Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Popeye's and Other Chicken

Found a Popeye's within easy driving distance of work, which makes me happy. I like Popeye's chicken more than most other fast-food chicken places. Church's spicy comes close, but it's too dry, and their biscuits aren't as good either. KFC Original Recipe is probably still good, but every KFC I've visited in the past couple of years has given awful service, plus I hate the way they've rejiggered their menu, so I stopped going. Pelicana Chicken is awesome, but I'm nowhere near South Korea, so I haven't had it in a while; General Tso's chicken comes close, though, so I usually pile that stuff on when I hit a Chinese buffet. The only big problem I have with Popeye's is that they're expensive; $5.49 for a two-piece meal with drink. At least Church's offers some lower-priced options.

I read an interesting factoid on the Wikipedia site for Popeye's Chicken. Apparently, it did not take its name from Popeye the Sailor. I had assumed that Popeye's was part of that late 60's/early 70's fad of celebrities adding their names to fast food joints, like Minnie Pearl Fried Chicken or Roy Rogers Roast Beef.

We had a Minnie Pearl in Oklahoma City for a while, on Britton Road IIRC. The chicken was okay, nothing special (it was never intended to be special; the entire chain was founded on the concept of being Pepsi to KFC's Coke--a second-best siphoning off excess business). The chain mostly went under a few years later after an SEC investigation into accounting problems and allegations of stock price manipulation.

My stepfather used to bring home Roy Rogers sandwiches. They were awful, dry things that turned me off roast beef for years. I would go to Arby's with friends in college and just eat fries because I couldn't stand the thought of eating another cardboard sandwich. Most of the Roy Rogers in my area got turned into Hardee's in the 90's, and good riddance, I said.

So, with that kind of track record for franchised "celebrity name" restaurants, I figured Popeye's would be just another joint with nearly inedible food trying to make a fast buck with a famous name. Imagine my surprise when I finally broke down and visited the Popeye's near USC and discovered not only tasty chicken, but biscuits better than any I'd ever tasted before. I loved Popeye's in Los Angeles, couldn't find it in OKC or Tulsa when I moved back, had it again in the Army (Popeye's and Burger King were favorite destinations in Korea when we visited Camp Casey on "official" business). There are a few locations in Tulsa now, but none were within convenient driving distance, or so I thought.

Now I find out that, not only is there one close enough to visit frequently, but I was mistaken about the celebrity-name thing. Popeye's actually got its name from the character of Popeye Doyle in "The French Connection." So the famous name franchise curse is still operational.

Yeah, but what about Kenny Roger's Roasters? you ask. Their chicken was awesome.

I agree. Very tasty. But they made the mistake of charging sit-down restaurant prices for fast-food, and now there's only one location left, according to Wikipedia. The curse lives on.

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