Fast Food: KFC's Chicken Little Sandwich Returns After 20 Years
KFC's original Chicken Little was much beloved by fried chickianados. Fans of the Little don't tend to get as ostentatiously nostalgic as the porkers do about the McRib or the tallow-heads do about the bygone days of all-beef French fries, but there are plenty of Little lovers out there, and they were duly excited when KFC announced the mini sandwich's return after more than 20 years of exile.*
*Exile from the national master menu, that is. Underground discount chicken message boards indicate that the Little has been available in fits and starts at select KFCs over the years.
A lot of people with fond memories of the Cosby-era Chicken Little have already registered disappointment with what KFC is calling the new and improved version. Today's Little is similar to the Snacker, a serviceable but unspectacular small sandwich that followed the original Little only to disappear in the months leading up to the reLittle. Suspicious!
The old Little was square; it was what you would call a chicken slider if you were the sort of person who calls small sandwiches sliders. The reintroduced Little is a Crispy Strip on an oblong bun with a couple of superthin pickle chips and a healthy—which is to say, way unhealthy—slather of the Colonel's Mayo. It differs from the Snacker in two key ways: The Snacker had lettuce instead of pickles and came on a sesame seed bun.
I understand why anyone pining for a return to the glory days would be disappointed by this new sandwich's misappropriation of the Chicken Little's good name, but that doesn't mean this new trick can't be a nice sandwich in its own right. The new Dodge Chargers aren't really Dodge Chargers, but they're still pretty damn cool. Can the same be said for the new Chicken Little?
Nope. Darn it, I had high hopes for this one. I like most KFC products (the Chunky Chicken Pot Pie is outstanding) and I don't ask for a ton of fun for my $1.29, but the Colonel's latest attempt to wring excitement out of a reformulation of a very basic sandwich comes up short. If all you're offering is bread, chicken, mayo, and pickles, you can't afford to mess up any of those elements, and the new Little misfires in a couple of directions.
The chicken is fine. The Little is built around a single Crispy Strip, and mine came out warm and crunchy even in the middle of the afternoon. KFC holds their cooked parts at 185 degrees in a contraption called a Henny Penny, which is a nice name for something involved in a Chicken Little and also a nice machine for keeping older chicken in good working order.
Unfortunately, the successful chicken was undermined by a crummy bun. Mine was simultaneously stale and mushy, like yesterday's popcorn, and had an oddly sweet taste. I generally avoid mayonnaise, but in this case my least favorite condiment actually improved the operation. Not because the Colonel's Mayo is noticeably distinct from the standard devil's mayo—I didn't detect any unusual spices or other additives, no extra tang or kick or chicken bits or mustache hairs or whatever else is supposed to distinguish the stuff—but just because it provided some vital moisture. Chicken grease or mustard would have been better, and a good roll would have been best, but the mayo deserves credit for juicing up this desiccated four-bite pony.
But at what cost? A Chicken Little comes off the line with 320 calories; if you go sauceless, it's down to 230, which means nearly 30 percent of a Chicken Little's energy comes from an all-fat condiment applied to both top and bottom of the chicken. Regardless of your feelings about mayo, that strikes me as a design flaw. I have a hard time calling any edible item prepared by human hands "not worth 1.29," particularly one built around a credible chunk of fried chicken, but I still can't recommend the Chicken Little.