I Paid: $12.99 for an eight-piece bucket (prices may vary by region)
Apparently KFC has finally realized that most people consider its products to be heart attacks in a tub, and is marketing its new Kentucky Grilled Chicken as a healthy alternative. The tag line is “Unthink what you thought about KFC.” Kind of weird—is it a poor attempt to play off of Apple’s “Think Different”?
Anyway. Yes, the grilled chicken is healthier (80 calories and 4 grams of fat per grilled wing, versus 110 calories and 7 grams of fat per an original Colonel’s wing). But what you get in return is surprisingly greasy, dramatically underseasoned, low-grade-tasting chicken meat, possessing little of the carbon-kissed flavor one associates with grilling. In fact, Kentucky Grilled Chicken tastes as though it’s been steamed for an extremely long time and then reluctantly dragged across a grill long enough to produce some anemic grill marks—assuming they’re not merely painted on.
But the worst part is the sliminess. Before wraps entered the general lexicon, fried chicken—along with pizza—was the ultimate hand-held food. Sit around with a bunch of people in a park or in the car, grab a drumstick from the tub, and you’re in business. So one might assume that KFC would take the hand-held factor into consideration with any new chicken-in-a-tub product. But it appears the chain didn’t. Kentucky Grilled Chicken leaves behind a viscosity that is most definitely not finger-lickin’ good. Unthink KFC indeed.
I Paid: $3.59 (prices may vary by region)
Arby’s sandwiches have had the reputation of being scarily at the low end of the fast-food spectrum, with grayish meat and ointment-esque sauce that not even professional food photographers could make look good. The chain’s new Roastburger is, in fact, its normal roast beef sandwich. Only it’s been gussied up with a few gourmet accouterments, like a ciabatta-esque bun, real produce (lettuce, tomato, onion), and on the Bacon & Bleu version pepper-spiked bacon and blue cheese, spelled—you guessed it—bleu cheese. It’s being marketed as a healthier, innovative alternative to a burger. Healthier because it’s “never fried, never greasy.”
For those who have never eaten at Arby’s, or who have no preexisting opinions about the chain’s food, the Roastburger may indeed present an enticing burger alternative. I, for one, am just such a consumer. I hadn’t eaten at Arby’s before researching this column, and I was pleasantly surprised by the new offering. Indeed, the Roastburger beats the pants off most fast-food burgers. There’s a bouncy lightness to the piles of sliced beef that manages to make this fast-food entrée feel a little less like a greased hockey puck sliding to the bottom of one’s gullet. Granted, this isn’t a work of culinary genius—roast beef, onion, and cheese are not a surprising nor subtle symphony of flavors—but the Roastburger is still a fine fast-food choice.