Finance We tried fried chicken from 2 of the South's fiercest rival chains — and the winner was clear

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Bojangles, a North Carolina-based chicken chain, isn't content to stay in the South any longer.

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(Hollis Johnson)
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In the fast-paced, cut-throat chicken industry, it's hard to set yourself apart.

However, a regional chain from North Carolina isn't content to stay in the South any longer.

Bojangles', with 728 locations nationwide, is on an expansion spree. But, if the chain wants to catch on outside the Carolinas, it needs to take on international players — like the ubiquitous Church's Chicken, with more than 1,700 locations worldwide.

In an effort to see if Bojangles' could keep up with the flock, we visited Bojangles' and Church's as part of our whirlwind chicken tour.

Bojangles' was founded in 1977 in Charlotte, North Carolina. We visited one in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Bojangles' beige buttress beckoned from the highway in Charlottesville, Virginia. play

Bojangles' beige buttress beckoned from the highway in Charlottesville, Virginia.

(Hollis Johnson)


Walking in calls to mind the cleanly, sterile taupe terrain of an old-school Wendy's.

The taupe continued inside. The interior had a clean and sterile — yet vaguely homey — vibe, like an old-school New England Wendy's. play

The taupe continued inside. The interior had a clean and sterile — yet vaguely homey — vibe, like an old-school New England Wendy's.

(Hollis Johnson)


Ordering is a speedy business — though not a stealthy one. Cashiers relay orders over a speaker system to the kitchen, who quickly put together your meal. It's surprisingly efficient, taking less than five minutes start to finish.

Bojangles' is well-loved, and for good reason. But it at times falls short of expectation. We can see why people love the biscuit and celebrate the chicken's Cajun seasoning — but in 2017, the chicken competition is stiff. The chain's breakfast menu would compel these judges to visit over a trip to Popeyes, but on a comparison of chicken, the larger chain still reigns supreme. play

Bojangles' is well-loved, and for good reason. But it at times falls short of expectation. We can see why people love the biscuit and celebrate the chicken's Cajun seasoning — but in 2017, the chicken competition is stiff. The chain's breakfast menu would compel these judges to visit over a trip to Popeyes, but on a comparison of chicken, the larger chain still reigns supreme.

(Hollis Johnson)


We ordered quite the chicken and biscuit spread: four-piece Chicken Supreme combo, two-piece dinner, grilled chicken sandwich, a Cajun Fillet sandwich, and the infamous Boberry Biscuit.

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(Hollis Johnson)


As we sipped on the sugar-saturated sweet tea and a cup of Cherry Patio (a beverage that has been impossible to find anywhere except Bojangles' since the late '70s), we tore into our chicken.

Bojangles' is also known for its extraordinarily sugary sweet tea. Something else caught our eye, however: Patio red cherry soda. play

Bojangles' is also known for its extraordinarily sugary sweet tea. Something else caught our eye, however: Patio red cherry soda.

(Hollis Johnson)


The chicken on the bone certainly isn't dry. Instead, the grease threatens to overwhelm the otherwise serviceable chicken.

The dirty rice, on the other hand, is a surprisingly tasty side. Sausage adds a salty, savory punch of flavor to the seasoned rice. It's not something you can get at any fast-food chain, and Bojangles' is better for it. play

The dirty rice, on the other hand, is a surprisingly tasty side. Sausage adds a salty, savory punch of flavor to the seasoned rice. It's not something you can get at any fast-food chain, and Bojangles' is better for it.

(Hollis Johnson)


The Selects, Bojangles' name for tenders, are somewhat dry. The spice is nice, but Bojangles' fails to capture the crucial crunch.

The Supremes look fairly appealing, but upon first bite, the luster is lost. While they're not horrible, they're drier, and they lack that crunch that one craves from a proper tender. The Cajun seasoning, however, is an uplifting redemption that makes these worth a try. play

The Supremes look fairly appealing, but upon first bite, the luster is lost. While they're not horrible, they're drier, and they lack that crunch that one craves from a proper tender. The Cajun seasoning, however, is an uplifting redemption that makes these worth a try.

