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He highly recommeds the Sports Club chicken dinner

Jim Hammack celebrated his 46th birthday by having a chicken dinner with a group of friends at Bob Smith's Sports Club.

It was his 300th chicken dinner at the downtown Hudson cocktail lounge and restaurant since he and his wife, Renee, moved here three years ago.

"I highly recommend the chicken. You can't beat it," Hammack said of the Sports Club entrée.

"Jim's never met a chicken he didn't love," offered Hammack's friend Greg Reynolds, sitting next to him at a table in the restaurant's back dining room.

Hammack had just polished off half a broasted chicken, served with mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw and a baking powder biscuit. He wore a grin of satisfaction.

"You'll know it when you eat it," he said when asked to describe a properly prepared chicken.

"Without question, the food is always consistent and the service is fantastic (at the Sports Club)," he said. "The food is just always great. You know what to expect when you come here."

Hammack said he was genetically predisposed to have an appetite for chicken. And he was raised on southern fried chicken growing up in Charleston, S.C.

"It isn't fried," he said of the Sports Club's broasted chicken, "but if it's done nicely, it's unimportant."

When he and Renee moved here from Hutchinson, Minn., in May 2009, they visited every restaurant in town and settled on the Sports Club as the best.

"Nothing compares to the chicken here. Period. Hands down," Hammack said.

He kept a count of every single chicken dinner he had, Hammack said, so he's sure last Thursday's was the 300th.

"He kept us all up to date," added Sport Club co-owner Cindy Smith.

Visiting the Sports Club an average of two times a week for dinner, the Hammacks have made friends at the establishment. They're members of the club's pool team and have traveled to out-of-town tournaments with the group.

Their friends turned out for the birthday party and to witness Jim eat his 300th Sports Club chicken dinner. A lot of good-natured kidding about his love for chicken was directed his way.

"They all have a little bit of fun with it," he said.

The club runs a $7.50 chicken dinner special on Thursdays.

"You can't beat the value," Hammack said.

Hammack is a quality technician for a Twin Cities medical device company. Renee is a local optician and works part-time at the Sports Club.

The club has been a fixture at the corner of Second and Locust streets since Bob Smith opened it 54 years ago.

It is now owned and operated by Bob's son Dana Smith and Cindy, Dana's sister-in-law.

Randy Hanson is a reporter for the Hudson Star-Observer.