Superbowl Fried Chicken Face-Off

While the Saints (Who Dat!) and the Colts squared off on the turf in Miami, the feathers were flying in another Indiana vs Louisiana showdown at our Superbowl viewing party.  Yep, it was a fried chicken face-off between the best of the chains, or rather, the only two major franchises we really have.  Although we set this up on a lark, I didn’t realize until later how closely we were mirroring the regional rivalry of the two teams in the Superbowl.

Representing the midwest was KFC, (formerly Kitchen Fresh Chicken, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) whose history is as venerable as Payton Manning’s legacy.  Bolstering the connection to the Colts was the fact that Colonel Sanders was born in Indiana before moving out of state to seek his fortunes as a free agent. And you know how the rest of the story goes.

Representing the Big Easy was the was the newly rebranded Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, formerly, currently, and forever known as Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, touting their trademarked “Bonafide Chicken” with Louisiana seasonings. I would hope that they use real chicken…scary that they even have to qualify it and trademark a word.

And then the streaker, the crazy dude running down the field for bragging rights before security accosts him with a full body tackle: Church’s. And by Cupcake’s standards, only the franchise in Berkeley was worthy of being served on Superbowl Sunday.

The referees were made up of a motley crew of folks including MuiMui, Frenchie, Megs, Cupcake, Babyfigs, The Doctor, and The Slumlord, all of whom claim to have a good palate for anything deep-fried, not to mention freakishly voracious appetites

While the room was Saint’s friendly, I expected KFC to take the crown by sheer strength of familiarity given that it’s been around longer than Popeyes.  People tend to lean towards nostalgia and I thought KFC would survive the blitz with its bucket intact.  Church’s was just going to be a palate cleanser, much like how the half-time show is really a bathroom break. It was a tight race, though probably not what anyone expected.

The initial votes were split between Popeyes and Church’s.  Popeyes Bonafide chicken was a crowd favorite with a tasty kick from the Cajun seasonings.  Church’s made a surprising showing with meat that was both juicy and flavorful.  However, Popeye eeked out a 2 point conversion for the win on the deliciousness of the crust. Nice and crispy, holding up well to re-heating even when we went back to the table for seconds, thirds, and for some (ahem MuiMui), fifths rounds of chicken.  In fried chicken wars, crust trumps all and Popeyes was by far the best. (Let me I just say that between Church’s and Popeyes, I’m having a grammar meltdown)

Right off the bat, KFC was behind the pack and not just because this particular bucket sported some unusually large breasts (please don’t p*rn spam me), which didn’t fare too well in a crowd with a professed preference for dark meat.   To be fair, I did try a leg but I gave it a thumbs down because the original crust arrived soggy and salty, despite the short 5 minute car ride. This has been a problem for the past few years. Somewhere along the line, KFC/YUM messed with the process and the Colonel’s Original embarked on a downward spiral.  KFC’s extra crispy recipe might have given the others a run for their money but given that we were comparing base offerings, the Original Recipe was the right call.

In the end, we ate a lot of chicken and were pleased that we crowned a champion, though I’ve sworn off fried chicken for a few months.  An interesting tidbit — When I was researching some background on KFC and Popeyes for this post, I found out there was a national taste test in 1987 featuring the same three contenders at our table: KFC, Popeyes, and Church’s, with Popeyes emerging as the winner.   I am amused that our informal focus group validated those same results. Perhaps Pepsi vs. Coke will be our next challenge….

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