Zaxby’s, as you may have heard, is a popular southern-based fried chicken joint. They specialize in chicken fingers and sandwiches and people seem to dig their fries and dipping sauces. Two opened in Columbia this past Monday and I happened to be near one while running errands during lunch today. Here are my thoughts.

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First, they’ve done a nice job (a la Applebee’s, I suppose) of tying in some local flavor to the decor. Lots of Mizzou and SEC memorabilia. That’s nice. And the service was understandably (and suffocatingly) chipper for day four. The food came out before I’d even been handed my change, so there’s that too. But we’re here for the chicken, right? Right. Anyway, it’s not that great. The chicken tenders do indeed appear to come from an actual chicken, and I they had a little more pull to them than some, which sort of disintegrate when you bite into them (a good thing to me). They were cooked perfectly. Other than that, well… The breading is lightly applied, pretty salty. “Salty” is what I got out of it. The fries are what we all enjoyed out of Ore-Ida bags growing up. The coleslaw and Texas toast were just utterly pointless. And the sauce, blech. It’s basically remoulade mayonnaise. Or maybe it’s mayonnaise remoulade. Either way it’s mayo with a dash of heat and tartness. The whole collection is pretty dull, if inoffensive.

The ultimate test came with a to-go order for Mrs. SMEs. She had identical thoughts: Zaxby’s is fine. Not as good as Lee’s, not as good as Chick-fil-A. So, give Zaxby’s a shot for yourself, but you might want to dial the expectations back.


Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

7 thoughts

  1. I don’t get the whole Chik-fil-a adoration…I was definitely underwhelmed the one time I ate at one (in Ohio). The spicy chicken sandwich was spicy and good, but the touted waffle fries were limp and bland, quite unlike what I expect waffle fries to be. Fruit cup was heavily weighted with red delicious apples (yuck), but I will say their lemonade did live up to the hype, just the right blend of puckery sweetness. A spicy chicken sandwich and perfect lemonade is not enough for me to want to go back. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was disappointed with the food experience there, and can definitely do without the Biblical wall quotations and sermonizing.

    Has anyone ever tried either Bojangle’s Chicken or Raising Cane’s (mainly in the southern US)?

  2. I’m a bit non-plussed by the Chick-fil-A craze myself, but I generally like what I get on my every-other-year-or-so visits. It’s been a while for me and Bojangle’s…I definitely liked the occasional Popeye’s fix during our years in Washington, D.C. though.

  3. Raising Cane’s is magic. It’s alleged that Cane’s copied Zaxby’s, which I can totally see, but I’ve yet to try Zaxby’s. One obvious difference so far is that Cane sauce is made fresh and given to you in a tiny deli container, not pre-packaged with a foil tear-off top.

  4. Perhaps now that we have a Zaxby’s in Columbia, we’ll get a Raising Cane’s? Sounds good to me.

    Scott, you were just a kid at at the time, but do you remember when we had a Popeye’s on the Business Loop where Church’s is now? Think it was in the late 80’s?

    Not sure why we couldn’t keep a Popeye’s, but to be honest, I think Church’s chicken and sides are pretty good. Church’s “Jalapeno Bombers” really are the bomb..they are the hottest jalapeno poppers I’ve ever tasted, and we’ve decided it’s because the jalapenos are chopped up and not sliced….

  5. Also it appears that the breading is a thin beer batter of sorts, does that sound right Scott? Cane’s uses a breading that seems to include a crunchy component, like corn flakes or something.

  6. Made it there at lunch twice the past week, by chance. The Buffalo wings were very good I thought. Got the Tongue Torch sauce on them and it was tasty but not so torchy. Supposedly their best seller sauce so I thought I better start there. On the second trip I got the Cajun Club sandwich. It was a perfectly grilled chicken breast which was not over seasoned and it had lettuce, tomato, bacon cheese and mayo…scratch that…Ranch. I didn’t guess it was Ranch at the time. It was delicious and I will be getting that again. I don’t think I have had a better chicken sandwich in recent memory. I hit both locations and was luck to find parking or a seat each time. Super busy but ate in and was out without delay.

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