Johnny America


Re­view: Burg­er King Chick­en Fries


I want­ed to hate them. I re­al­ly, re­al­ly did. If you’re un­for­tu­nate enough to have seen the hard-rock­ing com­mer­cials pro­mot­ing these thin poul­try strips, you know why. If you haven’t seen them, well, they fea­ture a chick­en-masked hard­core band called Coq Roq. Need I say more? And yes, they do have a web­site.

I’m a brave soul, so I ven­tured to my neigh­bor­hood B.K. over my lunch hour. They were ad­ver­tis­ing the Chick­en Fries in mul­ti­ple places near the menu — large card­board stand-ups to the right and left sug­gest­ed they’d go well with a Coke, or raved about dip­pa­bil­i­ty, but ap­par­ent­ly this store, at least, was in such a rush to out-in­no­vate its com­peti­tors with the lat­est chick­en tech­nol­o­gy that they could­n’t ex­pend the re­sources to up­date their menu boards. Would they be $2? $6? A mys­tery. As I neared the front of the line, a sign on the counter (Span­ish on­ly) ad­ver­tised the Snack Size (tamaño del bo­ca­do)  — six for $1.87, or $4.99 for the nine-piece meal (in­clud­ing fries and drink of medi­um size). I elect­ed to or­der the six piece, with fries. As to drinks, I’d thieved an 8oz bot­tle of Poland Spring from the of­fice and was car­ry­ing it in my bag. When I placed my or­der, I said “six piece chick­en fries, and medi­um… fries.” This seemed re­dun­dant, so I leaned in and said, “you know, pota­to fries.” She just nod­ded, ex­pres­sion­less, and punched my or­der in­to her spe­cial­ty keyboard.

Chick­en fries, ac­cord­ing to, are avail­able with a choice of Bar­be­cue, Hon­ey Mus­tard, Sweet & Sour, Ranch, or new Creamy Buf­fa­lo dip­ping sauces. I was ex­cit­ed about the Ranch op­tion. It’s un­com­mon­ly of­fered as a “sauce,” de­spite be­ing one of my fa­vorite thing to dip food (tater tots, piz­za crusts, buf­fa­lo wings, bread sticks) in at home. The girl at the counter (per­haps non­plussed by my crack about the pota­to fries), said “we don’t have ranch.” Not strict­ly true, of course; they have a ranch sal­ad dress­ing. I could’ve pressed her on it, but opt­ed for the Creamy Buf­fa­lo sauce instead.

Ini­tial thoughts: Why does every­thing have to be so dip­pable? Have we not forced chick­en to mold to our whims long enough? Was the Chick­en Ten­der, al­so avail­able at Burg­er King, not sufficient?

Chick­en Fries are small­er than they ap­pear in com­mer­cials. It’s un­for­tu­nate for them that “chick­en fin­gers” is al­ready a name for some­thing, be­cause these were al­most the pre­cise size of my mid­dle fin­ger. Mean­while a chick­en fin­ger is so large that if you saw a per­son with fin­gers that size they would al­most cer­tain­ly be suf­fer­ing from gi­gan­tism. I can imag­ine the mar­ket­ing meet­ings, with the word “fin­ger” com­ing up again and again (“fin­ger dip­pers? Spicy fin­gers?”) un­til fi­nal­ly the head of the de­part­ment slams his note­book on the ta­ble and shouts “god­damn it! they can’t be called fingers!”

The chick­en in­side was uni­form­ly white and had a tex­ture that seemed not so far from the breast meat the ad­ver­tise­ments claim. The out­side is good, and sig­nif­i­cant­ly more crunchy than most bread­ed chick­en prod­ucts (I’m look­ing at you, McNuggets).

And, what’s this? They’re ac­tu­al­ly spiced with some­thing! This is what you’d ex­pect from a Popeye’s, or from some­thing with “spicy” in the name (such as Wendy’s Spicy Chick­en Sand­wich). But here, with­out gloat­ing about their fla­vor, Chick­en Fries step away from the Uni­ver­sal Bland­ness and they act like it’s noth­ing special.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not talk­ing about the hot­ness of even a mild sal­sa. It’s just spice, a taste oth­er than “bread­ed,” “chick­en,” and “fried.” In oth­er words, just spicy enough that for­mer four-foot, eleven-inch oc­to­ge­nar­i­an Wendy’s spokes­woman Clara “where’s the beef?” Peller might think them too spicy. De­spite her savvy at­ti­tude vis-à-vis burg­er joint ad­ver­tis­ing, I ven­ture to say that the “Coq Roq” cam­paign would’ve pro­voked in her ei­ther spon­ta­neous vom­it­ing or erot­ic rap­ture, had she not died of nat­ur­al caus­es in 1986.

