We’ve researched the best chicken tenders in Utah. Here’s what we found.

It is a simple food: a piece of boneless chicken, usually white meat, breaded and fried.

They go by many names: Chicken fingers, chicken fillets, chicken tendies or chicken goujons.

Their origins spark a bit of controversy, with the most common claim being that they were invented in 1974 in the kitchen of The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, NH.

The most important question for fans of chicken fillets is: who makes the best? (And if they don’t come with a decent dip, forget it.)

We conducted an informal poll on Twitter, asking readers to tell us where they found their chicken tender fix. We then traveled around the city, and beyond, to test these suggestions.

Here are our favorites, plus a list of reader favorites – including vegan offerings.

ChickQueen

(Palak Jayswal | The Salt Lake Tribune) ChickQueen’s Honey Garlic Boneless Chicken Wings at Chinatown Market in South Salt Lake.

3390 S. State St #14, South Salt Lake.

This Korean barbecue spot, located in the Chinatown supermarket in South Salt Lake, does not have traditional chicken fillets. Instead, they serve boneless (and bone-in) fried chicken. They are available in three sizes: small (9-10 pieces; $8.99), medium (12-14 pieces; $14.99) and large (22-24 pieces; $20.99), and you can choose your sauce flavor to mix them.

ChickQueen prepares all of its ready-to-eat items, so everything is fresh and crispy. It also puts a spin on what is traditionally considered chicken tenderloin. Accompanied by their special “drizzled fries”, it’s exactly what you expect from chicken tenders: well-cooked, delicious and, with their high selection of sauces, flavorful.

Mr. Charlie’s Chicken Fingers

554 W. 4500 South, Murray; and 592 E. 12300 South, Draper.

Mr. Charlie’s Chicken Fingers calls itself, on its website, “Southern comfort at high altitude” – and their menu includes dishes such as Po’ boys, sweet tea and Texas toast.

When it comes to chicken fingers, there are options: fried, grilled, or half and half. The chicken itself is well cooked and a shade of brown that may lead consumers to believe that the breading is burnt. It’s just well done.

Finger meals — three fingers for $8.49, five for $11.49, or a 25-finger “family meal” for $49.99 — come with fries and Texas Toast (which, when we tried, weren’t grilled enough), but the catch: sauces. Mr. Charlie’s has a number of great sauce choices, including something called Charlie Sauce and the traditional Utah favorite: Fry Sauce. But the number of sauces customers get depends on the type of meal they order, and after that, they have to pay extra.

Cinemark at Jordan Landing

7301 S. Jordan Landing Blvd, West Jordan.

A movie theater isn’t the first place you might think of when it comes to getting great chicken tenders, but Jordan Landing’s Cinemark always serves up great ones.

To some extent, the art of a good chicken fillet lies in the quality of the breading. Is it laminated? Is it too wet? There’s a science to frying them properly – for the right amount of time and at the right heat level – and it sounds pretty simple. Regardless of the protocols at Cinemark, the basket of chicken tenders and fries is always a good choice if you decide to skip the popcorn.

Raise the cane

Multiple locations.

Raising Cane’s is Utah’s newest fast food contender in the chicken tenders game. Like Popeye before him, he is from Louisiana, more precisely from Baton Rouge.

Similar to Mr. Charlie’s, they offer different meal options — combos start at $6.96 for three fingers — with southern sides like Texas Toast or coleslaw. But the chain’s real gem is its “cane sauce,” made from a secret recipe described on the company’s website as “tangy with a bit of spice and full of flavor.”

For the well-formed Utahn, the sauce is akin to an elevated version of French fries sauce.

The chicken itself, again, depends on how it’s fried. Twice the chicken fillets were unimpressive, with soggy breading. If you need a quick fix – and because of their late hours – Raising Cane’s can hit the spot, but it’s not a first choice.

thunder flame

HallPass, 153 S Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City.

The name alludes to Nashville-style hot chicken, which uses cayenne in the breading, then is dipped in a spicy sauce. True to that tradition, Blaze of Thunder serves its chicken with pickles and white bread (to balance the hot-hot-hot!). Unlike traditional Nashville hot chicken, however, Utahans can order it… well, not so hot.

Tenders and sandwiches can be ordered on a range of spices, starting with “Slow Ride” (one fire-breathing chicken head) to “After Burner” (five fire-breathing chicken heads, and waiver required) . The recommended spice level is “Real Quick”, which is what we tried for our order of four tendies, served with pickles and white bread ($10).

The breading was light but didn’t crumble from the chicken and had a noticeable, but not overpowering level of heat. The chicken itself was moist and flavorful. We tried dipping these tendies – which are huge – in ranch sauce, which definitely upped the tenders, balancing out the spicy coating nicely.

pretty bird chicken

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Spicy Chicken Tenders from Pretty Bird on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

146 S Regent St., Salt Lake City; 675 E. 2100 South, Salt Lake City; and 7169 S. Bingham Junction Blvd., Midvale.

As former Utah Eats reporter Kathy Stephenson noted last year in her article about the new location of Pretty Bird’s Sugar House, chef-owner Viet Pham’s restaurant is the highlight of fried chicken in Salt Lake. Although Pretty Bird’s specialty is also Nashville Hot Chicken, Pham’s version is his own – spicy yet complex, and not just about the heat.

