Tomorrow, West Virginia and Utah will play in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. In a college football world of random and weird bowl sponsors, this bowl game has lucked into a title that makes fans both hungry and satisfied. On Friday, I tried to unpack the brief history of the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but today, I’m going to hopefully explain to a fan base in a state where this heart-warming and stomach-filling restaurant chain does not exist how great it truly is.
Zaxby’s Chicken Fingers & Buffalo Wings is a chicken restaurant in a very simple form. The name clearly states what they do, and they do those chicken fingers so perfectly.
I must be honest, this article will hit very close to home for me. Growing up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, I was blessed to have some of the best fast food and casual dining establishments known to man surrounding me: Chick-fil-A, Waffle House, Mellow Mushroom, and Moe’s, to name a few. Each of these provided a unique experience that never disappointed. However, there is perhaps one lesser-known establishment that dots cities throughout the southeast.
First, a brief history of the establishment. I am actually older than Zaxby’s, and I assume most folks reading this are as well. The first restaurant was opened in March 1990, in Statesboro, Georgia. Since 1990, the chain has opened up more than 800 locations and moved headquarters to Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia, where the founders attended college.
The college-town beginnings (Statesboro is the home of Georgia Southern University) give a special foundation to this story. Each restaurant has a modern-retro feel to it, with random doo-dads and fan accessories for the local high school. Furthermore, the restaurants are comfortable to eat in, with large booths perfect for a hungover college student or a family with kids. I mentioned the simplicity of the menu. Basically, everything is based on chicken fingers or wings. Their three most-popular meals are a three-tender meal, a four-tender meal, and a wings-and-tender combo. If you want variety, they have chicken tender sandwiches and “Zalads” that are fancy salads with chicken fingers on top. If you want wings, they have big, juicy chicken wings, wet with sauce. All of this served with crispy, potato-y, seasoned crinkle fries.
To describe the deliciousness of the chicken tenders honestly wouldn’t do them justice. They’re a blissful combination of tender, juicy and crispy, with the right amount of flavoring in the breading. You could eat them by themselves and they would be completely satisfying, but Zaxby’s has blessed the world with a magical dipping sauce.
Zax Sauce is a creamy, spicy, tangy, and sweet bath for your chicken tenders. Or, ya know, yourself. On its own, I’ll admit that Zax Sauce isn’t anything all that special. It’s basically mayonnaise, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. However, when you dip a tender into it and stick it in your mouth, both the chicken and sauce are transformed into an orgasmic experience for your whole body.
One bite and you have to close your eyes and savor it all. It’s not an instant reaction, though. First, your teeth break through the crunchy fried breading exterior. Then, they sink into the juicy poultry and the sauce, meat and breading explode into a flavor encounter never forgotten. You may take time to enjoy the first bite and then take a moment to revel in this new-found culinary ordeal or you may just want to shovel as much chicken and Zax sauce into your mouth as you can.
The pro tip of eating at Zaxby’s is to always order an extra Zax Sauce. Yes, they provide you with one dipping sauce container and ketchup is free, but you want to purchase a second pack of sauce so you can dip your fries into it. It’s possibly better.
I apologize for rambling about things you may never get to experience, but I felt the need to explain the title sponsor of WVU’s bowl game. If you ever travel into Dixie and see a sign with a red chicken on it, do yourself a favor and stop in.