Guilty Pleasures Unmasked: In Which We Review Chili's Chicken Crispers

Categories: Complaint Desk

Chicken Crispers.jpg
Chili's Chicken Crisper Combo Plate
Everyone holds dear a few suspect dishes from their past, usually from questionable chain restaurants. Because we like to watch him suffer, Scott will occasionally review those foods. This week: Chili's Chicken Crispers, a long-lost love of Observer editor Joe Tone.

I've had chicken tenders maybe eight times in my life, because, well, they're boring. But my editor recently professed his love for a specific tender -- no, a specific "crisper." I quickly became concerned. "They're fucking delicious," he told me, and argued that any dish that has more breading than whatever that breading is breading is bound to be tasty.

The editor who edits my restaurant reviews loves Chili's Chicken Crispers? If we had HR grievances, this would definitely be grounds for filing one.

Chicken Crisper Cross Section.jpg
Looking deep within the Chili's Chicken Crisper.
But he described his guilty pleasure with such passion that I became intrigued. And that's how I found myself walking into the Uptown Chili's location last week, with double-fried chicken on the mind.

The Dallas-based Southwestern chain didn't make a good first impression. The bar was totally empty, which sucks if you're a guy who likes to sit at a bar alone. I ordered a Bud and thumbed through 11 sticky pages of the menu before finding chicken crispers on the second-to-last page. And because I have no concern for my own well-being, I also ordered the chipotle honey chicken crispers. If I'm going to evaluate crispers, I had to cover my bases, I told myself. My aorta winced.

The Original Chicken Crispers are, in fact, not the least bit crispy, though they're very salty. The soft, greasy breading resembles more of a funnel cake batter that in no way binds with the chicken it encases, and a thin veneer of uncooked batter remains between the golden brown exterior and the limp, rubbery chicken within. After taking a first bite, which indeed contained nothing but breading, I was able to pull the coating away in an act reminiscent of removing a spent condom.

chicken crisper naked.jpg
The un-sheathed crisper is coated in uncooked crisper batter.
The chicken itself was actually moist. It wept juices when compressed with a fork, probably because it was injected with brine. It had an interesting texture, a soft consistency that divides into pieces as you chew, like a wet rubber eraser. It lacked the heft and resistance of the breast from a whole roast chicken.

The chipotle honey crispers, branded as Crispy Chicken Crispers, had a different sort of breading, which is highly preferable, though the chicken inside was exactly the same.
"The Chipotle Honey is where it's at, right?" I asked my waitress, who told me they were indeed preferred by most customers, though some thought the sauce had a bit too much kick. A discussion of piquancy followed, which lead to my sampling of a new secret crisper. You won't find honey habanero crispers on the menu, but I assure you they exist. Ask nicely and enjoy their saccharine and spicy glow.

By now my bartender had me thoroughly seduced, as evidenced my uncharacteristic ordering of the Paradise Pie. The dessert features a warm chocolate filling sandwiched between two independent strata of undercooked cookie dough, and is topped off with a tennis ball of vanilla ice cream. My bartender confirmed that not many people finished the behemoth. I tapped out halfway through.

Chicken Crisper desert.jpg
The Paradise Pie clocks in at 1250 calories and 64 grams of fat


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59 comments
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cp
cp

Wait... there's a Chili's in Uptown? 

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

Another thing that scares me about Chili's is the "Kitchen of the Future". Go into one and ask about it. Don't tell them I sent you.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Ill eat the cajun chicken pasta, its my guilty pleasure at chilis.  I never liked the chicken crispers at chili's, I just always hated the taste of half cooked batter on the chicken

vinny
vinny

The one positive thing about that Chili's on Knox,  is every time my neice or nephew drag me there, it's always pretty dead.  I would like to believe it's because of the plethora of local, non-chain restaurants in the Knox-Henderson area.   I definitely hope that's the case.

Paul
Paul

" ... I was able to pull the coating away in an act reminiscent of removing a spent condom."  Phrase of the day.

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

Totally changed the visual image started by the greasy, glistening "thin veneer of uncooked batter" I imagined.

Vagos18
Vagos18

Yeah man, those are the only thing I eat from there. Before the honey chipotle option, you had to order the crispers "with the awesome batter" and ranch AND honey mustard, you need something to dip those fries in. I always told them double fries no corn, or to just not bother bringing the corn, it was usually terrible.

