2 Aug 2012
Average Cost ($8-$14)
Downtown Huntsville
2 out of 5

TendersMelanie’s Take

On the recommendation of a friend of Shane’s, we headed to Tenders! to try some of their chicken. Not many years ago, there seemed to be an explosion of restaurants peddling chicken tenders, just like cupcake places are popping up now, and not all of them have survived. This place was started by some Auburn grads, so naturally, I wanted to love the food presented by fellow alums. Unfortunately, I left not wanting to return.

The atmosphere inside is low key. There are prefab booths lining the walls and collegiate flags hanging from the ceiling. Picture of sports-related figures line the walls, creating a gameday atmosphere. When you enter, you order your food at the counter and wait for your order to be ready as you grab your drink at the self-service drink station. Trying to be health conscious, I ordered the grilled tenders salad, hold the tomato, with thousand island dressing on the side. I knew when it arrived that I had not chosen wisely.

Grilled Chicken SaladThe salad itself, comprised of iceberg lettuce, a cucumber slice or two, a couple grape tomatoes, and some shredded cheese, lacked any inspiration or interesting flavor. This would’ve been okay if the grilled tenders had been spectacular, but that wasn’t the case. The tenders were dry, indicating overcooking, and lacked seasoning to give them any sort of special flavor. To top it all off, the salad was small for a dinner portion, and the dressing was prepackaged. I remember being happy to have some prepackaged crackers to wash it all down, and that never bodes well for a salad. I’d love to recommend this place or even want to give it another try myself, but there was nothing about our trip that makes me want to return.

Shane’s Take

One night I was itching for some chicken tenders, so we opted for a trip to Tenders, located in an amusing brick building in Five Points.

Inside TendersI ordered the flagship “Big Daddy” that comes with six chicken tenders (or “Tenders!”, as they call them), crinkle-cut fries, Texas toast, slaw, and a couple cups of sauce. The tenders are available grilled or fried, but I’m no fool—I went with the fried tenders. The Big Daddy came with plenty of food, but I was disappointed with its quality. Mostly, the food was just bland, like mashed potatoes without butter. The tenders came out fresh, hot, and evenly battered, but the lack of marination and the hardly seasoned crust did little to flavor the chicken, which, being breast meat, had little flavor on its own. The sauce also wasn’t spectacular, being the garden variety mayonnaise and ketchup mix that you get at most chicken tender stores. I did enjoy the crinkle-cut fries—how do you go wrong with crinkle-cut fries?—and the toast, which had a tasty buttery crust.

As for the store atmosphere, it is simple and unassuming. Cushionless booths line the walls, and simple tables fill in the middle of the floor. The decor is aimed straight at the football South, with helmets, autographed photos, old schedules, and promotional materials from SEC teams strewn throughout the dining area. Impressively, the strong football theme doesn’t give the store an overly masculine air. Instead, it’d be a decent place to take your wife and kids on a Saturday afternoon or your coworkers on a slow workday (but it’s probably best to look elsewhere if it’s just you and your wife).

The Big DaddyMore than anything else, the plain food and the simple atmosphere left me the impression that Tenders is past its glory days. It’s not fun or cool or tasty like it  may have been in the past. Honestly, it feels like the management is tired of running it; that’s not to say they don’t care—they’re just exhausted. Although my food was fresh, the service friendly, and the atmosphere okay, I don’t plan to return to Tenders. I can get better chicken and have more fun in a chain restaurant. I just can’t give Tenders my recommendation.

A few more things:

  • Tenders’ prices are competitive for a chicken tender joint (given that most chicken tender joints are overpriced).
  • Here’s what would help Tenders:
    • Replace that sauce with a good sauce I can’t get anywhere else.
    • Add some Lawry’s salt to the tenders.
    • Keep the football theme, but refresh the interior with some new paint, nicer seating, and rearranged decor.
Tenders on Urbanspoon

6 Responses

  1. Chelsea G.

    I’ve always wondered why people around here seem to rave about Tenders… I’ve never really liked it that much! You’re right– I can get much better chicken at a chain restaurant around here.

  2. Amy

    Back in my meat-eating days, I usually chose Tenders because the Chick-fil-A across the street was always so very crowded at lunch time. They do have a salad (at least the one on Wynn Drive does) called the Tender-Hearted salad that I thought was better than average. It has romaine, pecans, strawberries, feta cheese (if I am remembering correctly).

    • That salad sounds pretty tasty; it would definitely top the mundane one I ordered. You gotta wonder what it says about a place when you go there because another joint across the street is crowded.

  3. Anne Morton

    I was totally spoiled by all the great chicken places in Auburn- Guthrie’s, Jim Bob’s, and my favorite- Tenda Chick. There are ZERO chicken places in Elizabethtown. ZERO. I miss good chicken so much. We have Zaxbys but it’s not the same. We have Chikfila (LOVE their nuggets and they are low carb!), but it’s not the same either. I will never understand why a restaurant wouldn’t make their own dressing. It’s easy. And tastes so much better. Tenda Chick is my favorite just because of their Ten Thousand Island!

    • I totally thought of living in Auburn when we ate at this place, but it wasn’t nearly as good. I figure the guys who started it were inspired after leaving AU, but the food just doesn’t taste inspired. If you’re gonna make a living on chicken fingers, they better be really good.

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