(Hollis Johnson)


The Cajun Fillet sandwich is similarly well-flavored — but the mayo ratio is way off, and the bun falls short.

The fried-chicken sandwich suffers from a similar mayo malaise. However, the Cajun seasoning manages to cling to life despite the dead weight of the goopy condiment. play

The fried-chicken sandwich suffers from a similar mayo malaise. However, the Cajun seasoning manages to cling to life despite the dead weight of the goopy condiment.

(Hollis Johnson)


Even more disappointing is the grilled chicken sandwich. To quote from our notes: "Dry! Bad! No flavor!"

If only the same could be said for the grilled-chicken sandwich. This mayo-laden mess is both dry and flavorless, with a bun that shirks its noble task of avoiding sogginess, and wimpy lettuce that retreats in the face of a mayonnaise onslaught. play

If only the same could be said for the grilled-chicken sandwich. This mayo-laden mess is both dry and flavorless, with a bun that shirks its noble task of avoiding sogginess, and wimpy lettuce that retreats in the face of a mayonnaise onslaught.

(Hollis Johnson)


Then there's the Boberry biscuit. People adore this iconic treat: a sweet, blueberry biscuit smothered in frosting.

Then there's the Boberry biscuit. People adore this iconic treat: a sweet, blueberry biscuit smothered in frosting. play

Then there's the Boberry biscuit. People adore this iconic treat: a sweet, blueberry biscuit smothered in frosting.

(Hollis Johnson)


To say we did not join the cult of the Boberry biscuit is an understatement. The biscuit left us cringing as we bit through the strata of sugar. It's tooth-achingly sweet — and the dehydrated blueberries taste fake.

Bojangles' signature sweet, the Bo-Berry biscuit, is adored by the chain's fans. Yet this adoration befuddles us. Biting in, Hollis immediately called his dentist to schedule a cleaning. The toaster-strudel-esque icing gave way to a sweetened biscuit dappled with suspiciously artificial-tasting blueberries. It's an icon, sure, but a problematic fave. play

Bojangles' signature sweet, the Bo-Berry biscuit, is adored by the chain's fans. Yet this adoration befuddles us. Biting in, Hollis immediately called his dentist to schedule a cleaning. The toaster-strudel-esque icing gave way to a sweetened biscuit dappled with suspiciously artificial-tasting blueberries. It's an icon, sure, but a problematic fave.

(Hollis Johnson)


On the other end of the biscuit spectrum is Bojangles' classic yet noble biscuit. It doesn't work for glory — it simply does its job as a buttery workhorse. Its strength lies in its simplicity, lifting every dish it accompanies to new heights.

The saving grace is the simple, humble plain biscuit. Sweet, buttery, salty salvation. It's a utility player that doesn't put on airs or ask for much but delivers every time. play

The saving grace is the simple, humble plain biscuit. Sweet, buttery, salty salvation. It's a utility player that doesn't put on airs or ask for much but delivers every time.

(Hollis Johnson)


Leaving Bojangles', we had a mission. We hoped Church's Chicken could take us to church, with a heavenly chicken recipe.

The ordering system sets Bojangles' apart from others: The cashier calls orders over a PA system to the kitchen, which springs into action. play

The ordering system sets Bojangles' apart from others: The cashier calls orders over a PA system to the kitchen, which springs into action.

(Hollis Johnson)


We headed to Richmond, Virginia, seeking salvation, arriving at a small location with just a handful of booths — a to-go style shop. At Church's, we ordered a two-piece combo, tender strips, and a chicken sandwich.

We headed to Richmond, Virginia, seeking salvation, arriving at a small location with just a handful of booths — a to-go style shop. At Church's, we ordered a two-piece combo, tender strips, and a chicken sandwich. play

We headed to Richmond, Virginia, seeking salvation, arriving at a small location with just a handful of booths — a to-go style shop. At Church's, we ordered a two-piece combo, tender strips, and a chicken sandwich.

