Peckish for poultry? Chicken chains battle it out in the suburbs
Why does someone in the suburbs cross the road?
To get to the chicken restaurant on the other side.
If you've got a hankerin' for poultry, there's a good chance you can find plenty of options to satiate that hunger in any Chicago suburb thanks to several chain eateries expanding their roosts as they battle for the taste buds and wallets of diners who seemingly never cry "fowl" over another chicken dinner.
Staples like KFC, Popeyes and Chicago-area mainstay Harold's Chicken Shack remain popular, while outfits like Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane's still draw huge crowds when new stores open. In fact, Raising Cane's is opening its latest suburban outpost in Arlington Heights on Jan. 25.
And suburban residents have no problem taking sides, and we're not just talking about beans, fries or coleslaw.
"For a small business, Harold's Chicken can't be beat," said Ken Johnson of Schaumburg. "For corporate business, it's Chick-fil-A spicy sandwich and Popeyes Fried Chicken."
No matter how it's prepared -- fried, grilled or broasted -- the public's interest in chicken and a fast casual dining experience does not appear to be waning.
Newer entrants into the suburban chicken wars include Nando's, with locations in Naperville and Oak Brook; Fry the Coop, which has spots in Elmhurst and Prospect Heights; Dave's Hot Chicken, a nationwide chain with three Illinois locations including Naperville; Mother Clucker's, a Chicago operation with a Palatine outpost; and Mr. Broast, with its breaded and fried Zinger Burger chicken sandwich at locations in Aurora, Lombard and Rosemont.
"I kind of like Fry the Coop in Prospect Heights," said Rolling Meadows resident Jessica Butler. "They have really good crispy, spicy Nashville chicken sandwiches. I like their seasoned fries too."
Even NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal is getting in on the action, planning to open Big Chicken in Rosemont later this year, the first Midwest spot for the growing chain.
Here's a look at how the major players stack up against one another:
What it's known for: Original chicken sandwich and waffle fries
Menu gem: Chick-fil-A Chicken Breakfast Biscuit, arguably the best thing on the menu
Locations in Illinois: 59
Suburban spots include: Algonquin, Aurora, Batavia, Bloomingdale, Crystal Lake, Deerfield, Elgin, Elmhurst, Gurnee, Kildeer, Lombard, Mount Prospect, Schaumburg, Vernon Hills, Wheaton
Harold's Chicken Shack
What it's known for: 1/2 Chicken Dinner
Menu gem: Don't sleep on their seafood selections
Locations in Illinois: 30
Suburban spots include: Aurora and the south suburbs
What it's known for: Original recipe of 11 herbs and spices fried chicken bucket
Menu gem: Famous Bowl, which features mashed potato bed topped with gravy, corn, cheese and chicken chunks
Locations in Illinois: 151
Suburban spots include: Algonquin, Antioch, Aurora, Bartlett, Carol Stream, Crystal Lake, Des Plaines, Downers Grove, Elgin, Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn, Gurnee, Hoffman Estates, Lisle, Lombard, McHenry, Mount Prospect, Naperville, Round Lake, Schaumburg, Streamwood, Vernon Hills, Wauconda, West Chicago, Wheeling
What it's known for: Classic and Spicy chicken sandwiches
Menu gem: Biscuits, melt in your mouth buttery, flaky goodness
Locations in Illinois: 134
Suburban spots include: Addison, Antioch, Arlington Heights, Aurora, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Carpentersville, Crystal Lake, Des Plaines, Elgin, Glendale Heights, Hampshire, Hanover Park, Huntley, Lake Zurich, Lisle, Lombard, McHenry, Mount Prospect, Mundelein, Naperville, North Aurora, Palatine, Round Lake Beach, Schaumburg, Villa Park, West Chicago
What it's known for: Chicken fingers and Cane's Sauce
Menu gem: The often-imitated, never-duplicated delightfully tangy Cane's Sauce
Locations in Illinois: 10
Suburban spots include: Arlington Heights (opening Jan. 25), Bloomingdale, Crystal Lake, Glen Ellyn, Gurnee, Crystal Lake, Naperville, Schaumburg