A couple of years ago, I stopped at Dongar, the little convenience store and gas stop at the corner of Lexington Road and Payne Street. It was early evening, it had been a long day, I hadn’t eaten in hours, and I figured I would just eat whatever was in the fridge when I got home.
But as I approached the counter with whatever it was I had stopped to buy (probably beer), I noticed there was one item left in the warmer that, during the day, is often stuffed with fried chicken, biscuits and other such items. That item? A small cardboard basket of chicken livers that was marked 99 cents.
“I’ll have those,” I told the clerk, who suddenly looked surprised they were still there. He said, “Sir, you don’t want those.” I told him I was starving, wanted something hot and easy and that for a dollar, I would take a chance. He gave them to me for free.
Anyway, the smaller livers in the basket had shriveled and dried to the point of being chewy, but the larger ones were still in decent shape, and quite tasty. No idea how long they’d been sitting there and I don’t want to know — I just know they didn’t kill me.
Since then, I’ve been a little intrigued with gas station chicken, and when Krispy Krunchy chicken started popping up at area convenience stores, I grew even more intrigued. Since the brand didn’t make it into LEO’s fried chicken issue late last year, I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t blown away, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
I stopped at Valero, which is not far from Dongar at the corner of Spring Street and Mellwood Avenue, for lunch and found the warmer packed with wings, tenders, bone-in chicken, biscuit sandwiches and more. You can buy family meals, meals for one and just lots of chicken if you so desire. There’s also fish and chicken on the menu.
I grabbed a two-piece mixed (breast and a thigh, my choice) with a biscuit plus a side of potato wedges, and I also got a fountain soft drink, and my total meal was $7 and some change. That’s a pretty good start, right there.
I took it home, plated it and was pleasantly surprised to find a few little, crispy bits of the golden brown shell under all the food. Also, I had figured on getting maybe five or six wedges, and there was at least a dozen crammed into the small box around the two decent-sized pieces of chicken. (There are also sides such as red beans and rice and mashed potatoes, among others.)
That said, while the wedges were fluffy and tasted good, they were only lightly crisp on the edges, and the light seasoning didn’t really distinguish itself. They were good, but they were nothing like the mega-wedges you’ll get at Indi’s or even at Chicken King. Meanwhile, the biscuit, though buttery, was small and crumbled in my hands.
But when I dug into the thigh, I was impressed by the thick shell surrounding the juicy meat. There was minimal grease collected inside — if any — and the meaty chicken tasted fresh. The batter was plenty salty, but it’s a pretty mild seasoning, even though Krispy Krunchy labels itself as Cajun-style chicken. I got the feeling this recipe was designed for folks who prefer a milder experience. (In other words, if you want to spice it up, grab a couple of packets of hot sauce when you pick up your food.)
I picked the thigh clean and dove into the breast, which was even better. Perfectly cooked, the tender, fresh white meat finished off my ample lunch with aplomb. As my dog, Atticus, watched and drooled, I plucked the chicken free of meat. (OK, I did give him a bite or two.)
I suspect the Indi’s and Chicken King devotees might pooh-pooh the notion of this gas station chicken, but I wasn’t disappointed. It still beats some of the bigger-name chains (you know what I mean), at least in terms of quality and value. And while I’m partial to Mellwood Tavern’s chicken, that is available on only Tuesday nights.
The fact is, the Krispy Krunchy chain is designed for value — founded in 1989 (in a convenience store, no less). The whole idea is to deliver quality food in a pop-up sort of model that means lower overhead than a full brick-and-mortar for the franchisee. And that’s why they were able to sell me a lunch I couldn’t quite finish for under $8.
I would absolutely get Krispy Krunchy again.