Swinging thru the South, seemed like a good time to do a “compare and contrast” on chicken strips, or fingers, tenders, or whatever you call them. I would have preferred doing a compare and contrast on bacon strips, but that would make Mrs. BDB unhappy, unless she was co-judging. Next trip.
She’s not a chicken strip gal, though; she says a true gourmand/gourmet would only eat the dark meat of poultry, so I’m just some trashy white meat eater with chicken and turkey. But that’s why we’re together and so compatible, together we can polish off a bird with no leftovers, except enough for her to crank out her fantastic home-made soups!
I think I’ve covered the tender spectrum, pretty much, KFC, Popeye’s, Zaxby’s, Chester Fried, Bojangles. I didn’t go to Chick Filet because it was a Sunday when I passed one, and they aren’t open on Sundays. I didn’t get to a local favorite in New Orleans “WOW” (World of Wings) because of timing.
So here’s the rundown.
Although I recently crowed about liking Bojangle’s breakfast, I didn’t think their chicken was on a par. The strips were small(ish) and with no distinguishable seasoning. They come with a little pot of Honey Mustard sauce, and a biscuit. My recollection is it was north of $5 for the 4 strip box, and most chains the price is about the same.
I mentioned World of Wings (Wow Café) . This was a start-up from New Orleans, I first went when there was one location, and now they are spreading across the country, but not as fast as another Louisiana start-up, Raising Cane’s, which is rubbing up against national penetration. What I liked about WOW was you could have your wings/tenders TOSSED in a selection of sauces, as well as get a wide variety of dipping sauces. Not sure if they still do it that way, but I liked mixing up my order, with half on the buffalo side, half with some variation of Thai Peanut.
Then of course, there is Popeye’s, another Louisiana creation, and really the only nationwide contender to KFC. It’s our go-to chicken place most often, I’d say, as both me and Mrs. Burgerdogboy like their chicken, the spices, and she especially digs the red beans and rice side dish. Superb. I like their LTO’s, too, from time to time you can get a piece of catfish or some special shrimp prep. If you don’t know about the genius that started Popeye’s, Al Copeland, you should look up his story sometime. Smart dude. Dead.
Zaxby’s was started in Statesboro, Georgia, and today has over 500 locations. It’s a chicken finger centric menu, but with a more inviting dine in atmosphere, a variety of sauces, and a fairly large offering of sides and extras. Deal clincher for me? A piece of Texas toast in every pack. The chicken is good, the fries are crinkled, and the Zak sauce is some pink mayo slightly spicy thing. One day, someone will invent a truly “secret sauce.” I’d be a regular if there was one nearby.
Zaxby’s menu is online.
Chester Fried, or as I call it, “gas station food”, but in the deep south, they often refer to these counters in gas stations as “fry delis”, and they offer breakfast sandwiches, chicken, fish pieces, sometimes shrimp, sometimes BBQ. It’s often cooked on site, independently, or connected to a marketing affiliation agreement with a company like Chester Fried. What I like about these places is you can order by the piece, and I was in the mood for 2 strips, and one honking big piece of catfish. And that’s what I got, for less than $4. No fancy sauces or preparations here, it’s down and dirty food on the run. And damned good. Previous story on chick/Chester Fried.
KFC? Consistent with the chicken, but the rest of the menu seems to vary regionally. I do like the outlets that have a buffet, but that seems to be a phenom of KFC in the Deep South, only.
Verdict? I’ll remain a loyal customer of Popeye’s but wait eagerly for times I can get back to Zaxby’s. (Unless Mrs. BDB is cookin’).
Chicken Strip Smackdown