Chicken fingers are the most perfect food known to mankind. I am a firm believer that some of the best food comes off the kid’s menu, and chicken fingers are no exception. They are a crowd favorite, but not all chicken fingers are made equal. When people think of chicken fingers, they may think of popular chain restaurants like Popeyes, Chick-fil-A or Cane’s. However, Charlottesville and the University offer some unique options that deserve a spotlight. Over the last seven months, I have scoured on-Grounds dining options and restaurants on the Corner in search of the perfect chicken fingers, and these are my findings.
1. The Virginian
The Virginian’s chicken fingers earn their rightful spot at the top of my list. The most important component of chicken fingers is a crunchy breaded crust, and the Virginian gets it. They consistently serve the perfect sized tenders with thick, crispy outsides that complement the juicy chicken inside. Out of every restaurant in Charlottesville, nowhere else can compete with the breaded crust of the Virginian. These chicken fingers are flavorful, well made and — dare I say — perfect. And, as a bonus, they come with incredibly seasoned fries.
2. West Range
West Range holds a special place in my heart for their meal-exchange Caesar salad. But, this semester, they added chicken fingers to the meal-exchange menu. Ecstatic to try out a new option for my favorite food, especially one that I could easily access in between classes, I ordered them on my first day back this semester. With a thick-breaded crust, West Range produces chicken fingers that rival the Virginian. However, the biggest flaw that I found with these chicken fingers is that they are unreliable and occasionally come out subpar, as sometimes there’s a lack of breading or smaller pieces of chicken. On their good days, however, their tenders are exceptional as an on-Grounds option to satisfy your cravings.
3. Runk Late Night
A somewhat hidden gem of dining hall food are the Runk late-nights which serve a variety of burgers, quesadillas, fries and more from 9 p.m. to midnight every day. A fan-favorite here are the chicken fingers — an item not typically served at Runk during the day. Their crust differs greatly from the Virginian and West Range, as they do not have the same thick breading but, instead, have a thinner and crispier outside. Known for their fresh and clean food, the chicken used here is no exception. I’ll give these a pass on the lack of crust, as the chicken inside is so juicy and flavorful that you don’t miss the breading.
4. White Spot
White Spot is known for their Gus Burger, which deserves rightful praise, but this means they don’t put as much effort into crafting their chicken fingers. Don’t get me wrong, they are by no means horrible — they are just nothing special. They are sometimes breaded too lightly, and both the interior chicken and the crust lack flavor. You’ll need to use a dipping sauce with them, which is never a good sign. If you’re desperate for some late-night tenders, these will do.
While there are many more places in Charlottesville to order chicken fingers from, my list ends with Grillology at the bottom. I had high hopes for Grillology to satisfy my late dinner chicken tender needs, but they fell short of the task. They look good on the outside, but one bite reveals that there is very little crust. If you’re looking for a thick breading on chicken tenders, you won’t find that here. There is very little seasoning, so you’ll need to opt for the “Sauced-n-Tossed” option to add some flavor, which is popular among customers. Grillology’s chicken fingers fall at the bottom of my list because amazing chicken fingers shouldn’t need sauce to make them special.