Lemonaioli
Lemonaioli

My guilty pleasure: the Red Lobster Crab Alfredo. So bad yet soooo good. And those cheddar biscuits? Yum!

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

My roommate is a manager at a Chili's and even though the food is free...I haven't, actually, eaten anything there in months. Even when I worked there it took all kinds of substitutions and swaps to come up with anything even close to healthy. That being said, the Crispers in "blossom batter" (from the now defunct Awesome Blossom) were always ordered more frequently than the "tempura".  

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

How's their actual chili, these days? :) A cup of it's probably healthy enough (looked at the nutritional chart just now), especially if they leave off some of the toppings.

Also, ick, Scott has good reason to call the crispers salty; without any sauce at all they're listed as having 1130mg sodium.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

I haven't tried it in a while, but I may today. I can run by there and grab a cup and a few beers before I go off to drink away the night...alone.

The sodium levels in that place are outrageous. For example:Jalapeno Smokehouse Burger w/ Ranch  As Served 2210cal, 144g of fat, 46g sat fat, 136g carbs, 92g protein, 11g fiber, 6600mg sodium. It's pretty tasty, though...

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

 Happy Single Awareness Day... or Single Acceptance Day, depending on how old/realistic you are. :)

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Their chili and salad combo is probably the best tasting thing they have...other than the beera.

tastyTimE
tastyTimE

What I heard...      The chicken itself was actually moist. It wept growth hormones and antibiotics when compressed with a fork. It had an interesting texture, a soft consistency that divides into pieces as you chew, like a wet rubber eraser. It lacked the heft and resistance of the breast from a whole roast chicken.

Desi
Desi

I actually worked at chilis and there's no brine lol..

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

Wait, does this mean you made them from scratch locally and used fresh, unbrined chicken? They're not shipped in frozen, etc.?

jon from TJs
jon from TJs

guilty as charged...i LOVE chilis chicken crispers w/ corn on cob and fries and that delicious "mustard" sauce.  and not in an ironic way. like i go to chilis by myself and eat it.  that said, its the ONLY thing i like at chilis.

twinwillow
twinwillow

I actually like their chili. Especially when I'm waiting for a plane in an airport concourse and there's no place else to eat.The chili, (with cheese and onions) sure beats out their horrid, pre cooked dried out burgers.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I like the idea of reviewing guilty pleasures, but considering how much nutritionally empty alcohol you guys down constantly, can we tone down the constant bitching and moaning about arteries and fat content and all the same old "this shit's unhealthy" rhetoric? Nobody's looking at that and thinking it's health food, but we are curious if it's worth eating when we've earned ourselves a guilty pleasure meal.

But I bet if I opened a generically-named restaurant (I'm thinking Spork or Dining Establishment or something) conveniently located close to White Rock and downtown I could fry any damn thing and the posts about my place won't contain that whining. Perhaps some pork jowl battered in pureed foie gras and deep fried in duck fat wouldn't clog your arteries at Spork.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

There totally needs to be a restaurant named Spork.  It can serve all your favorites from your middle school cafeteria days, but drizzled with TRUFFLE OIL!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

how dare you say truffle oil? Reitz will eat your ass over that one.  Its got to be real holmes

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

But nutritionally empty alcohol has, you know, alcohol in it.  

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

There's a reason it started getting called a beer gut and not a crisper gut.

Nic Rodriguez
Nic Rodriguez

Man, I so want to try the guanciale and foie duck clusters.

foodbitch
foodbitch

Chicken condom. Enough said.

Mervis
Mervis

" I was able to pull the coating away in an act reminiscent of removing a spent condom." "The chicken itself was actually moist. It wept juices when compressed with a fork, probably because it was injected with brine." Are you sure it was brine? I mean you did remove a spent condem.....right?

NewsDog
NewsDog

Back in the day when all Chili's did was burgers they did a pretty damn good burger. Now they can't even get the burger right.But at the one near me during happy hour the beer is a decent deal.

