I most strongly identify the state of Kentucky with fried chicken, bourbon, and horses. Unfortunately, KFC's Original Recipe is doing little to improve Kentucky's image for chicken.
I was expecting a lot from Church, a San Antonio-based company with its headquarters in Atlanta. What a heartbreaking revelation that the chain church in my hometown was a church that didn't encourage worship.
It still had the somewhat burnt harshness of badly drained, frequently misused frying oil, but it scored points for flavor thanks to a strong, bitter pepper blast that made itself known immediately away.
Bojangles' similarly "Cajun-seasoned" fried chicken, although having a less recognizable name than Popeyes, gave me high hopes.
The chicken at this Texas-based, Guatemalan-founded franchise was thinly breaded and limply cooked, but it had a vibrant, zesty taste profile that began on the outside and went all the way to the inside.
The answer is Popeyes. Although I believe the brand's chicken to be a little oversalted, it is consistent and seasoned primarily on the outside. Each piece is flavorful, crispy, and delicious.
KFC's Extra Crispy chicken succeeded where the Original had fallen short. It clearly fits the requirement, putting it toward the top of the list even though it isn't the crispiest of the bunch.
These large, moist chunks of chicken were a pure delight to eat, hidden beneath a protective coating of jagged, crackling breading that is generous without being overwhelming and an additional layer of reddish-tinged, unashamedly Cajun spice with a rapidly developing heat.