(Hollis Johnson)


Eating the chicken on the bone, we realized we may have made a strategic error. The chicken was passable — not too dry, not very greasy, and while slightly lacking in crunch, not embarrassingly so. However, the lack of distinct flavor made it forgettable.

Eating the chicken on the bone, we realized we may have made a strategic error. The chicken was passable — not too dry, not very greasy, and while slightly lacking in crunch, not embarrassingly so. However, the lack of distinct flavor made it forgettable. play

Eating the chicken on the bone, we realized we may have made a strategic error. The chicken was passable — not too dry, not very greasy, and while slightly lacking in crunch, not embarrassingly so. However, the lack of distinct flavor made it forgettable.

(Hollis Johnson)


The tenders had a similar issue. The meat was reasonably juicy and good quality, but the "wow" factor wasn't there.

The tenders had a similar issue. The meat was reasonably juicy and good quality, but the "wow" factor wasn't there. play

The tenders had a similar issue. The meat was reasonably juicy and good quality, but the "wow" factor wasn't there.

(Hollis Johnson)


The sandwich was a pleasant, pocket-sized surprise. It didn't pretend to be anything fancy, but it packed a punch as far as fast-food chicken sandwiches go.

The sandwich from Church's Chicken has a comforting similarity to McDonald's McChicken sandwich. It's simple, and it knows it is. It's a not-very-crispy, yet not soggy, chicken patty sandwiched between a humdrum sesame bun, some shredded lettuce, and some neon yellow cheese. play

The sandwich from Church's Chicken has a comforting similarity to McDonald's McChicken sandwich. It's simple, and it knows it is. It's a not-very-crispy, yet not soggy, chicken patty sandwiched between a humdrum sesame bun, some shredded lettuce, and some neon yellow cheese.

(Hollis Johnson)


The shining star was the biscuit. Church's honey-butter biscuit showed what a sweet biscuit should be — not the cloying blight of the Boberry. It was almost light, with a lovely honey glaze on a savory biscuit providing the perfect balance of sweet and salty — a flavor combination for the ages.

The shining star was the biscuit. Church's honey-butter biscuit showed what a sweet biscuit should be — not the cloying blight of the Boberry. It was almost light, with a lovely honey glaze on a savory biscuit providing the perfect balance of sweet and salty — a flavor combination for the ages. play

The shining star was the biscuit. Church's honey-butter biscuit showed what a sweet biscuit should be — not the cloying blight of the Boberry. It was almost light, with a lovely honey glaze on a savory biscuit providing the perfect balance of sweet and salty — a flavor combination for the ages.

(Church's Chicken)


With two uneven menus, it was hard for us to decide how Bojangles' and Church's stacked up. Kate was leaning towards Bojangles', while Church's had convinced Hollis. In an effort to declare a winner, once and for all, we decided to revisit Bojangles' for breakfast — in part, at the bidding of Carolina Bojangles' loyalists.

The system works seamlessly. Our orders were ready in roughly three minutes — easily the speediest chicken chain we surveyed. play

The system works seamlessly. Our orders were ready in roughly three minutes — easily the speediest chicken chain we surveyed.

(Hollis Johnson)


We ordered a slew of biscuit-based sandwiches — something we had skipped on our last visit — and dug in. Prime among the sandwiches were the Cajun Chicken Fillet and the sausage egg and cheese.

We ordered a slew of biscuit-based sandwiches — something we had skipped on our last visit — and dug in. Prime among the sandwiches were the Cajun Chicken Fillet and the sausage egg and cheese. play

We ordered a slew of biscuit-based sandwiches — something we had skipped on our last visit — and dug in. Prime among the sandwiches were the Cajun Chicken Fillet and the sausage egg and cheese.

(Hollis Johnson)


Ultimately, the biscuit carried these sandwiches the extra mile — and ultimately brought Bojangles' out on top.

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(Hollis Johnson)