Pretty Bird’s Chicken Tenders are only available at her Sugar House location. Much like their sandwiches, the three-piece jumbo tenders ($11) can be ordered as soft, medium, hot, or hot behind (“behind” is what the cooks shout when they walk behind you with a plate of piping hot food. ), and comes with a piece of soft white bread and a crispy pile of pickles.

We ordered mild, which was again very spicy, with a side of Pretty Bird sauce (their version of fried sauce). Other sauces are white BBQ and salted honey. And note that the word “jumbo” in the name of the dish is not an understatement; you may want to order them to share.

Chuckle Truck

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People patiently wait for their orders while visiting the Cluck Truck parked in Gallivan Plaza on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

Check Instagram for current location.

There is something to be said for doing less well. Or do one thing dramatically, as the case may be. Cluck Truck has mastered the art of fried chicken, whether wrapped in a tortilla or simply served plain with fries.

An order of chicken tenders ($11) includes two pieces of white breast meat, breaded with the house coating – no spice level choice here, unfortunately – but it’s still very tasty, because the chicken from Cluck Truck is brined before being rolled in a coating made of corn cereal, sesame seeds and spices.

The tenders are served over plain fries, but you can also order garlic parmesan, sweet potato, or Cajun fries for an extra dollar. Dips include chip sauce (great with tenderloins and fries) or ranch.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Cluck Truck Chicken Tenders on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

corner of the river

5385 W. 15200 North, Riverside.

This gas station sparked our quest for chicken after a Tremonton resident posted a TikTok video claiming it serves the best chicken tenders in Utah. After diving into Reddit, Yelp and TripAdvisor, it was clear that Riverside Corner had a tendie rep – so we filled up the gas tank and headed to Tremonton. Along the way we stopped at the wrong gas station (in Tremonton, not Riverside) and stumbled upon a folk art park called Marble Park.

Riverside Corners, like many rural gas stations, serves as a hub for more than gas – it’s also a mini-restaurant where locals hang out. The food counter, next to the cash register, has an extensive menu, displayed on a 1970s letter board. You can order 17 different types of burgers, including a Riverside burger, atop burger, a pastrami burger and a J&L egg burger. There are also fish ‘n’ chips, tots, burritos, eggrolls, corn dogs and BLTs. But what you get here are the “famous chicken strips” ($7.29 a pound) and a side of potato logs (3 for $1).

Because they’re cut, breaded, and fried on a constant basis by different people, the offerings here aren’t standardized in size, shape, or flavor like some of the fancier options we’ve already mentioned. Fresh out of the fryer, however, they totally earn the rep that has earned them a statewide fanbase. They’re served with ranch or fried sauce, which doubles as the potato logs, are as chunky as tender, and are the perfect carby complement.

And when the weather is nice, Marble Park isn’t the worst place in the world to sit down and enjoy a basket of takeout chicken fillets.

Twitter Appointments

  • Chicken Express, multiple locations.

  • The Chicken Shack, multiple locations.

  • Ernie’s Truck Stop, 1035 N Main St., Beaver.

  • Harmon’s, multiple locations.

  • Kevin’s Fried Chicken (inside Exxon), 524 W. 4500 South, Murray.

  • Scaddy’s, 1557 W. 3500 South, West Valley City.

  • Sticky Bird, 504 Station Pkwy., Farmington.

  • Strippin Dippin Chicken Food Truck.

  • Texas Roadhouse, multiple locations.

  • Wasatch Wing Coop, 3971 Wasatch Blvd., Salt Lake City.

  • Zaxby’s, multiple locations.

Vegan options

Several readers have asked for vegan alternatives to chicken fillets. One person admitted that it wasn’t because she was vegan, but that she just didn’t like chicken fillets made with chicken.

Thanks to Jeremy Beckham of SLCVegFest, who let us know that Ian Brandt, founder of Vertical Diner (234 W. 900 South, Salt Lake City) also owns Cali’s Natural Foods, which makes seitan tiger wings. They are served at Le Vertical, as well as at these local restaurants:

  • Handlebar, 751 N 300 W, Salt Lake City.

  • Lil Lotus, 2223 Highland Dr. E5, Salt Lake City.

  • Piper Down, 1492 S State St, Salt Lake City.

  • Trolley Wing Co., 600 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City (Trolley Square) and 736 W. Blue Vista Lane, Midvale.

  • La Pie Pizzeria, several locations.

A few Salt Lake City restaurants make their own wings in-house — or, in the case of Vegan Daddy, sell ready-to-cook plant-based proteins, including tenders:

Editor’s note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Please support local journalism.

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