When did the ubiquitous chicken tender officially arrive on the scene?
I know my mother did not rely on a lot of prepared foods when I was a kid, but I’m pretty sure if chicken tenders were around and were as popular then as they are now, I’d remember having them. Instead, the ultimate kid foods were hot dogs, grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwiches, Chicken nuggets were on the scene, but those were still the “parts is parts” days.
These days, chicken tenders are on EVERY SINGLE MENU. EVERYWHERE. They’re even on the menu in ethnic restaurants. If they aren’t on the adult side of the menu in some form or another (buffalo chicken wrap, anyone?) they are for darn sure on the kids’ menu. And why not? Kids love ‘em because even though they aren’t particularly healthy, chicken tenders are particularly tasty.
However, there’s a lot to be said for a high-quality chicken tender versus a “parts is parts” chicken tender. We’ve all had the latter version before, and while not all of us are turned off by “rib meat” fused into a remotely natural-looking shape, others (ahem, moi) are kind of picky about mystery meat products. (You folks who have switched from good tenders to mincemeat tenders, I have your number).
If you have never tasted a made-from-scratch chicken tender, you’re really missing out. They can be prepared at home, of course, using the tender cut or boneless breasts cut in strips. As a side note, I really think the rubber band-like tendon or ligament or whatever it is that sticks out of one end of a tender ought to be removed before cooking. Ewwww.
But have you ever been to a restaurant that makes homemade chicken tenders? They do exist!
We’ve talked burgers, French fries, BBQ and other favorites. Now, I hereby commence the search for the best chicken tender in Southwest Virginia. I’ll tell you my two favorite places to find chicken tenders so long as you understand that I haven’t eaten chicken tenders at every restaurant and I may be forgetting a place that’s worthy of mention:
1. Shakers. These are juicy, tender, hand-breaded and served with wonderful honey-mustard sauce. As far as I know, Shakers has always served hand-breaded chicken tenders and they have always been superb, as chicken tenders go.
2. Thelma’s Chicken ‘n’ Waffles. Is it sacrilege for me to go to Thelma’s and order boneless chicken tenders instead of a bone-in piece of fried chicken? Perhaps. But these are clearly homemade, breaded with the same flavorful mixture used on all of their fried chicken, and also served with a nice honey-mustard sauce (perhaps Ken’s, which is my favorite store brand of honey-mustard sauce/dressing).
So there, I’ve offered my first couple of votes. Tell me, who do you think has the best chicken tenders in Southwest Virginia? Maybe you’d better consult the kids on this one, since so many of them are chicken tender connoisseurs!