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I tried fried chicken at 5 Columbus grocery stores. Here’s the best — and the worst

Chrishon Goddard

Price Check is a Ledger-Enquirer series focusing on local grocery stores to find the best trends and best values. Have a suggestion for a future story? Email Srose@ledger-enquirer.com.

I’ve had a lot of fried chicken this week, friends. A lot.

So much, in fact, that I might be a fried chicken expert.

I did the work to bring you the best of what’s available to save you precious time and energy. I visited five grocery store delis to taste test their respective versions of fried chicken and the results varied.

I’m a purist when it comes to my chicken and only look for three criteria: crispness and crunchiness; savor and season; and tenderness and taste.

Applying a scale of 0-5, with 5 being the best to each of the above criteria, there was a clear winner and an absolutely clear loser. I bought the same pieces and visited at dinnertime every day for continuity.

Here are the five local grocery store delis, listed in order of curb-kickin’ to finger-lickin’.

5. Winn Dixie

On the day I was at this Winn Dixie, there were slim pickens as far as dinner selections. I wound up buying the family meal that included the sides, thinking it would be a crowd-pleaser at home. It wasn’t. The heat lamps did a real number on the chicken itself and it was so, so dry. Even the crust of the breast was completely devoid of moisture. I’ve never in my life wanted to dip a food item into something.

  • Crispness and crunchiness: 0

  • Savor and season: 0

  • Tenderness and taste: 0

4. Fresh Market

Fresh Market doesn’t serve the same kind of comfort food you find in the delis of the other stores, so this chicken breast was a boneless filet - the only cut offered. It did not have the traditional breading and crisp and it was thin and tasteless. I could tell there wasn’t a drop of buttermilk to be had in the batter. It was the most lackluster of my taste-tests.

  • Crispness and crunchiness: 1

  • Savor and season: 1

  • Tenderness and taste: 1

3. Walmart (Airport Thruway)

I am a repeat customer at this particular deli, and it’s reliably “just fine.” It has a pretty good crust texture, and the meat was fairly juicy. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring this to the cookout if I was in a pinch, but it most likely wouldn’t all get eaten.

  • Crispness and crunchiness: 3

  • Savor and season: 2.5

  • Tenderness and taste: 2

2. Piggly Wiggly (Moon Road)

Piggly Wiggly partners with Chester’s Chicken and the deli is all the better for it. The partnership really isn’t fair to other chains. The chicken was pretty darn good, and checked most of my boxes when it comes to taste and texture.

  • Crispness and crunchiness: 4

  • Savor and season: 3.5

  • Tenderness and taste: 3

1. Publix

Hands down, the Publix fried chicken was the best across the board. The crust was impeccable and had just the right amount of (and sorry for saying this phrase) mouth feel. It was thick and I probably could’ve made a meal of just it. The plumpness and juiciness was as good as your grandmother’s Sunday dinner. They also have a particular flavor profile that seems like it would be a crowd favorite.

  • Crispness and crunchiness: 5

  • Savor and season: 5

  • Tenderness and taste: 5

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