We gathered two additional (and very willing) participants around the dining table to join us on our deep-fried vision quest. First, we chose the contenders. We couldn’t taste-test every chicken joint in Dallas, so we settled on six, ranging from a shack in East Dallas to the world’s most famous purveyor of fried chicken (think white beard and glasses). The final six contenders were: Williams Chicken (for the record, this should be possessive, but it’s not a part of their official name. This omission is slowly killing FP inside), Pope’s, Church’s, Brother’s, Popeye’s, and KFC.
After deciding upon the entrants, the particulars of the taste-off were debated and refined, ensuring as pure a result as possible. A great deal of discussion took place ahead of time about the basics of this competition. The question was asked—what makes for a great piece of fried chicken? The way we see it, the answer is two-fold: crust and chicken. Within these two components, however, are myriad subtleties. We narrowed these factors to the following manageable and quantifiable list:
· Crust texture
· Crust flavor
· Chicken texture
· Chicken flavor
· Crust to chicken ratio
With a final score of 59 points, Church’s received the dubious distinction of last place in our competition. Its downfall was the crust, which was judged tasteless and thin. Adding insult to injury, the crust-to-chicken ratio was skewed by giant, meaty parts, which didn’t appeal to anyone. On the upside, it packed a good crunch, and a generous squirt from one of those trademark jalapeños could give it a much-needed kick.
5. Popeye’s (61)
Keeping Church’s company in the dregs of our rankings was Popeye’s, with a total score of 61. The batch we sampled seemed to vary from piece to piece, ranging from good to just plain gross. In fact, the meat on one drumstick was so gray and unappealing that it was downright inedible. That said, Popeye’s crispy, spicy crust distinguished it from Church’s and kept it out of the bottom of the barrel.
The big surprise of the day was KFC - the artist formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken - which racked up 62.5 points (one guess as to which over-analytical - but loveable - blogger resorted to using half points). We decided to give them a chance by ordering the “Extra Tasty Crispy” variety, which proved to be just that. One taster called it “surprisingly good”, and that summed up the group consensus. The only dissenter was FP, who could still taste the 11 herbs and spices—and not in a good way.
The top three chicken joints stood head and shoulders over the rest, to nobody’s surprise. Pope’s Fried Chicken in East Dallas, a small, rundown shop at the intersection of Carroll and I30 (yikes), rang in at 75 points. Although the pieces were on the smallish side, they were crisp, with juicy, flavorful meat. The only complaint was that the crust lacked the flavor punch that distinguished the top two. Even so, it was delicious and its score reflected its quality.
2. Brother’s Fried Chicken (77.5)
With 77.5 total points, this East Dallas institution near Baylor hospital ended up in second place on our list. For the record, not everyone loved Brother’s spicy crust. C&S was a little off-put by the presence of what she believed to be Lowry’s Seasoned Salt. However, everyone agreed that the crust texture and ratio were just about perfect. One reviewer summed it up perfectly, “Mmmmm. Brother’s.” The good news for those of you north of 635 is that another outpost of this fried chicken goodness is now open in Richardson.
Wow. Two of our reviewers had never tasted the magical goodness of Williams prior to the competition, and their minds were effectively blown. With a total score of 79.5 points, this chicken was declared almost perfect by the judges. Crisp and moist, with a crust to chicken ratio favoring the crust, it’s no wonder FP had to spend 20-minutes in line to get it. This chicken is worth waiting for, and it has now been crowned DallasEats’ Best Fried Chicken in Dallas.