Beyond the kids menu: Elevated chicken tenders

The king of the kids menu, the simple and safe option, the one you may just be tired of, is none other than the chicken tender. By the time the kids are eight, it’s not uncommon to think they’ve tasted every chicken tender under the sun. With their thick breading, dry chicken and standard side of fries, most options are both underwhelming and usually overpriced. 

But just when you thought you’d never want to see another chicken tender again, these amazing spots up the ante and will absolutely have you coming back for more. Creamy and complimentary sides add a level of maturity that makes each of these locations perfect for parents and kids alike. Whether you bring the kids or make it a date night, Chicago has plenty of sophisticated chicken tenders joints to satiate your taste buds.

Wildfire

With five locations across Illinois, Wildfire is worth the drive from wherever you are. Maybe you’re wondering why anyone would order chicken tenders at a restaurant known for its steak and fish? Just do it! We stumbled upon the magical chicken tenders while celebrating Father’s Day. The tenders are hand breaded to order, and arrive perfectly crisp and juicy. You’ll wish they were available on the regular menu. 

Atlas Chicken Shack

The gem of Geneva, this is a must visit spot, especially during the summer months. You can walk right up to the side window to order and eat outside on the picnic tables. Pay attention to the subtle hush of chatting voices that takes over as everyone begins to enjoy their meal. This locally sourced, hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken has a grade A freshness factor. The choices of eight sauces will keep you coming back to experiment. Want to balance out fried chicken with something other than fries? Order the brussel sprouts citrus salad or a side of waffles and trust me, you’ll be back to the chicken shack. 

The Roost Carolina Chicken

Pump up the heat on the adult order, then add mac and cheese, a biscuit and some green beans and you have the ultimate chicken tender meal. Roost is so family friendly, the Lakeview location offers checkers to entertain your kids with while you wait for your made-to-order meal. All chicken comes out piping hot and delicious. Take your chicken tender experience to the next level by making it a Hillbilly Taco. Trust me, the chipotle ranch sauce is amazing. Can’t make it in to any of the three Chicago locations? Order online and a friendly bike messenger can deliver to your home or office. 

Leghorn Chicken

Low-key counter service and BYOB, need I say more? Yet, there is so much more to love about this Western Ave. eatery. Let’s start with fried chicken skins and kale salad before even mentioning the chicken strips. The strips are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, exactly as you would want your fried chicken. Leghorn understands that quality chicken speaks for itself. Nothing is stuffy here, especially not the green chile hushpuppies. Want to make your visit a little fancy? Sparkling wine pairs well with fried chicken. 

Honey Butter Fried Chicken 

Responsibly sourced doesn’t just speak for the chicken at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, this Avondale neighborhood spot is also conscious about all of its packaging and straws. Does anything pair better with chicken tenders than social consciousness? Honey Butter challenges that thought with mashed potatoes and garlic grits. Just get both; you won’t go wrong. Add a candied jalapeño margarita and it’s the ultimate grown-up meal.

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