First Look: Zaxby's

Somewhere in the back of a darkened warehouse, surrounded by half-eaten buckets of chicken, a cartoon sailor and a country colonel are quaking in their boots...and no, that's not one of those "don't ask, don't tell" scenarios.

"Damn that Zaxby's," they're hissing between bites. "Damn them and their plump, juicy wings, too."

Founded by two friends in Georgia in 1990, the Zaxby's fast food chicken chain has expanded to over 450 restaurants across the southeast in the last twenty years. And now we've got three in the Metroplex, this area being the current beacon of fast food chains.

Always curious about anything new and deep fat fried, we've been meaning to give it a try for a while. The Zaxby's on Centennial in Richardson opened in February, and the place still looks shiny and new. Orders are taken at a counter in front, and drinks are self-serve, but after that, the Zaxby's experience is more Cheddar's than Burger King...a good thing, right? For starters, there's fancy (well, fast food fancy) booths and free-standing café tables in the seating department, and the dining room also sports an attractive paint job and food-flattering lighting. (Note to the Colonel: Those overheads make your chicken look green...assuming that's not the real color.)

Zaxby's food continues the better-than-expected trend. For instance, they serve the "House Zalad" in a large, chilled china bowl. How civilized. Ridiculous and uninformative name notwithstanding, the dish was comprised of a generous serving of fresh-cut lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, gobs of shredded cheese, French-fried onion strings and about three fingers' worth of fried white meat chicken chunks. The chicken was warm, though coated in a seasoned crust that tended toward the soft end of the fried chicken spectrum. The salad rivaled anything you'd have to put up with a pubescent server for at the local full service chain--for about 2/3 the price.

A 10-piece order of "Jumbo" bone-in wings (you know, like nature intended) left us wondering where Zaxby's finds such muscle-bound fowl. Plump and juicy, they were some of the meatiest wings we've ever encountered, and the "Tongue Torch" sauce was tangy with just the right touch of heat. In fact, next time we might upgrade to "Nuclear" or "Insane".

As it stands, you'll have to haul out to Richardson, The Colony or Mansfield to check out Zaxby's. For those of you living inside the loop, all three places are actually in Texas proper.

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