Long John Silver’s, Raising Cane’s cap off best chicken tenders list

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Cael Baumgarten, Copy Editor

There is nothing wrong with eating exclusively chicken fingers at every restaurant you attend. The reality is, there are few foods as immediately and consistently satisfying as fried chicken, so it’s no wonder you can find them on seemingly any menu. Even when you have to swallow your pride and order them off of the kid’s menu, it’s always worth it. But, of course, not all chicken fingers are created equal. With so many diners offering this all-American classic, some even specializing in it, it can be hard to choose which joint you want to give you your heart disease. I’ve eaten more chicken tenders in my life than apples and oranges combined, and it’s not close. My credentials now out of the way, let’s discuss which restaurants, fast food specifically, offer the finest fried chicken exclusively in finger form. Thighs, legs, breasts, and nuggets are exempt.There are so many tenders I didn’t discuss because even I am not an expert on every chicken place. I can’t write extensively on their virtues as I’ve been to Zaxby’s and Church’s Chicken only a couple of times each, but I recommend both. Now then, let’s get started.
Chick-Fil-A – If you’ve had their nuggets or sandwich, you won’t feel too surprised when you bite into Chick-Fil-A’s Chick-N Strips. That is to say, the strips don’t deviate from the quality you’re probably used to from CFA’s illustrious menu; the chicken itself is wonderfully unobjectionable as usual and the breading continues to set itself apart from tough competitors. The strips don’t quite have that amount of sweetness unique to their nuggets, but the larger size equates to more meat and thus a heartier meal. Also, shoutout to Chick-Fil-A sauce. 8/10 for Chick-Fil-A.
Go Chicken Go – You could argue that the menu doesn’t explicitly call them “strips” or “fingers” or “tenders.” But they’re not labeled “thigh” or “breast” or “nugget” either, and Go Chicken Go’s chicken pieces are too good to leave out. Texturally, they’re on the softer side, but still firm. The breading is nothing special, though the quality of the chicken itself more than makes up for it. There’s a certain homeliness to GCG that is lacking in other fried chicken that you’ll just have to experience for yourself. Their chicken doesn’t require any sauce. Also, they use chicken gravy on their mashed potatoes, which I love. I know it looks ghetto, but definitely give Go Chicken Go a go. 9/10 for Go Chicken Go.
Culver’s – Culver’s chicken tenders are, in my opinion, the worst chicken tender you can get in our area. That’s not to say they aren’t good; they still taste like a chicken tender and therefore are pretty solid, but compared to all of the greatness you can find from other fast food, I would never bother with Culver’s chicken fingers. While not to the same extent, they have that strange combination of dry and moist that you find in Olathe South’s chicken strips. They are uncomfortably soft, bland, greasy, and the breading adds basically nothing. Not even honey mustard can salvage these. The fries are uninspired, too. 4/10 for Culver’s.
Kentucky Fried Chicken – While KFC might be the Taco Bell of fried chicken, their strips are actually pretty solid. Unlike Culver’s, their fingers are soft and that is a good thing; the softness adds to the experience and makes them unique, rather than feeling like an oversight. At the same time, KFC’s tenders are very crispy yet don’t cut the inside of your mouth. They’re usually warm and fresh, KFC has great deals, and a biscuit complements perfectly. The only thing keeping KFC from a higher score is its competition. Also, if you ever felt the embarrassment of ordering “Finger Lickin’ Good sauce,” God bless you. Whoever decided to rename it to “KFC sauce” deserves a raise. 7/10 for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Long John Silver’s – If you can overlook the slow service, the dingy interior, the inexplicably terrible drinks, and the unreasonable prices, Long John Silver’s chicken planks are the finest and most unique around. Always steaming hot, always packaged with nuggets of fried malnutrition, and always perfectly reheatable, LJS’s chicken planks’ greatest strength comes in its breading. As opposed to the peanut oil breading you’re used to, these come prepared in the tempura batter they put on their fish, and whoever decided to do that should not only get a raise, and a promotion, but should be sacrificed to enter the pearly gates on early admission. Your stomach will probably hurt afterwards, and you’re conscious that these are catastrophically unhealthy while you eat them, but it’s worth it. I really, really want to rate these a perfect ten… and I will. 10/10 for Long John Silver’s.
Popeye’s – I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never had Popeye’s chicken tenders. Unlike Cane’s, they have an entire menu of differently prepared fried chicken, all of which arguably better than their tenders (shoutout to that sandwich). But it would be strange if their chicken didn’t hold up in strip form. The breading is reminiscent of KFC’s, but more firm and, in my opinion, preferable, and Popeye’s is not comparable to Taco Bell. They always come fresh but are perfectly fine cold, too. Popeye’s fries are also the best on this list and their biscuits are better than KFC’s. 8/10 for Popeye’s.
Arby’s – While I believe Arby’s to be overall highly underrated, I can’t say the same for their chicken strips. They certainly aren’t bad, they’re just the bottom of the bin when it comes to fried chicken standards, and you are usually better off getting something else. The breading meets the criteria of acceptability, but does not surpass them, with a good breading-to-meat ratio but overall unremarkability, serving more as a container for the chicken than an addition. Overall, they are dry, bland, overpriced, and the Arby’s sauce is nothing to write home about. The curly fries are the better part of the meal. 5/10 for Arby’s.
Raising Cane’s – While Long John’s chicken may taste better to my neanderthal standards, Raising Cane’s is, as objectively possible, the best chicken tender distribution center. The breading is a perfect blend of soft and crispy, the chicken itself tears like strings like it’s supposed to, Cane’s has great deals, there’s really nothing to be upset about here. People say that Cane’s is carried by Cane’s sauce, and to that I say, how dare you. Without sauce, their chicken is a little bit bland, but nobody can deny the textural perfection nor the fact that they always taste like they were pulled out of the fryer the moment before hitting your tongue. Also, they were designed to be served with Cane’s sauce, so it’s unfair to extract such a flawless complement. Ever since the Cane’s on Black Bob was built, my chicken tender intake has increased four-fold. They’ve found great success by having virtually nothing else on their menu. 10/10 for Cane’s.