Whitney Filloon
Whitney Filloon

That plate actually looks kind of delicious, and for this I hate you Scott.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

God forbid anybody like anything at Chili's.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Here's the problem. You spend your money at Chili's, and you get more Chili's. Every single dollar you spend, you get more Chili's. You have an inkling that there is something better out there, right? Less corporate? Better food? Even if a local place gets their ingredients from the same Sysco or Ben E. Keith truck that Chili's does, it's still someone who is living in this area, and has to be responsive to their customers. Chili's could care less. They don't have to serve good food, because they have a steady stream of people who are comforted by mediocrity. They save 50 cents a serving by buying crap chicken, that equals MILLIONS for them. It's all the economy of scale of corporate food. That's why I would go to Coppell Deli instead of Denny's, and you should too. Even though I know there is WAYYYY better stuff out than Coppell Deli, at least it's not a huge chain.

Me
Me

Thank you Jon for blasting Chili's.  I currently work there and I hate it, looking for better job now.  They don't give two s***s about anything else besides their bottom line.  They got rid of bussers and made several positions in their restaurants work multiple jobs at the same time, now they want the servers to also make desserts, so..... less time taking care of guests so they can also have one less cook on.  Scruffy you are a doosh for thinking that corporate mass restaurants helps the economy.  I personally dine at privately owned restaurants and pubs because I'm a god damn American.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

You want me to post the Foursquare check ins? Or my entries in catch.com? I can give you indie coffee shop recommendations in las Vegas and Portland, ME too.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Good fighting Mr. SG.  Trust me, he won't give up....even if he's wrong.  Not worth it!  I just imagine the person that lives with him.  It's only a matter of time before he pisses the WRONG person off.  AND GUESS WHAT?  He has all the time in the world to dispute, fact check, and double check anything you say.  

I personally think he lives with his mama.

You say, "hey I'm in Minnesota",  and he's gonna Goggle it, and Wiki it, and whip dat ass with banal, flaccid facts. Sir-jes sayin'. 

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Been to MN, both winter and summer. Spent time in Rochester. Found 2-3 pretty good places, and of course Caribou Coffee is pretty damn good, though when I was in Minneapolis, I found three great indie coffee shops  

Espresso Expose 600 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414-2916 (612) 378-9604 ‎

Spyhouse

2404 Hennepin Ave S Minneapolis MN 55405 (612) 377-2278 | 2451 Nicollet Ave S Minneapolis MN 55404 (612) 871-3177 

Bull Run Coffee Bar3346 Lyndale Ave S Minneapolis, MN 55408

cp
cp

Tell ya what. Spend some time in Minnesota as I have been this Winter. You will grow to absolutely cherish the local Chili's. And yes, Kergo, also the one and only Dickey's.....

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Actually - my business is about doing business with Mass Merchant retailers, so I really do understand the "modern retail world" since I have been involved it in since I was a teenager. I shop at Costco, Sams, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. But I don't eat there. Many of us have no choice where we live.  We have to balance all kinds of issues of commute/costs/schools. We may not even have a choice of living in Dallas or not. But we certainly have a choice of where we eat, and my suggestion is to eat locally. Let the chains die. Support a local merchant.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

You seem to have a very aristocratic view of the world, Duke of Assholia. Perhaps you prefer farm-to-table for your luncheons, but your footmen probably enjoy a trip to Hooters every now and then. The modern retail world is brought to you by chains, like it or not. Do you have to patronize them? No. But stop being a dick about their existence.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

"Chains make the business world go round"

Umm no, they don't.

I know it's really hard for people to try an defend the chain restaurant culture in Dallas. People get defensive and offended if anyone points out what they eat is garbage.

There is no working class nobility in eating crappy food. 

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

It matters to the couple hundred people working there on LBJ. Chains make the business world go round, as much as you shit on the concept.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Does it matter where a chain is based?  How exactly?  They have 1400 stores. Does it matter where their HQ is?

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

rebooting............. rebooting............the internet thinks this response is accurate.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

The internet(s) won't qualify this response; and actually had to shut down, and recode.

Thank you,     Al Gore 

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

It's a chain based here, dingus. God forbid your neighbor in Perfectville works for Brinker.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

When I go to chili's I like to go "poo poo" backwards, so I can use the back of  the terlit to rest my dinner on.....I hate to waste time!

Other Waste(s) of Time:

-Dallas Morning News-Valet parkers-Miller Lite-RJ Choppy-Smoking-Waiting at the doctors office-Waiting in traffic on 76/69, on the way to Arklahoma-Cold-Fedora's-Dickey's BBQ-Albertson's-Picking up trash after birthday parties at the park pavilion, every Saturday and Sunday.

twinwillow
twinwillow

You left out the terlit (room for only, one) at M&M.

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