Chain Reaction: We Try Papa John's New Chicken Poppers

Fast Food

Would you like fries (or onion rings or chicken tenders) with that?


[All photographs: Lee Movic]

I am in a fowl mood.


Seriously, though, I'm in a funk. I know the days are getting longer already, and that's nice, and I did just get back from a week-long trip to sunny San Diego, but we've got another winter storm headed our way this week, and I just can't.

Which is why I fall squarely among the target demographic for Papa John's New Chicken Poppers. I've got the bleus.


My comfort food, more so than anything else, is chicken covered in hot sauce and blue cheese. I love potato chips (I actually discovered Serious Eats through Dan Souza's Chip-faced column), and there are currently no fewer than eight different kinds of cheese in my refrigerator, but in times of dire need, I call my local wing joint and order up a pile of deep-fried chicken parts. Give me some Buffalo chicken and leave me be to drown my sorrows in a miniature cup of blue cheese dressing. Hey, it's cheaper than Prozac.

However, somehow that fact that Papa John's offers not one, but TWO chicken options had escaped me. Sure, you've probably tried their traditional chicken wings in your choice of Spicy Buffalo, BBQ, Honey Chipotle, or Unsauced (mmm, unsauced...). Who hasn't?! But have you tried these pepper-esque baked chicken pieces?

In, perhaps, a Buffalo and Blue Cheese combo? Sold.


These little buggers did the trick. Yes, $5 for 10 pieces puts them at the high end of most comparable options, but they come in their own box! (They were even impressively arranged inside their cardboard home, like some sort of Poultry Terracotta Army.) And the poppers themselves were warm and plump (see them alongside a cork from a local brewery for scale), if a tad under-seasoned.


Since I was just using them as a sauce delivery mechanism, any shortcomings of the chicken poppers themselves were well-hidden. But even when bathed with that oh-so-comforting spicy and cooling sauce combo, I found the coating to be on the starchy, chewy side. Which is only to say that the next time you're huddling up [rimshot] to make a dinner decision, know that Papa John's doesn't fumble [rimshot] with this one, but it's not exactly a home run, either*. Yay mixed sports humor!

* Enter Papa John's/Peyton Manning/OMAHA! Super Bowl Joke here.