintage clothing, analogue photography or other creative pursuits and obscure records.

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Honourable Mentions:

This of course is only a small number of alternatives to the chain stores, therefore as ever, you may have your own favourites. You may agree with most of the choices stated above, be craving a Halal pizza on the strength of this article, or finding a suitable chicken shop. As ever, feel free to add to the list or elaborate on the examples seen above.

S.V., 25 February 2013.

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7 thoughts on “Another Take Out: Alternative Fast Food Outlets to the Totalitarian Multinational Offerings

Add yours

  1. Great article Stuart! But I *must* add for coffee….(Well you KNEW that I would…) BUY OROMO COFFEE CO coffee! By doing this you are helping a local community in Greater Manchester! http://www.oromocoffee.org AND if you want a really good and informed debate on coffee as a commodity (a tool for empowerment AND for ripping off poor producers further..) http://www.blackgoldfoundation.org

    FINALLY – Ashton u Lyne’s ‘hidden gem’….is Coffee Lounge (in Church of Nazarene building) bottom of Stamford Street.Open Thursday and Fridays only and Sunday tea time – this place ROCKS! It is a social enterprise and therefore prices are excellent! It is led by one Violet Fawcett whom you and I know very well. They are trained at barista (and latte art) and for me it is by far the best place – independent and FAIR ENTERPRISE – in Tameside!

    Go see….Go sample!!

    Like

    1. Hi Tina,

      I couldn’t think what the proper name for the coffee shop in the Church of Nazarene was, otherwise I would have featured it in great detail. It is a GREAT place, not only in terms of the coffee, but also the prices, its cakes and the more laid back atmosphere. (For the benefit of anyone reading this post, it is a short walk from Ashton bus and rail stations, near the Lidi store, HSBC and RBS banks. The 41, 330, 335 and 345 buses stop near there, behind the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Ashton branch.)

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

      Like

  2. One of my Stockport (and other branches in South Manchester) is Martins. Their sandwiches are always fresh with some innovative fillings and their vanilla slices are out of this world!

    Like

  3. Hi Dave,

    Good shout for Martins. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve passed my local branch (King Street, Dukinfield), or the one on Ashton Old Road. I’ve had them on my ‘must visit’ list for some time if I’m frequenting South Manchester, though yet to call in one of their shops.

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

    Like

  4. Pound sandwich in Mersey Square Stockport is indeed very good – if you want a cup tea made with leaves instead of tebags try the new Lady Lavender by the market ground entrance to Clarendon Square in Hyde – their toasted teacakes are good too.

    Like

    1. Hi Gerald,

      Seconded on Sandwich Pound in Stockport. Their butties are always fresh, equalling or surpassing more expensive counterparts. I’ve yet to do the new Lady Lavender place though.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      Like

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