By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 22, 2003 at 5:43 AM

Have you seen the chicken? No, not the Rhythm Chicken. I'm talking about that huge bird roosting atop a white van decorated with the Champion Chicken logo?

Champion Chicken, 8718 W. Lisbon Ave., on the Northwest Side since 1959, is something of a throwback to the days when neighborhood places ruled the roost.

The dining room is open late (until midnight every day) and there's a counter, where even on a Saturday, just before closing time, there are regulars chatting up the young staff.

Neighborhood memorabilia adorns the walls of the dining room, with dark wood benches and an assortment of knick-knacks.

But don't come for the decor, come for the good, home-style food. Most times, the dining room is doing a brisk business in, of course, fried chicken, but also in hamburgers, sandwiches and frozen custard.

You haven't seen busy, though, until you've clocked the pickup counter next door on a Friday at dinner time. A window opens up to a large staff running hither and thither preparing hundreds of fish dinners, fried chicken meals and more for the steady stream of customers popping in to pick up a quick meal.

Amazingly enough, even when the rush is on, the counter staff is all smiles and cheer. How do they do it?

The Champion Chicken menu is wide-ranging, like any good family restaurant. There are salads, soups, chili, hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, seafood, fried chicken, ribs, meatloaf, pasta, pizza and Mexican fare.

However, it is lacking in any breakfast choices, since the place doesn't open until 11 a.m. This leaves the late-night diner with a yen for an omelet out of luck, though.

The Chicken also delivers and caters, if you can't make it over there.

But make it over there, you should, because only there can you purchase the awesome midnight blue muscle-flexing Champion Chicken t-shirt for $15! It is, at the moment, the coolest Milwaukee t-shirt around.

The Chicken sometimes hosts events, like a recent car show in the parking lot, too.

Call Champion Chicken at (414) 462-6200 or visit it on the Internet at championchicken.net.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.