And the buf­fa­lo sauce Burg­er King has in­tro­duced to ac­com­pa­ny these is great. It’s tangy, cayenne-tinged. Purists note: while de­li­cious, it on­ly vague­ly rem­i­nis­cent of the ul­tra-hot wings for which it’s named. Among the in­gre­di­ents list­ed are cayenne, pa­pri­ka, chipo­tle pep­pers, gar­lic pow­der, onion pow­der, and, omi­nous­ly, “spices.”

The worst thing about these things is the ad­ver­tis­ing. Is it so much to ask that I not be as­sault­ed with im­ages of tat­tooed rock­ers dressed in chick­en masks? (Maybe I’m get­ting old). It’s be­yond me why any­one (par­tic­u­lar­ly peo­ple whose job it is to come up with such ideas) would think that that was a good im­age to use to pro­mote food. They’re slight­ly terrifying.

Let’s move on to the pack­ag­ing. The box holds ei­ther six or nine Chick­en Fries. The con­sumer flips the top open and there’s a lit­tle ex­pand­able hold­er for the sauce to sit in. An ex­plana­to­ry note in­side the box ex­plains that some­one re­quest­ed a con­tain­er that would fit in a cup-hold­er. “A con­tain­er that screams porta­bil­i­ty,” says

How­ev­er, the box is too portable (if by portable you mean dri­vable, which Burg­er King ap­par­ent­ly does). If you try to use it any­where ex­cept a cup-hold­er, putting the sauce in its al­lot­ted slot will on­ly make it dis­as­trous­ly unsteady.

So what if:

  1. you’re a con­sumer who hap­pens to en­joy Burg­er King’s safe, fam­i­ly-friend­ly at­mos­phere? You’re forced to set your sauce on the ta­ble like a caveman.
  2. you do not dri­ve a car 
    1. per­haps for those of us in met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas who use pub­lic trans­porta­tion, Burg­er King could de­sign an ur­ban Chick­en Fries hold­er that would hook over the poles on subways.
    2. for the per­am­bu­la­to­ry among us, a vel­cro arm- or leg-band with cup-hold­er sized frame.
  3. is this a slip­pery-slope of cup-hold­er based packaging? 
    1. To wit: aren’t french (pota­to) fries just cry­ing out for a round, pop-top con­tain­er with ketchup-hold­ing lid? So, you’re a sin­gle per­son and you want a meal to eat in your car. Fine, but you’ll need min­i­mum three cup-hold­ers to con­tain your en­trée, side (fries, onion rings, or: Mc­Don­alds has al­ready in­vent­ed a cup-hold­er friend­ly sal­ad con­tain­er), and drink. This will ob­vi­ous­ly af­fect car de­sign, as cur­rent­ly the av­er­age sedan comes with on­ly two (2) cup-hold­ers. As bril­liant de­sign­ers con­tin­ue to ori­ent our food more and more cylin­dri­cal­ly, we’ll need a min­i­mum of four cup-hold­ers per pas­sen­ger (what if you want dessert?).
    2. Food needs to fit in these con­tain­ers, so while some­thing like Taco Bell Taquitos-To-Go would be ob­vi­ous, oth­er foods would be more chal­leng­ing. Imag­ine, twen­ty years from now, when they in­tro­duce a cheese­burg­er in fry form: a thin sliv­er of beef en­cir­cled in a sesame-coat­ed en­riched bun, nes­tled in cheese, ketchup, and onion lined petals as the meat reach­es sky­ward like the sta­men of a de­li­cious orchid.

Filed under Food on September 9th, 2005

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Reader Comments

kat wrote:

wow,all i can say is tht ur com­plete­ly rite, ive nev­er giv­en it much tought but cheese­burg­ers would be so much bet­ter in fries form

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