KFC

About: Founded ca1950, Louisville, KY 10,826 locations worldwide (half domestic, half international)

Contact: 800-225-5532 Author Recommends: Crispy Chicken, Crispy Strips

Reader Jeannie Wilkinson offers the following opinions about KFCs outside the U.S.:

"I've awarded some of the top establishments in various countries for their tasty and unique versions of KFC staples:

1) Best Mashed Potatoes: San Jose, Costa Rica has far and away the best mashed potatoes imaginable. They're chunky, yellowish and nothin' like the stuff they serve in the States. (which btw I am a fan of)

2) Best Restaurant: The KFC in Chaing Mai, Thailand actually serves their chicken with real utensils. No plastic sporks in this joint -- it's a very classy meal!

3) Best Rice: Yeah, weird to imagine, but SE Asia doesn't serve mashed potatoes. Lombok, Indonesia did have some very tasty white rice to savor. (note: I loved this restaurant because I found one of my best travel souvenirs -- a toilet sticker that showed a little stick figure squatting ON the toilet with a broad red X through it and a happy little stick man sitting ON the toilet. Copies available).

4) Best Chicken: I'm really thinking this goes to the outlet in Cairo. Middle Easterners really do their chicken right!

5) Best Corn on the Cob: I'm actually going to give this to San Jose, Costa Rica. Soft and sweet.

6) Best Biscuits: SORRY, but I cannot in good faith give this award to any of the foreign KFCs. The best I've had is here in the good ole US of A and no one (so far) can even compare. Carry reserves."

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With the possible exception of pizza, no fast food menu could possibly be more confusing and complicated than that of a fried chicken outlet. And KFC has not made menu selection any easier for the average fast food novice. Consider, for example, that KFC differentiates between a "meal" and a "combo," terms often interchangable at other fast food chains. A "meal" is typically some chicken, a side or two, and a biscuit. A "combo" is often the same thing, but including a drink.

Now, to many people, choices are good. And if you like the ability to custom-tailor your meal, there's no better place to do it than at KFC. Just don't try to get too fancy in the drive-thru. At KFC, you get to decide

How many pieces
White or dark meat
Original or Crispy (or Spicy at some locations)
What side How many sides
Drink or no drink

Are meals and combos a good deal? Yes, and sort of, depending on what combination you try. Generally, meals and combos are still a significant savings over buying everything separately.

If you're reading this and thinking "they are really picky about the menu prices, but haven't even mentioned the actual food," rest-assured. We were getting to that. The food, in a word, is great. It is unusual to have a bad meal there. The new sandwiches are tasty, the chicken strips are divine with honey mustard, and everything is as it should be when you aren't particularly watching your nutritional values. After all, that's the joy of fast food and of fried chicken in particular.

Speaking of nutrition, there are a few things you can do to minimize the impact on your waistline. For one thing, you can drop the biscuit. It's okay, they fall apart when you try to eat them anyway (yes, we know they're supposed to be "flakey.") For another, try getting a chicken sandwich with sauce on the side. Finally, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, believe it or not, have the lowest calories and fat of any of the sides.

Ok, now that we've sung the praises of the food, there is something we find simply unacceptable: not all of the menu items are available when you order them. This is particularly apparent after, say, 8pm when they seem to want to unload whatever they've got left. But it even happened to us during a lunch rush when we were told we'd have to wait 5-10 minutes for a BBQ chicken sandwich (the staff was, however, apologetic and substituted a more expensive item without additional charge.) The simple complaint is: if we are craving extra crispy thighs and legs (and who doesn't now and then) we should be able to get them as long as the store is open. No excuses. Just have them ready to go or take them off the menu. -RB

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