When I find myself at a fast food establishment, I generally lean towards ordering chicken. I do enjoy burgers, but I find that 1) chicken is generally more consistent across most locations (no surprise mayonnaise) and 2) I just love fried chicken. I’ve had the privilege of driving across the country four times, and on each occasion, I made specific plans to enjoy local delicacies, which frequently meant friend chicken. The drives also exposed me to the many great fried chicken focused fast food chains across the country. Unfortunately, these trips also opened my eyes to the fact that for whatever reason, we really don’t have much selection in New England. While Chick-Fil-A seems to be penetrating the market, the main options have always been KFC, and if you were willing to go out of your way for something special, Popeye’s.

Unlike its larger cousin, KFC, Popeye’s doesn’t seem to be as adventurous with its menu. While you’ll see KFC ads plastered all over your television (try the Georgia Gold and Nashville Hot!), I don’t see many ads for new Popeye’s products, but there is value in their consistency. Regular or spicy, chicken parts or tenders, the menu doesn’t change much but is always great.

Anyway, most of my fast food trips lately are going to a location with an order in mind: they have something new I want to try. But this trip to Popeye’s wasn’t prompted by an ad or tweet or reader request; I just wanted to go to Popeye’s. It wasn’t until I was staring at the menu, trying to figure out an order that would let me eat everything I wanted without spending $30 when I noticed the Smokehouse wings. I immediately decided to add them to my order, not substitute them for anything else. I’m not proud of how much I ate that day, but Popeye’s is worth it.

IMG_6896

Popeye’s Smokehouse Boneless Wings were $4.99 for a six piece meal which comes with a side, biscuit and drink. Unfortunately, I’m writing this too late to have an official description, but I’m sure it would have included words such as “boneless white meat chicken” “marinated” and “smoke”. Fast food mad libs are fun.

IMG_6897

As presented to me, the basket was a glorious mess of fried goodness. I could barely see the boneless wings underneath the mountain of fries (as a side note- Popeye’s fries are the biggest hit or miss fast food item since Wendy’s changed their fries; they’re either glorious or borderline inedible). I ate a few fries to create a path to the wings. Aside from the crazy amount of batter, the boneless wings were still huge. Normally I’d think of a boneless wing as something nugget-sized, but these were basically chicken tenders. I’m definitely not complaining, but it was much more food than I expected. A six-piece meal is more than enough without adding anything to your order.

IMG_6898

Into the wings themselves, my first impression was the great crunch and hint of spice. They were fried to perfection and not as spicy as Popeye’s regular spicy chicken/tenders, but I definitely felt some heat. The chicken itself was tender and juicy, as with all of their chicken.

IMG_6899

The Smokey flavor was more subtle and took a few more bites for me to notice. Eventually, that flavor cane out, and the best way I can think to describe it was like ham, which made for a weird experience. I’d take a bite and get the crunchy, spicy batter and juicy chicken… then a hammy aftertaste. If you ate a chicken tender then chased it with a small piece of ham, that maybe a replication of the experience.

IMG_6900

I love Popeye’s, if I haven’t made that clear, and I’m glad I finally got the chance to review one of their items. However, this was not a winner. The idea of adding a smoky taste to a medium spiced chicken tender is a worthwhile idea, but the execution fell short here. I couldn’t shake the ham taste as I ate, and that’s not a flavor I want to mix with my fried chicken. If they leaned more in a BBQ type smoked direction, I’d be willing to give the concept another chance, but as served, I’d stick to my regular order on my next Popeye’s visit.

Advertisements