Walking into Sam’s Fried Chicken & Donuts reminded me of a small-town spot where everyone goes to get chicken, but with the added bonus of specialty donuts.
Once I looked over the menu I realized Sam’s was more than just a fried-chicken joint, but one that cared about the ingredients. The bottom of the menu proclaimed that Sam’s only uses vegetarian-fed, American Humane Certified chicken raised with no antibiotics and no growth stimulants or hormones.
This made me excited to see if I would be able taste the difference.
The space inside is relatively small. You can choose to sit inside, or there are a few small tables on the outside. On a busy day, it’s probably best to grab and go.
I ordered the three-piece tender meal with crispy fries and country cream gravy. All the donuts looked good, so I asked the cashier to recommend one. I went with her favorite, the blueberry cake donut with blueberry icing.
I grabbed a seat and not even a few minutes later, I had my tray of food. My meal also came with a piece of cornbread.
The boat of fries was overflowing and the tenders were nice and hot.
Now, I wouldn’t say I’m a chicken tender expert, but I’m not far from it. I love fried chicken, and chicken tenders are my go-to option when I want something simple and familiar. At first sight I could tell these tenders weren’t your average chicken strips. They were larger strips that looked more chicken than breading, which might sound like stating the obvious, but many places tend to be heavy on the breading with thin strips of chicken.
The breading at Sam’s looked like it would be crunchy, but after biting into one I found it to be softer. The seasonings mixed in gave the chicken a unique flavor that I loved, and the meat was juicy and fresh. Dipping it into the gravy, which was thick and warm, gave the chicken an interesting smoky flavor.
The crispy fries were aptly named. Every bite was like eating a potato with a layer of crisp around it. The crispiness of the fries balanced well with the chicken.
The first thing you need to know about the cornbread is that it is by far the crumbliest cornbread I’ve ever had. The moment I touched it, it began to fall apart, so using a fork to eat it seemed to work the best. It became tiny pieces of cornbread the moment it touched my tongue, but I tried to focus on the taste.
The cornbread was sweet and tasted good. But I could have gone without the crumbliness.
By the time I got to the donut, I felt like I’d made my way into food coma territory. Though the meal was heavy, I didn’t feel sick. I was just happily full. While I had little room for the donut, I didn’t regret eating it.
Other cake donuts I’ve had are usually on the dry side, but this one was soft and moist. The donut without the icing tasted lightly of blueberry, and the icing is what brought most of the flavor to the donut.
But the next time I have a craving for fried chicken, I know where I’m going.
Sam’s Fried Chicken & Donuts
Address: 601 Heights Blvd.
Hours: 7 a.m.–9 p.m. daily
Healthy options: No
Star of the show: Chicken tenders