Fast Times

JCI Grill's New Dog Proves Not Everything Should Be Chicken Fried

The Chicken Fried Dog, in its gravy-covered glory.
The Chicken Fried Dog, in its gravy-covered glory. Photo by Cory Garcia
As someone who was born, raised, and has only lived in Texas, perhaps the most heretical opinion I have is that not everything needs to be chicken fried. While I certainly believe that chicken fried steak would make a much better state food, and I’ve certainly eaten my fair share of chicken fried chicken, I just feel that not everything in life is made better by being battered and deep fried. For every interesting innovation like chicken fried ribs and chicken fried bacon, there’s a state fair’s worth of bad ideas and stomach busters.

But I’ll confess that heading over to James Coney Island to give their new Chicken Fried Dog a shot, I was cautiously optimistic. JCI might not be my favorite hot dog franchise, but they’ve never served me a bad meal, and gravy is a surprisingly underrated hot dog condiment. Their newest menu item sees JCI taking a hot dog, giving it the batter and deep fry treatment, putting it on a potato bun, and covering the whole thing with a layer of what they say is a peppered gravy.

It’s not something that you order when you’re in a hurry. JCI has the science of getting dogs out on the quick down, but the extra step of frying it means wait times that are comparable to their burgers; you won’t have to wait long, but if you’re eating with a group, politely suggest they get to eating while their tots and fries are still warm.

In their press materials, JCI mentions that some people choose to skip the traditional “by hand” model of hot dog eating and tackle the chicken fried dog with a knife and fork. If you’re the type that is naturally messy or just doesn’t like having gravy fingers, utensils are your best bet, as the gravy does have a tendency to slide off the dog if you’re not careful. I was not careful, but fortunately for me, I managed to get through the meal without getting anything on my shirt.

But all of that is just the story around the reason you’re actually here, to find out if this is something that you need to try for yourself. And the answer is… not really. I didn’t hate the chicken fried dog; I didn’t even dislike it. I’m just not entirely sure what the point of it is.

The hot dog itself is good in the way that all JCI hot dogs are good. The gravy was better than I anticipated, having a fine flavor, but underseasoned for something that is supposed to be “peppered.” The potato bun was neither good nor bad; like most hot dog buns, it does its job of not drawing attention away from the star of the dish.

The problem is in the batter. It adds nothing in terms of flavor, which wouldn’t be a problem except that it doesn’t really add anything in terms of texture either. Your first bite, likely to be gravy-free, is solid enough; you don’t really taste the batter, but at least there is some crunch to get your attention. But the more you eat, the soggier things get, and by the time you reach the middle, you’ve got a warm hot dog covered in layers of wet gravy, soggy bun, and a batter that’s been rendered soft to the point of near non-existence.

If they had just wanted to cover a hot dog in gravy, I don’t think that would have been an issue. If they had wanted to deep fry a hot dog on its own, that might have been fine. But even at a mere four ingredients, the chicken fried dog is doing too much to truly be something you need to try. Perhaps if the gravy came on the side and used for dipping this experiment would be more successful, but at the present, it’s just a sort of weird novelty, too obvious not to exist but too flawed to even be worth eating on a dare.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia