REVIEW: Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts

Note: This guest review was written by our internet pal Russ Shelly from What’s Good at Trader Joe’s.

You don’t have to take Bowling for Soup’s word for it: 1985 was an odd year.

I mean, check this out – any further proof needed? Recorded and released as a single for Live Aid’s quest against world hunger, David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s cover of the Martha and the Vandellas classic “Dancing in the Street” is, well, perhaps the zenith of well-intentioned goofiness the mid-’80s offered. Or so I think, I was only like three years old and preoccupied with Sesame Street. Perhaps more interestingly, the video proves that because two things (in this case, Bowie and Jagger) that are awesome separately aren’t necessarily great when streams are crossed and forces combined.

Think about it. Chocolate and gum. Pickles and ice cream. Could you picture Freddie Mercury with Gimlee’s beard? Hard no.

Once again, though, two all-time classics, in the name of combating hunger, come together in the new Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts Sandwich, currently being test marketed in Pittsburgh as well as the great Virginia cities of Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach. Fried chicken. And donuts. That’s all, that’s it. Big question: is this another Bowie/Jagger or is it more Bowie/Mercury?

The answer, of course, is a little bit of each.

First, take a look at this behemoth. My goodness. It’s a full-sized fried chicken filet bookended by two full-sized glazed donuts, served warm and drippy and gooey. There’s no way anyone could eat this while driving. Or even manage a full bite: the sandwich is too colossal. Human mandibles are not meant to chomp something of this size – it’s simply impossible. It’s a two-hand job for sure.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Bun

Aside from its size, what’s most impressive about this chicken donut sandwich is the quality of the donuts themselves. It’s doubtful the Colonel is making 4 a.m. wake up calls for freshly made donuts at each store, so to have fresh, warm donuts within minutes of ordering is some sort of fast food management marvel.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Sugar

And not just that – they’re legitimately good. Crispy on the outside and warm and cakey on the inside, there’s almost like a funnel cake vibe to them, except in larger form, and instead of being doused with powdered sugar, there’s a syrupy sweet plain sugar glaze amply gooped all over the place. And while the donuts weren’t as melt-in-your-mouth as, say, fresh made Krispy Kreme, they were soft and comforting, but a bit crumbly if smushed to create a more manageable bite.

If you’ve had KFC chicken, you’ll know what the filet tastes like. Just fried chicken. Heavy on the crispies, decent seasoning, a little peppery. Not awful, but not Chick-Fil-A or Popeyes either. Just all right.

Together, though? It’s not as awful as I imagined it potentially being, but there’s room for improvement. First, with the respective size of the donuts and the filet, it was hard to get a lot of bites with a decent representative sample of each in there. Many seemed to be a little too heavy on the carby and not the clucky side. Even if both get their way in, though, there’s something amiss.

Logically, a salty/sweet flavor profile ought to be in play, but it’s not. The sugar glaze overpowers a lot of the chicken and saps its strength. There’s not anything that bridges them – instead of sugar glaze, how about maple or honey? That seems a better play to me. That might also fill the gap between what makes chicken and waffles such a success while this particular interpretation isn’t nearly as inspiring.

To any KFC bigwigs reading this, here’s my two cents, and contact me for any royalties. First, use one donut and not two. Slice it bagel style so there’s half the carbs. The donuts are big and fluffy enough; they can handle it. The kindly counterperson who chatted me up while my order was readying stated that she had not seen a single person finish a whole sandwich that week simply because it was too big. Second, instead of glazing the donuts with pure sugar, switch to maple or honey glaze and put it atop the chicken instead of drenching the dough. That’d make it probably more enjoyable.

Kentucky Fried Chicken  Donuts Tray

Chicken and waffles is definitely a thing, and in KFC’s case, with a little tweaking, chicken and donuts can be, too. Indeed, there’s also the option of ordering a chicken and donut basket combo. To be honest, the whole shebang was more enjoyable served up that way. At $5.99 for the sandwich or $7.99 for a combo with potato wedges and soft drink, this particular KFC excursion wasn’t regrettable but is unlikely to be repeated. We definitely weren’t dancing in the street after.

Purchased Price: $5.99 (sandwich only)
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Not available.

REVIEW: KFC Mac & Cheese Bowl

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl

Ask any small child and they’ll tell you that KFC has not only always had mac and cheese on the menu, but has always had mac and cheese with bits of chicken cut up and tossed around in the bowl. It’s a hand-mixed taste sensation that’s usually left half-eaten and thrown away by a mom tired of fighting with a child that won’t cooperate with a lunchtime meal.

From these literal mouths of children comes Kentucky Fried Chicken’s latest bowl du jour, the Mac & Cheese Bowl, an easy-enough concoction that brings the famous side to the forefront and makes it a blessed entrée for any adult that needs their food in a somewhat compact form, available in both original and, of course, spicy.

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl Top

Despite the trouble ordering just the bowl at my area franchise — my server told me it’s only available as a “fill up” and I did not feel like arguing — when it arrived quickly on my tray, I immediately noticed it looked far less plump than the advertisements hung all around the store made it seem. While the pictures depict the bowl as a heightened foodscape of chicken and cheese dreams, in real life, it is just a low-lying valley of flat nuggets and buried cheddar.

Popping the plastic top and letting the scented heat waft upwards though, the smell was a peppy delight of warm Nashville hot sauce and melty cheddar cheese. There was a decent enough ratio of chicken to macaroni, always a plus. The spicy chicken popcorn nuggets seemed to cover the top, my fork gently stirring the mac and cheese from the bottom, like a perverted variation of yogurt.

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl Mixed

While the spicy Nashville flavor of the chicken overpowered the well-meaning mac and cheese, it still worked here. The underlying cheesy taste is a heavenly layer of yellow deliciousness that manages to break through the thick wall of clucky goodness. It’s a taste that combines very well and, honestly, probably something that many of us already did before this even came out.

KFC Mac  Cheese Bowl Closeup

Sadly, as tasty as this is, I don’t think it makes a better combination than the typically perfect chicken and mashed potato Famous Bowl, which seems like more of a natural dish, one that has a sprinkling of cheese on it already, along with a few bits of corn. Still, if you’re ordering a Mac & Cheese Bowl, you know what you’re getting and, in that case, you’re going be mighty happy.

But, you know, if this meal doesn’t make you happy, chances are you’re just a fussy four-year-old with great reading skills.

Purchased Price: $5.00 (Fill Up Meal)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Unavailable at post time.

REVIEW: KFC Cheetos Sandwich

KFC Cheetos Sandwich

I’m sure the culinary elite among us will be the first to loudly show their usual disdain for the junk food collision that is KFC’s latest inventive foodstuff, the rather tasty Cheetos Sandwich.

If they do, it really is a shame — mostly theirs — because this pile of fried chicken and cheesy doodles is practically every child’s dream dinner come to neon orange fruition.

My reasonably clean fingers were almost immediately coated in the fine Cheeto dust as I inspected the sandwich, its festive Chester Cheetah-designed box receiving two paws up for its lovingly creative branding; with the usually plump bun making for a truly inviting sandwich, errant Cheetos poked out of the sides, causing even the edges of the fried chicken to turn a bright orange hue.

KFC Cheetos Sandwich Mountain

While, as an aforementioned child, I used to absolutely love the use of the crunchy cheddar snack as a full-on sandwich accoutrement, usually to give the cheap ham or cheaper bologna my mother bought some semblance of direct flavor. But here, the fried chicken of the Crispy Colonel Sandwich is delightfully flavorful enough, the cheddar crunch of the added Cheetos is a well-proportioned riff on an already indelible menu item.

KFC Cheetos Sandwich Topless

But it’s the added flavor of the provocative Cheetos Sauce that is a perfectly zingy taste sensation that should replace those bland slices of that American cheese nonsense in most sandwiches and burgers across the country, starting right here, right now. The sauce — very much with the look and feel of somewhat wet macaroni and cheese powder, with the Cheetos taste, natch — keeps things perfectly crunchy and crispy, making sure it coats everything it touches.

While there is a buttery aftertaste of sorts, it’s not entirely unwelcome. As a matter of fact, my main fear with the Cheetos Sandwich was that, sure, it might be good for a couple of bites, but after a few minutes alone with it, a sort of cheesy fatigue would set in. This should have been the obvious example of too much of a good thing — and it truly is — but this is a good thing that, like sitting on the couch in front of the television and downing a full bag of Cheetos, you don’t get tired of it.

Yes, this is a “limited time only” thing, per usual, but I would like to see KFC expand on this, much like how Taco Bell has exploited its Doritos offerings. Maybe various flavors like a Chipotle Ranch or, Lord forbid, a Flaming Hot variation of a chicken sandwich? Or how about some Jalapeno Cheddar-infused potatoes wedges or, and here’s an idea you can have, KFC, a Mexican-style Cheetos elote.

But, Hell, to be fair, I would pay extra for a couple of packets of that crazy Cheetos sauce to liberally squeeze on my two-piece or, if I’m being grossly honest, to suck straight from like it was directly drained from Chester Cheetah’s nipples. I’m not that hard to please, guys.

Purchased Price: $4.79
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out 10
Nutrition Facts: Currently not available.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew Sweet Lightning

Mtn Dew Sweet Lightning  KFC Exclusive

What is Mtn Dew Sweet Lightning?

The marketing materials describe this latest Mountain Dew concoction as having a “sweet peach and smooth honey” flavor, a description which seemingly does its best to match the drink’s shockingly bright orange hue.

How is it?

Well, it definitely is sweet. It’s far more toothaching than any recent Dew flavors, at least since the holidays. As a plus, the Sweet Lightning doesn’t have the Robitussin DM-lite accents that those Christmas ones did.

Mtn Dew Sweet Lightning  KFC Exclusive Closer Up

While, admittedly, it’s a little difficult to pinpoint either the peach or honey flavors over the first couple of gulps, to be honest, at first I thought I was drinking some sort of European tangerine drink and walked over to the machine to double-check. Eventually, though, when you know what to feel around in the back of your mouth for, its shocking sweetness actually provides some much needed balm for those customers snacking on KFC’s salty poultry, or, God forbid, its moderately hot chicken items.

Is there anything else you need to know?

In case you couldn’t guess, Mtn Dew Sweet Lightning is available exclusively at Kentucky Fried Chicken and its soda fountains for — say it with me now — a limited time only. Additionally, did you know that KFC doesn’t offer a small size for its drinks? I just learned that as I forked over two bucks for a medium.

Conclusion:

Mtn Dew Sweet Lightning  KFC Exclusive Close Up

Mtn Dew is doing its very best to appeal to those with a sweet tooth in the KFC audience that aren’t digging into the new Cinnabon Dessert Biscuits — oh boy, myself included — with this fun summertime flavor that manages to combine two disparate tastes into what, at first sip, tastes like neither.

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: Medium
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Unavailable.

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REVIEW: KFC Spicy Famous Bowl

KFC Spicy Famous Bowl

Mamma mia! That’s a spicy… um, Famous Bowl?

While at a broad glance, a big bowl full of KFC’s famous brown gravy doesn’t look like it would or should mix with a moderate size drizzle of its new-ish Nashville Hot sauce all that well, but good God almighty if they don’t make quite the sexy pair of tongue-searing bedfellows.

The Famous Bowl has long been the much maligned trough of just about everything on the menu that, against all odds and most expectations, has managed to stay on KFC’s famed menu for quite a while now despite it being a heaping helping of a dystopic future. And, for $3 bucks, that’s really some budget-friendly mass caloric intake that most of America seems more than comfortable to ease our downfall with.

Like a few of its other, more recent menu additions, KFC is adding a straight bit of heat in the form of said Nashville Hot sauce on the tops of these famous bowls. It creates a unique source of tangy hotness that feels like the exact element these bowls have been missing for so long, freeing it and us from downing basically a big bowl of sodium-heavy mush.

KFC Spicy Famous Bowl 2

Each plastic bowl, loaded to the hilt with, of course, creamy mashed potatoes, firm sweet corn, and crispy chicken bites, as well as the comforting gravy and three shredded cheeses of varying flavors, are taken to a newer level. Not a proud level, but at the very least, a higher one. Each crunchy chicken bite now has a great kick to it, mingling the gritty pepper with the smooth capsicum, a little bit going a very long way.

It’s a nice little burn that’s totally unexpected and morbidly welcomed, the burn quickly diffusing however with the warm gravy and the warmer mashed potatoes providing a different kind of incandescence.

The heat stays for just a couple of self-torturing beats, the uncomfortability leaving when you’re ready. It’s a nice change of sweltering pace from the usual item of fast food burritos and so on. Not that there’s anything wrong with burritos, of course.

KFC Spicy Famous Bowl 3

The addition of Nashville hot sauce is such a deserving landmark, one that I honestly would like to see them try in the near future with its Georgia Gold additive as well. Really, KFC, anything you can do to make the body-polluting bowl into a more pleasant diversion of taste, here’s my three dollars, have a prototype on my desk by Monday.

And yes, the irony isn’t lost on me over the fact that the Nashville Hot sauce isn’t as great on the individual chicken bearing its name. However, though it took a few trying months, I think we have a purely Southern victory of taste and flavor that would even make the Colonel stand up in his coffin and give a postmortem salute. Cómpralo ya!

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 720 calories, 34 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 2370 milligrams of sodium, 79 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 23 grams of protein.

REVIEW: KFC Chicken & Waffles

KFC Chicken  Waffles

As I wiped the sticky syrup from my fingers using the convenient wet towelette included with my meal, I have to admit I cracked a deeply disturbing yet wholly satisfied smile. Chicken and waffles seem like such a decades-old bandwagon to jump on. The fact that KFC was actually able to create a seasonal masterwork like this has to be a minor holiday miracle, right?

Having sampled this famed coupling all the way from small local diners to the grandfather of them all, Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in L.A., no two recipes are ever the same, with KFC falling completely in line.

KFC Chicken  Waffles 2

Combining two of the Original Recipe varieties of chicken — a drumstick and thigh, if you will — with a very thick and very heavy mini-waffle, KFC has shined its populous light on a rare dining treat that many people are curious about but might not ever a chance to otherwise enjoy.

Of course, we know that KFC’s chicken is usually tops in this mother-clucking business, so we’ll skip all that for now. The real surprise, the real focus here, has got to be the beautifully vanilla-sweet waffle, a delectable pill that tastes more like a pressed piece of sheet-cake than the archetypical breakfast side. All that’s missing is a heavy dollop of whipped cream.

KFC Chicken  Waffles 3

After tearing open my single-serve cup of Mrs. Butterworth’s, I coated back and forth the good-looking eats laid out before me. The runny guzzle of the much-loved pancake topping puddled at the bottom of the black container, letting the chicken and waffles soak in its sugars for a few mouth-teasing minutes.

The thick syrup made the dense waffle into something like a dunked doughnut, soft but sticky and ready to get your fingers dirty. And while that is expected when it comes to waffles, I wasn’t prepared for how the same chemical reaction — both mentally and physically — would work with the Original Recipe chicken. Who could or would have ever guessed just how much the toothsome syrup made a perfect marriage partner with the highly trademarked chicken.

While I ordered the two pieces with one waffle, there was a part of me that wished I had also ordered the delectable looking Hot Honey Chicken Tender Sandwich that uses the brave little waffles as a top and bottom. To Hell with you, Double Down! Leaving the KFC, maybe next time I thought, maybe next time. Cómpralo ya!

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: 2 pieces with 1 waffle
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Unavailable at time of publication.