The subject of good chicken tenders has led to more than one lengthy lecture in my home, thanks to my mildly obsessed husband who grew up on Louisiana and Alabama fixtures such as Raising Cane’s and Foosackly’s.
I don’t share his fixation with fried strips of chicken, but I decided to form my own opinions about local chicken tender-centric restaurants after the recent opening of two such places: Chicken Guy! by celebrity chef Guy Fieri in Disney Springs and Tampa-based chain PDQ’s newest spot in Winter Park. Below you’ll find my thoughts on each — as well as two other eateries.
Where: Disney Springs, 1600 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista
Cost: $5.99 for three tenders and two sauces; $11.49 for three tenders or one sandwich plus a drink, fries and two sauces.
The tenders: Fried or grilled versions are available. The thinly pounded chicken was coated in crisp, well-seasoned bread crumbs, breaking open to the still-juicy meat.
Sauce situation: Two sauces are included on the side. Chicken Guy! offers 22 options including Nashville hot honey, Fieri’s famous donkey sauce, curry mayo and cumin-lime mojo. Sauce slingers will occasionally walk through the dining room offering samples of sauces to diners.
Fry focus: Crisp standard cut fries receive a good dose of a “signature seasoning.”
Other sides: Coleslaw, fried pickle chips, mac n’ cheese and loaded fries.
Where: Find a spot near you at HueyMagoos.com/Locations
Cost: $5.99 for three tenders with fries, Texas toast and a sauce.
The tenders: There’s no flattening of Huey Magoo’s chicken — it stays its natural shape and I spotted a few oddly sized pieces (read: about the size of one of my fingers). Each had a tasty peppery, if soft, coating around the juicy meat.
Sauce situation: Opt to get your tenders sauced with one of nine options, or get the dip on the side. Sauces include the garlicky signature Magoo’s sauce, a smoky barbecue and garlic Parmesan.
Fry focus: My firm crinkle-cut fries were under-seasoned on a recent visit.
Other sides: Chips and coleslaw.
Where: Find a location near you at EatPDQ.com
Cost: $7.39 for three tenders with fries, drink and a sauce.
The tenders: Choose from grilled or fried tenders. Although my fried tenders had a decent crunch, it didn’t make up for the lack of flavor in the breading.
Sauce situation: Dunk your tender in one of eight sauces, from sweet sriracha to Thai peanut.
Fry focus: PDQ’s standard-cut fries were neither seasoned nor crisp.
Other sides: Roasted broccoli; chili-lime corn; Tampa beans and rice; feta tomato salad; apple slices; zucchini fries; French fries; and tater tots.
Where: 12226 Corporate Blvd., Orlando.
Cost: Four tenders with fries, garlic toast and a sauce for $5.99.
The tenders: Fried or grilled versions are offered. The thin, crunchy tenders fell on the bland side for me.
Sauce situation: Thirteen types of dips include a variety of mustard, barbecue and buffalo sauces.
Fry focus: The crackly fries were hot and not too salty.
Other sides: A host of sides includes tater tots; macaroni salad; hush puppies; coleslaw; potato salad; and onion rings.