Chains That Don't Run Afowl

Our favorite fast-food fried chicken

We've declared August 11-22 Fried Chicken Fortnight. Watch this space for two full weeks of recipes, chicken talk, chef tips and more.

We decided, smartly or not, to have our editors taste the crisp birds popular fast-food restaurants have to offer. When the time came to test the chains located near our NYC office we hiked up our pants, loosened up our belts and slowly shuffled around a table bogged down with more fried chicken, sides and biscuits than is even remotely responsible. We can't lie: It was disgusting, in that very particular this-is-so-gross-we-love-it way.

We bit into wings and breasts and thighs, wiping our faces of grease along the way, to determine our favorites. Here we present our findings, ranked in order, with one disclaimer: While the Northeast is mostly woefully deprived of Chick-fil-A, there is a secret location inside of NYU, which was closed for renovations. Otherwise we would have been all over that like a thigh dredged in flour.

Popeye's Fried Chicken

As editorial director Adam Sachs put it, the experience of eating Popeye's is "like seeing an old friend you haven't seen in a long time who is vaguely embarrassing and you'd never take on as a friend now and your other friends wouldn't understand, but still you have a special space in your clogged heart for him." Well said, sir. Popeye's nostalgic, classic crunch had lots of appeal and wasn't too greasy, all things considered. The meat was dubbed moist, tender and super seasoned. You win this one, sailor.

Bon Chon

We realize that including a Korean fried chicken spot in the mix is potentially unfair—but so is life, and we really like the twice-fried crisp skin, so deal with it. Bon Chon's sweet and spicy offerings looked shiny and moist, and tasted even better. The glazed skin held to the meat when bitten into, and we loved the crunchy pickled daikon on the side.

Church's Fried Chicken

Church's narrowly missed second place, but they definitely had the best biscuits, which were drizzled in honey. There was a good balance between crunch and juicy meat, which was salty but not overpowering. Some of us took issue with the grease, so make sure you have extra napkins. Overall the look was classic, with big, deep brown flakes in the batter.


Colonel Sanders, you've led your troops astray. "Feel a little bit sick" was one tester's note, and others found the experience of chowing down sloppy, with the batter sliding off the meat too easily. The meat was particularly salty (which split the crowd) and there was so much black pepper you could see it in the batter. However, the biscuits impressed most and the potato wedges were, in fact, divine. We'd feel guilty if this weren't the world's second largest chain. We're sure the Colonel will march on.

Kennedy Fried Chicken

We know one acronym that's not having a good day. Two testers found the aftertaste to be "fishy" (the horror!), and one went so far as to label it "disgusting." The presentation wasn't appealing, the texture was inconsistent, and the batter too greasy with only mild seasoning. Next.

We've got birds on the brain—so much so that we're throwing a big party celebrating fried chicken. Get more details here.