Its hardly a surprise that I am a strong contender for “all things Louisiana;” considering I basically eat, sleep, and breathe all things Southern. In the South we are based in strong tradition that is older than the United States itself, rooted perhaps in a less than savory history but with an outcome that has enriched the entire region with culture at every turn. One thing consistent throughout all my loves and passions is a deep affection for Southern Food. Although my preference lies in food shacks amongst the trees and marshes of Acadia, or perhaps among the lights and music of New Orleans, one national chain lays claim to Southern Heritage, Popeyes Chicken. Recently, the food chain announced their discontinuation of a couple of long-standing sides.
Popeyes Chicken Today and Yesterday
Although the current headquarters for Popeyes is in Miami, Florida, the restaurant was originally founded in Arabi, Louisiana in 1972 as “Chicken on the Run.” New Orleans native and investment chairman, Al Copeland was the founder of the chain, for it only to fail within a few months. After a few changes, Copeland rebranded and reopened as Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits. From its first franchise in Baton Rouge, the chain quickly grew by nearly 500 over ten years, quickly followed by 200 more. In 1989, Popeyes merged with another popular fried chicken franchise, Church’s Chicken. Today, Popeyes has over three thousand franchises worldwide, and remains a leader of popular food chains.
Popeyes has long since been a resource for fast-serve style food with a Cajun twist. Maintaining rights to their own recipes and seasonings, you can enjoy a quicker version of Cajun favorites with their famous fried chicken as a menu centerpiece. In addition to variations and combinations of fried chicken, you can find Cajun shrimp, chicken sandwiches, beignets, and apple pie. While the fried chicken at Popeyes certainly serves as a staple, the restaurant chain is additionally famous for their rich and decadent sides available that pay homage to their Southern roots. Items such as Cajun fries, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, coleslaw, and red beans and rice.
Notice what I didn’t include? That’s right; their nationally famous Cajun green beans and dirty rice which were recently removed from their already outstanding repertoire. Its unfortunate to see the discontinuation of such popular and delicious sides from their menu. Luckily for us Popeyes devotees, a ton of copycat recipes exist in order for the legacy to never really end. Like many Cajun recipes, the trick is in the broth, the butter, and of course, the seasonings. Like with many recipes, especially Southern ones, patience is key for perfection, waiting for your dishes to reduce, blend, and simmer to absolute deliciousness of your Popeyes favorites.
Can we talk about Fried Chicken?
Without any doubt in my mind, I think I can safely say that fried chicken is one of the most popular food items in the United States. Fried chicken in the United States has been traced to its early origins of West Africa, where it was seasoned, battered, and then fried in palm oil. In the 19th century, the increase of lard production gave way to the popularity of fried foods, and as cast iron skillets became more accessible, fried foods, including chicken, became commonplace. Chicken was generally seen as a cheaper livestock, and throughout the last two centuries, was a highly accessible food due to its price, ease of transport, and simple preparation.
Today, dozens of local and national chains exist that primarily utilize fried chicken as their main menu item. These include Popeyes, KFC, Church’s, Wing Stop, Bojangles, Zaxby’s, Chick-Fil-A, and many more. Your local landscape is also likely dotted with small, independent restaurants with unique techniques and recipes that make for an exciting take on fried chicken. I, like many others, am always on the lookout for my next great culinary adventure, and sometimes that entails the road less traveled which can often lead to the best foods.
No Cause for Concern
Forgive the exciting excursion into fried chicken, which of course now I’m craving wildly, and explore with me a few possible reasons why Popeyes may have eliminated their menu items. The action is not necessarily unique to Popeyes, and definitely is not indicative of financial trouble. If anything, menu consolidation is quite commonplace among restaurants, as they often operate with a low profit margin and aim to put their most profitable items at the forefront. Other reasoning may include minimizing operations and streamlining associated costs and logistics, so restaurants can save on transport, preparation, storage, and more.
As I depart this post to head for my kitchen, we can reflect that overall, it’s not always a bad thing when a restaurant looks to change things up or dive into a more minimalistic menu. With the facts in mind, what are your favorite things to order from Popeyes, and what would you like to see added to improve the overall experience? And of course, the big question of the day, how much are you all going to miss the Green Beans and Dirty Rice? Popeyes is forever tied to our illustrious, Southern region and will continue on to display the phrase “Louisiana Kitchen” on their storefronts in a testament to their heritage.