Welcome to this week’s battle, where two fried-chicken chains — Kennedy Fried Chicken and Crown Fried Chicken — give New York the bird. In a good way.
First a little history …
Afghanistan-born Zia Taeb started Kennedy. He began working as a fry cook in the 1970s, The New York Times reports. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of halal meat in the city. So Taeb opened his own fried-chicken shop — intentionally riffing on the initials and colors of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken — and business boomed. Taeb happened to be one of the only people selling hot and fresh halal meat to the city’s growing Muslim population.
A lot of entrepreneurs — mostly Afghans — took notice, and started their own fried shops, even using the name Kennedy Fried Chicken, so the story goes. Abdul Haye was one of them: He bought one of these restaurants in 1994, and applied for the trademark about 10 years later, the paper reports. Like Taeb, who quit the business, and Haye’s offering, the approach to the popular meal greatly resembles the way the chicken often gets prepared in Southern black communities — traditionally, the skin stays on, and the pieces get a light flour coating, not thick batter. Other variations, like Crown Fried Chicken, also popped up.
Haye, who now holds the trademark to the Kennedy Fried Chicken name, has recently decided to take action against impostors, the Times notes. He’s demanding franchising fees from Kennedys that have sprung up as far away as California, and threatening legal action if they don’t agree.
But what about his chicken itself? We here at Fork in the Road decided to compare one Kennedy and one Crown to find out: Who’s got better breasts and legs?
Kennedy Fried Chicken & Pizza
(1898 Jerome Avenue, Bronx, location)
At the store we tried in the Bronx, you get two hunks of juicy, golden-brown meat — and rolls — for $2.50. The coating — pretty much made up of flour with hints of salt and pepper — has a respectable crunch, but doesn’t feel hard when you bite. The skin, which keeps the oils close to the muscle, is a great example of fried fat done just right: simple and savory. Of course, the leg came across as more flavorful — dark flesh is always tastier — but the white meat held its own in terms of moisture and meatiness, too.
Crown Fried Chicken
(1867 Lexington Avenue location)
Known more for its Pueblan eats, Spanish Harlem also boasts a damn good bird, at Crown. Priced at $2.75, the breast and leg have a ruddy sheen, the crust giving the inside a hearty layer of grease. The dark meat has a rich flavor and substantial mouthfeel: The muscle is soft, with a slight chewiness. But Crown’s breast nearly rivals its leggy sibling when it comes to flavor. The white meat tastes as if it had been basted for hours, and is just as succulent as the dark.
Next: The Verdict …
Both Kennedy and Crown have great gams — and you can barely tell the difference. In the end, though, Crown does with the breast what few poultry purveyors can: Make it as tantalizing (and borderline fatty) as a skillfully fried leg.