Forget Chick-fil-A: Here’s the only chicken sandwich you need


by Eric Ginsburg

It’s quite possible that no human has ever held a hambone quite as triumphantly as the mascot for TJ’s Deli, a flying rooster resplendent in a cape, Superman-esque underoos, matching gloves, bulging and muscular arms, a ham raised high overhead and a slight, knowing smirk.

The front page of the deli’s menu trumpets the Super Cham more explicitly than its own name, making no mention of any food items — those are inside — save for the signature dish.

The business knows what it’s doing though; it’s been operating longer than I’ve been alive, and runs two locations in Winston-Salem. The regulars at this institution all have their favorites, no doubt, but I’m willing to wager that most first-timers go for some version of the Cham.

The classic Cham
The classic Cham

The classic Cham (which is apparently trademarked, according to the menu) consists of a tender chicken breast, buttermilk battered and deep-fried, with ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a burger bun. The sandwich comes wrapped in wax paper, like a steaming gift with chicken poking out from between the buns.

There are four versions of the Cham — get it, “chicken” and “ham” put together? — the classic, the Super Cham with an extra large chicken portion and a buffalo variety of each where the chicken is dipped in wing sauce and bleu cheese is subbed for the mayo.

The Super Cham
The Super Cham

Which of the four to pick is a matter of personal preference; when I showed up with three other first-timers, one friend ordered the classic and another the buffalo Cham while I went for the Super. Another fellow newcomer opted for the smoked turkey, one of many other options, and a return customer who recommended we come — and who specifically endorsed the Cham as the reason to show up — branched out to the “Bacocheese” burger, to which she added bleu cheese.

The Super Cham looks like it is on steroids, a gigantic portion of chicken that swelled up like a puffer fish wearing a piece of ham as a hat. The succulent sandwich is a mouthful for sure, and it’s easy to see why TJ’s parades it so prominently.

But next time I’m switching teams to the buffalo variety and dropping down to the normal size. Why? Because TJ’s also offers house chips that are a perfect balance between crispy and soft, and there’s a small ice-cream shop attached at the front right of the restaurant. The super size is tasty, for sure, but I’d rather indulge in the best of both worlds and add some homemade ice cream — the country peach or citrus vanilla, maybe — to the mix.

The buffalo Cham
The buffalo Cham

Joanna, our intern, noted that her turkey sandwich arrived so tall that it would prove difficult to fit in her mouth, a good sign for a sandwich, we agreed. Everyone liked the crunchy fries and house chips, and Lamar and Bethany both endorsed their Cham varietals.

TJ’s Deli and Grill may stake its brand on the Cham, but there are dozens of other options including a few vegetarian choices such as a veggie wrap, veggie sandwich, a grilled cheese, a salad bar and possibly soup. The veggie wrap with tomato, broccoli, green pepper, mushrooms, onions, banana peppers, shredded carrots, spring mix greens, Swiss cheese and thousand-island dressing is likely the most solid choice. But those who like the sound of cheesy chicken hoagie, “Big Ole Pastrami,” Quarterback Club with roast beef, turkey and bacon or a hot Sicilian sandwich will feel more at home.

The author with country-peach ice cream
The author with country-peach ice cream

Those are the sorts of things that make TJ’s Deli a Winston-Salem hallmark. And the Cham. Mostly that glorious Cham (TM).


Visit TJ’s Deli at 5017 Country Club Road (W-S) or 1211 Silas Creek Parkway. See for more information.

  • Mark

    TJ’s may be the best deli in town, but you missed out by stuffing your belly with the super size sammich and not making room for what might be the best thing on their menu, the fried mushrooms! These aren’t your family-style restaurant frozen fried mushrooms. Imagine fresh button mushrooms tossed generously in that same buttermilk batter and deep-fried to GBD (Golden Brown Delicious) perfection. Due to impatience and anticipation, one never fails to singe their tongue on the first mushroom, bitten way too early, when it releases its magma-esque liquid contents into your mouth. And by God, it’s worth it every time! If you’re a shroomophobe, then they also do equally delicious fried vegetables as an appetizer. Next time you’re there, you have to start with that. Skimp on the sandwich if you have to, just for the opportunity!

    • JLJ

      I AGREE! Their fried zucchini is also amazing!

    • ellen

      After seeing Eric’s piece I decided to order Chams for the Novant office I have a work lunch at tomorrow. 18 Chams-can’t wait to try it. Thanks Eric!

  • J Derek Mitchell

    Call me biased because that’s my Parents place and that’s where I grew up BUT no matter what you get on the Menu, you will never find anything as good. I spent many Mon, Wed, and Fri mornings unloading the trucks and putting away stock. That has always been one of the Keys to our food. (Yes I still call it “our”) Add in the price and you CANNOT beat it. (I can promise you my Dad agonizes over the prices. He absolutely HATES to raise them and he is RUTHLESS if waste causes food costs creep up.) The food is always fresh. We made almost everything from scratch. No premix except what we made in house other than the Chocolate Cake. I can tell you that I hate everything that comes on the Reuben by itself but when they are cooked together, it’ll make a Chihuahua break a log chain and steal your breath. I miss my Deli. You will not find anything like it anywhere else. Trust me. I’ve looked. When you are spoiled with some of the best food to begin with, everything else pales in comparison.

  • MountAiryNC

    And there used to be a Mount Airy location! Come back!

  • JLJ

    And there used to be a location in Mount Airy and I miss it so much! Come back!

    • J Derek Mitchell

      I wish we could get into business with someone who could take it National. Or at least Regional. Finding that ONE person who would uphold our standards is harder than find an Honest Politician.

  • Alex Yeakley

    I must say I am one of the cooks at tj’s deli on country club and this article made me smile it’s good to see happy customers. Even though there is one on Parkway ours is owned and operated by mitch Smith whose the original family owner. He’s a great guy whose put his heart into the menu and making customers happy. We also do catering for small or large parties. So if you are planning a party sometime in the near future make it a tj’s party keep coming back hope everyone enjoys the tj’s experience! !!!!