The Taste Chase presents: Your new address for Chicken

Krispy Krunchy Chicken available at Lukoil.

Summer is winding down and, while many of us are busily settling ourselves and our offspring into a new school year, others are rocking themselves to sleep through the early ravages of “Empty Nest Syndrome.” And then there is the still recovering group who barely made it through the tryptophan haze they subjected themselves to in the recent nationwide chicken sandwich war between Chick-Fil-A and Popeye’s. But just when you thought the malaise of chicken-mania had passed, enter a formally formerly? dismissed contender that serves not only desperate taste buds but answers two important questions:  1) “Can I get good fried chicken in Pennington” and 2) “Should I fill up where, ya know, I fill up?”

The address of 2558 Pennington Road, Pennington has proclaimed itself “Your new address for fried chicken” or, as we all know it, LukOil. In addition to gasoline, LukOil now offers the “Krispy Krunchy” brand of fried chicken, shrimp, fish and, you guessed it, a fried chicken sandwich. If you have ever gotten gas at the LukOil, you have no doubt seen these signs and wondered, or maybe you just did what most do and headed straight for Tastykake rack. Regardless, someone must be eating “Krispy Krunchy Chicken” because they are still selling it. I wondered who and, more importantly, I wondered why.

When I let Lukoil’s staff know I was there to buy some chicken, a nice man went into the back and, after some muffled conversation, seemingly conjured up someone to assist me. Enter Marvin. Putting on his plastic food service gloves, he quickly asked me what I wanted. Having gotten a good look at the chicken while I was waiting, I decided that I would get a variety. The chicken pieces were quite a bit smaller than the offerings at Popeye’s and perhaps even KFC. Given the time I went (it was 2pm – after the lunch rush) I was certain the only thing that was making this chicken even remotely attractive was the fast food life support – or heat lamps to the culinary layman. As they say, lighting is everything.

Marvin explained to me that all the chicken is fresh. I needed a definition of “fresh.” 

“We get chicken delivery every day so the chicken is fresh. Not frozen,” he explained. 

He went on to tell me that he seasons and breads the chicken every morning and then fries it. Honestly, it felt a little sketchy to me but it also gave me a little hope that the chicken might not be half bad. After surveying things a bit more, I got a three-piece meal but I swapped out the wing for a thigh. Boy, did that cost me ($1.89)!! I also got mashed potatoes with gravy because it seemed the natural and safe choice. There were a few other sides on offer but some were gone and others seemed like they may be a bit of a stretch for gas station cuisine, namely jambalaya, which Marvin confessed was “spicy” and came in a package. I already knew that was a hard, pre-packaged, “pass.” The mac-n-cheese was already gone and I was quite sure that a “Krispy Krunchy” wedge fry was about the same as a wedge fry anywhere, so mashed potatoes, gravy, and two honey-butter biscuits it was.

After grabbing up my meal, plus the solitary chicken sandwich on offer that I saw at the last minute, I headed home for the taste test. My son volunteered, under some duress, to be my taste bud for this adventure, one of the perks of having children (video games, internet were held hostage). I really had no expectations but, if I were to believe the advertisements, “Krunchy Krispy” with a “K” was going to be just that. Hmmm. We dug in.

First, “Krispy” seems to be a very broad term. There was nothing crispy going on here. Nor was anything “Krunchy”. There was none of the crackly coating of say, Popeye’s or even Church’s Fried Chicken. I would have thought that the heat lamp would have preserved the crunchy element of the crust and dried out the meat. The chicken itself was dry but not overly so. As for the flavor, I’d say they were about eight herbs and spices short of the Colonel’s and much closer to, say, a Swanson’s fried chicken TV dinner meal. I guess that puts them at sergeant. Really not a whole lot going on flavor-wise.

What to say about the mashed potatoes…. They are just what you would have expected: the texture was more like a cheap, runny spackle with brown salty gravy. A comforting, if not safe, choice for most of us. The biscuits were almost like hard tack with a “honey butter” flavor you’d have to be Magellan to find. I thought of many uses for them such as substitute hockey pucks or clay pigeons for skeet shooting.

I saved the sandwich for my husband, an expert chicken sandwich taster who soldiered bravely in the late summer chicken sandwich war. While he is firmly in the Chick-Fil-A camp, he did allow his world to be rocked by Popeye’s tasty chicken interloper. I explained to him that there was only one sandwich when I got there. It seemed the presence of the sandwich was almost an afterthought by the “Krispy Krunchy” folks but since everyone is getting into the chicken sandwich game, why not?  One bite said it all. He said it was plain, plain and more plain. Upon removing the bun we saw, nothing. No sauce, no pickle. Zip. There was a small, flat, breaded white meat chicken fillet laying there, passively. No alluring aroma, no come hither seasoned breading. Thankfully we have condiments on tap so we broke out the hot sauce and behold resurrection, kind of. The addition of the hot sauce gave a much needed lift to this sandwich but honestly that was all you ended up tasting because there was nothing else to taste. 

Donald quipped afterwards,”What the sandwich lacked in flavor, it made up in presence because you could actually get one.”

At the end of the day, “Krispy Krunchy” chicken has its place. Where that place is, depends on you. If you need a quick meal to provide sustenance to keep you from eating your weight in gummy worms, this is it. If you are filling up and simply can’t wait to eat something, this could work for you. As for being a destination for fried chicken, I’d probably encourage you to go the extra four to one of the other chicken joints. 

“Krispy Krunchy” chicken is available at LukOil, 2558 Pennington Rd, Pennington, located conveniently, on the Pennington Circle. Come in for a 89 octane fill up and some chicken. 

Yum it up. Tell all your friends.

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Renata Barnes
Renata is the author of "The Taste Chase," MercerMe's own food review column. She's a lover of all things poetic, colorful, funny and inspiring. A native New Yorker, who grew up in Hopewell Valley and spent the better part of her adulthood back in NYC, currently finds herself in a growing love relationship with “the Valley”. Latin food, Indian saris and mehndi, French perfume, African music, Middle Eastern spices, South American jewels, Asian fabrics and anything from just about any island (maybe not Riker’s Island) are things that remind her to go out and taste the world, live passionately and always wear deodorant. The mother of one rambunctious boy and the wife of a mellow fellow, Renata tries to put her too many years of university and her film and writing talents to good use here in NJ. “I’ve spent too much time trying to fit in some where when I probably belong everywhere. That slow revelation has been freeing.”

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