Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday. Prices: Dinner for two with drinks costs $15 to $20 including tax and tip. Cards: Cash only.

Even if we hadn't already heard about Whitey's breasted chicken, which has developed something of a following in this pocket of Virginia and deserves it, we would have stopped there eventually anyway just because of the big, pinky-red neon sign perched above the doorway.

It says, in capital letters, "EAT."

The sign is like a relic from another era, and so is Whitey's -- a time before fast-food chains, when neighborhood restaurants prided themselves on their secret fried chicken recipes, a time before restaurateurs thought they had to have brass railings, smoky glass and twirling fans to be popular.

If anything, in fact, Whitey's is antistyle. It's a noisy, dimly lit cavern of a room, with two long aisles of wood booths and Formica tables, a high, black ceiling and 1950s-era suburban pine paneling on the walls -- the kind families once used to finish their basements when the children got confirmed or bar mitzvahed.

Whitey's has one of the best jukeboxes in the area, a combination of 1960s rock music, rhythm and blues and country, and speakers that you can hear.

The kitchen is exposed behind a long wooden bar, and every once in a while the special patented breaster machine spits out great clouds of steam in a loud whoosh, like a locomotive.

Which brings us to the chicken. It is, as far as the food goes, the main reason to go to Whitey's, and it's enough.

We've interviewed employes at great length about the science of breasting, and we're still sort of mystified -- the machine fries the chicken in deep vegetable fat under pressure, they say, so the chicken cooks in only nine minutes instead of the usual 20 minutes and it's crispier without being greasier.

The chicken is terrific -- simply terrific. The crust is thin and floury light and crisp, not thick as at fast-food chains.

The crust is utterly unseasoned, plain, just pure chicken without spices or even salt and pepper to gussie it up.

Inside, the chicken is unbelievably juicy, even the breast meat. There's something old-fashioned about this chicken, like an old family memory -- just writing about it makes us crave more.

Half a chicken plus coleslaw, rolls, breasted potatoes and oversized fries almost as thick as your wrist costs only $4.20.

While you're waiting for the chicken, which could take 45 minutes on a hectic night, order a pitcher of draft beer -- try the Michelob dark -- and a few baskets of onion rings as appetizers.

On a good night, rings are the other triumph at Whitey's -- fat slices of onion in a crackly, peppery crust. On other nights, though, the batter may be thick and spongy.

Whitey's offers dishes for people who, for some reason, don't want chicken.

Also available are hamburgers, fish and chips, and daily specials such as lasagna -- but they are ordinary at best. If you must skip the chicken, stick with something like the chili, which is cuminy and hot, or the simple club sandwich with lots of turkey and bacon.

Breasted chicken is so close to Whitey's heart, in fact, that the kitchen starts serving it every morning at 10. Have some for breakfast. But it would be a shame to miss Whitey's at night, late at night, when it really gets going.

On Monday nights a giant screen rolls down from the ceiling and you can eat your chicken with football.

On other nights singers appear on a little stage and you can eat your chicken with country (or on one bizarre night, with a harmonica orchestra).

When you can't eat anymore (Monday is all-the-chicken-you-can-eat night, by the way) go to the back room for some darts and work up another appetite. Whitey's doesn't close until 1 or 2 a.m.