First off, happy National Chicken Tender day to everyone! Today is the day that we recognize the greatest finger food ever created. As a man who's surprisingly lived 23 years on this planet, I'm not proud to say chicken tenders have been a staple in my diet, but a staple in my soul. There's really never a bad time to grab a tender! Perfect for appetizers, graduation parties, late night munchies, I could eat chicken tenders the rest of my life and be content. More specifically, O'Charley's chicken tenders
There isn't ONE chicken finger restaurant that can come close or compete with O'Charley's tenders. Well, there's actually one, but I'll get to that in a second. I remember the first time I had these tenders. I was in elementary school dining with my parents just a decade before they got divorced. We were at the Fishers, Indiana location which is one of my least favorite locations. They either overcook or undercook the tenders and it's fucking annoying. Anyways, I ordered what many children eat, which are chicken tenders. I took that first bite and never looked back. Mind you I was in elementary school so when I took that first bite, I said to myself, "This must be what sex feels like!". And to this day, I still say the same thing. It's like that scene from Ratatouille where the food critic gets that flashback
These chicken shaped penisis are the example of what a chicken tender should be. You have to go to the Noblesville Indiana location to get them perfected, but they are golden, crispy, perfectly breaded, and come with just enough to fill you up (6). They also have the best bread and the greatest honey mustard sauce ever invented. The best part is, you can get this meal for $9.99! Gotta love them midwest prices baby! I used to work at O'Charley's for a couple years as a busboy. The more I think about it, the more I believe these tenders made me want to work there just so I could eat them for 50% off.
Now that I'm done choking my chicken to O'Charley's (ha), I must address some other chicken finger establishments that are pretty damn good, but will never reach #1. Off the top of my head, I can name 7 more that always hit the spot.
2. Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen
I've heard so many good things about this place throughout my days at IUPUI but never gave it a shot. It wasn't until the end of June where I was visiting my buddy up in Lafayette for the weekend. His parents told us they were getting Cheddars and I couldn't have been more excited. To keep it short, these were the 2nd greatest chicken tenders I've ever experienced and possibly the greatest you'll ever experience since I'm biased with O'Charley's. These things were sitting in a tin foil box for however long and melted in my mouth like butter! Solid crisp, great flavor, and they weren't even fresh out the oven. I can't imagine how good these things are when you're dining, but I know one day I'm going to experience that.
Sticky's is pretty damn good! I've only had them in New York and not sure which other states have more locations, but Sticky's is a must if you are traveling. They have a shitload of sauces, great fries, and the amount of tenders you can get for its price is unbeatable. I know this is Eric Dunn's favorite place and it could possibly be yours too.
4. McDonald's Chicken Selects (Early 2000's Era)
Oh yes! McDonald's used to have the BEST fast food chicken tenders in the early 2000's. These guys were overly breaded, crispy, and of course cheap since it was McDonald's. I'll never know why they took them off their menu, but they never tasted the same once they brought them back last year. They still can't figure out their honey mustard, but who needs that when you have big mac sauce. Am I right, Carl?
5. Raising Canes
I can't lie, Canes has some pretty damn good tenders. They might be a little overrated, but they are good. They never have as much meat as I want, but they are crispy enough to enjoy. Their fries are underwhelming, but their lemonade makes up for the experience.
I think Zaxby's is damn near the polar opposite of Raising Cane's! The tenders here are underrated, the seasoned crinkle cut fries are great, but the sauces taste very identical. If In-N-Out and Shake Shack are hamburger competitors, I'd consider Raising Cane's and Zaxby's chicken tender competitors. A rivalry that will never end.
7. Chick fil A
I love Chick fil A like everyone else, but their chicken tenders are just like their sandwich and nuggets. They taste the exact same, they're just in different shapes. Don't get me wrong, they are good! I'd just prefer getting a sandwich before anything else.
8. El Rodeo
Quite possibly the most slept on chicken tender in the world. For those who don't know, El Rodeo is a mexican restaurant in Indiana. While they are famous for serving mexican food, they are not famous for serving the most underrated chicken tenders in the galaxy. These things are unbelievable! Crunchy to the extreme, perfect amount of breading, and are cheap as hell. I think you can get 6 tenders and fries for like $7? It's a hell of a deal. If I'm going out then I'll order some tacos, but if I want to pick up some tenders, I'm going to El Rodeo.
I've never had Carl's Jr or KFC's chicken tenders, but from what I've heard, those are some quality fingers as well. I hope this food porn blog has you amped up to eat some chicken tenders tonight because I'm already on the way to O'Charley's to devour their all you can eat deal! I'm going for 7 tonight, maybe 8. Happy National Chicken Tender everyone. What's your favorite place to get tenders from?