BY MIKE EPSTEIN of satanslaundromat

Everyone knows about Kentucky Fried Chicken, lately known as KFC, whose hundreds of franchise locations in New York City make sure chicken and biscuits are never too far away. But KFC tends to stick to middle-class neighborhoods and busy commercial streets, leaving broad swaths of the city under-chickened. Uncountable entrepreneurs have stepped in to fill that gap, many of them with one-off greasy-napkin joints, and some with small chains like Crown Fried Chicken. Others have decided that the best way to name recognition is to imitate the big boys at KFC…

The first and most obvious way to imitate Kentucky Fried Chicken is to pick the name of a state other than Kentucky, preferably a Southern state or one with some proximity to Kentucky. This is an especially popular naming scheme in London, for some reason; this site presents a tongue-in-cheek guide to naming a London fried-chicken joint. The most obvious one (besides perhaps Tennessee) is Kansas, given its alliteration; in fact, Kansas Fried Chicken used to be a decent-sized chain until it largely went out of business. One outlet remains in Downtown Newark, along with this seemingly-always-closed storefront in Coney Island (with Nathan’s neon sign reflected in its windows).

Florida Fried Chicken in the South Bronx has the typical variety of fast food — gyros, wings, burgers — in addition to fried chicken, and New New York Fried Chicken in Crown Heights, Brooklyn seems to specialize in breakfast. Arkansas Fried Chicken in University Heights in the Bronx could be a converted signmaker’s shop.

(Arkansas Fried Chicken has a menu matching your webmaster’s four food groups, chicken, pizza, hamburgers and ice cream. –Your Webmaster)

For more fried chicken joints named after states other than Kentucky, see this set at Satan’s Laundromat. It includes perhaps the unlikeliest state of all, Utah Fried Chicken in Newark, New Jersey.

The second-largest fried chicken chain in New York is an even more blatant imitation of Kentucky Fried Chicken, this time a phonetic one…

2nd Avenue, East Harlem

Lexington and 110th Street

Flatbush Avenue, Flatbush

The various Kennedy Fried Chicken establishments in New York City (59 such restaurants in NYC are listed in one directory) are not technically part of a single company, or even franchises, but rather loosely affiliated derivatives of one another, run exclusively by Afghans. (I suspect they’re about as affiliated as the ubiquitous Tex-Mex fast food places, with names like New Fresco Tortilla II, that are all run by Chinese.)

It appears that Kentucky Fried Chicken
took legal action against Kennedy in the UK, but probably not in the US, or at least not effectively. There are dozens more in the New York suburbs, and I’ve spotted Kennedy Fried Chickens as far afield as Springfield, Massachusetts. Others have investigated the mysteries of Kennedy, including the NYTimes.

Kennedy Fried Chickens are almost exclusively found in lower-middle-class and impoverished neighborhoods. What happens when one such neighborhood begins to gentrify? On Fulton Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the owners have turned the left half into an abysmal Indian restaurant, and left the right half as a Kennedy Fried.

But lo! Kennedy Fried Chicken, the imitator, can be imitated too! Of late a chainlet called JFK Fried Chicken has been spotted around town: Fifth Avenue, Fulton Street and Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn claim the presence of the acronymized 35th President…

…as do East New York and Park Slope. The eminent Paul Lukashas written about JFK Fried Chicken and found, as you might expect, a mystery…

By now you’re surely thinking, “That imitator of an imitator can’t have an imitator itself.” Perhaps you’ve even said it out loud. But venturing a bit beyond the usual confines of Forgotten NY, to a mythical land beyond the sea (well, beyond the Hudson) called New Jersey, in a small town called Orange, we find this:

Indeed, it’s the Holy Grail of the presidential poultry hunter: J.F. Kennedy Fried Chicken. Cluck!

Among assassinated former presidents, Kennedy is not alone in the chicken business; it appears Abe Lincoln has followed him there. This establishment, one of several Lincoln Fried Chickens, is on West 125th Street near Broadway.

A few years back, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC. (The widely reported story that they couldn’t legally call their genetically engineered bird a chicken appears to be a tall tale; a likelier reason was not wanting to be associated with the unhealthy-sounding word “fried.”) Not to be left out, Kennedy Fried Chicken can play the acronym game too at one Bronx location.

The well-protected fried-chicken outlets of New York City have even been immortalized in song: Mike Doughty‘s “Sunkeneyed Girl” includes the lyrics:

Sunkeneyed girl on Delancey Street
Bulletproof glass in the KFC
So keep the man safe in his paper hat
Keep the wrong hands off the biscuit fortune

But perhaps the ultimate in chicken copyright infringment is New Kantacky Fried Chicken on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. The story behind that one, as far as I’ve been able to piece together: apparently someone decided it would be a good idea to open a place called New Kentucky Fried Chicken diagonally across the street from a real KFC. (Said entrepreneur is the same person who owns the Eleven-Seven deli on a third corner; why mess with a winning formula?) Unfortunately, the real KFC was not amused, hence the change to New Kantacky Fried Chicken. This New York Press article purports to have the authoritative story.

The fried chicken research and photographs on this page are from Satan’s Laundromat, which presented them, including chicken establishments outside New York City, in two pieces: states and presidents.

Your webmaster: erpietri”@”
Satanslaundromat at mike”@”

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All text and photographs copyright Mike Epstein, who completed the page December 21, 2004.

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