Diving into a menu as large as the one at Crown Fried Chicken, and on a limited budget, is kind of like grabbing a scallop out of the Gulf of Maine and using it to judge all of the other proteins in the ocean. Usually, when I see a menu this large, I just want to turn around and walk out the door. Choice can be a good thing, of course, but too much choice will give you a migraine.
Crown Fried Chicken is kind of like Kentucky Fried Chicken with an international twist. In addition to fried chicken, there’s lots of kababs and gyros on the menu. There’s pizza, including a Mexican one, and a whole section of seafood. There’s Jamaican beef patties served on coco bread, a slightly sweet bread made with coconut milk. All of the meat served is halal.
According to Wikipedia, Crown Fried Chicken restaurants and their cousins, Kennedy Fried Chicken, are located mostly in the northeast and are often owned by Afghan-Americans (the founder of the other KFC, the Colonel’s competitor, was originally from Afghanistan). They aren’t formally connected like a chain, but their menus and prices are similar.
Those who were sad to see the KFC on outer Forest Avenue, near Woodfords Corner, close will be happy with CFC as a replacement. (Yes, they abbreviate with CFC, which only makes me think of chlorofluorocarbons and the destruction of the ozone layer.) But it is still a fast-food establishment, so monitor your expectations.
Because fried chicken is the main offering, I ordered the three-piece chicken box for $6.99, which comes with a wing, a thigh and a breast, plus a roll and your choice of coleslaw, mashed potatoes or fries. The chicken was lightly breaded and seasoned — it could have used more seasoning — and the quality was inconsistent. The thigh was really moist and tender, but the breast meat was too dry. Perhaps that’s because the woman behind the counter who put together my order only had to turn around and grab the pieces from a huge mound of pre-cooked chicken behind her. The breast could very well have been perfect when it left the fryer, but who knows how long it had been sitting there, waiting for me to come in and order it?
Similarly, she took my mashed potatoes (with gravy already applied) from a huge pile of pre-packed styrofoam containers.
The chicken and potatoes did remind me of KFC, which my family ate occasionally when I was little and my mother didn’t feel like cooking. The roll, though — totally forgettable. It clearly came from some industrial baker somewhere. It did remind me, however, of how good rolls can be even at fast-food type places. I immediately thought of the terrific rolls that come with the gumbo at Po Boy’s & Pickles farther down Forest Avenue. They are homemade, flaky, full of flavor, and I could eat way too many of them.
Like its Kentucky counterpart, CFC’s chicken comes in buckets. A 10-piece bucket is $15.99 and comes with large fries and a 2-liter soda. The are four bucket options, the largest being — hold onto your hats — a 35-piece bucket for $40.99 that comes with two large fries and one 2-liter soda.
Next time I go I would like to try one of the kababs, which are served with rice and a salad for $7.99, or a beef or chicken gyro for the same price. Other menu options are too numerous to mention, but include the usual chicken fingers, popcorn chicken, nuggets and wings; onion rings; mozarella sticks; potato salad; mac and cheese; cheeseburgers; cheesesteak subs and so on.
For dessert, there’s ice cream as well as a selection of sweets such as sweet potato pie, cheesecake and fried dough.
This space has been occupied by similar businesses that sell Greek-ish fare stuffed into pitas. The two previous restaurants didn’t last, even though the location is smack in the heart of USM territory. Is it the food, the concept or the location that continually comes up lacking?
Time will tell.
WHERE: 408 Forest Ave., Portland | 207-747-4519 or 207-747-4904
HOURS: 10 a.m. – midnight daily; delivery offered ($10 minimum) 11:30 a.m. – midnight
PARKING: Small lot.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes