Who wins in a chicken taste test — Raising Cane’s, Royal Farms or Popeyes?

Published 2/9/2023 12:00 p.m. EST, Updated 2/9/2023 6:10 p.m. EST

Chicken tender taste held at The Baltimore Banner between: Popeye’s, Royal Farms and Racing Cane’s.

The arrival of Raising Cane’s in Towson last month has Baltimoreans going a bit nuts, with so-called “Caniacs” lining up around the block to place their orders for the fast-food chain’s famous chicken tenders.

The fervor has already made its way to social media. A Facebook user shared a photo of a particularly lengthy line with the caption “Raising Cane’s got Towson in a chokehold.” One TikToker wrote that since the restaurant opened, they had “been there 4 times a week.” Photojournalist Manny Locke tweeted a photo of yet another long queue outside the spot and asked: “what’s the draw is it the sauce are they giving away food”?

All questions we were wondering, too. When it comes to taste, is Raising Cane’s that good? Or does hype just beget hype?

The Baltimore Banner decided to find out how the chicken fingers from Raising Cane’s stack up against some of our favorite chicken spots in the area: Popeyes and Royal Farms.

We formed a panel of six taste testers from The Banner newsroom, and asked them to rank the chicken tenders according to seasoning, crispiness, juiciness and overall appeal in a blind taste test (and yes, dips from each spot were included).

Here are the tenders that came out on top.


Winner: Royal Farms

One of Baltimore’s favorite chicken spots, Royal Farms, came in first place for seasoning and flavor. Raising Cane’s was a distant second, with one tester writing that the newcomer chicken joint “needs more salt.” Popeyes was a close third, with several samplers commenting on its blandness.


Winner: Raising Cane’s

The laws of thermodynamics dictate that fried chicken rarely tastes as good two hours after purchase as it does when it’s fresh out of the fryer. That said, Raising Cane’s still managed to score high marks from our taste testers. “Perfect texture, just right when it comes to breading,” wrote one. It was followed by Popeyes in second place and RoFo in a close third, although one person remarked the latter “would be better warm.”


Winner: Raising Cane’s

Many of the participants remarked on the overall moistness of the Raising Cane’s chicken finger, which stood in contrast to the overly dry tender from Royal Farms — dead last in this category. “Very tough!” one of our testers wrote. “Bone dry,” asserted another, while one person called it greasy. Another eater complained that the Royal Farms tender smelled like “older oil.”


Winner: Raising Cane’s

There was a little more disagreement in this category than the others, with three taste testers picking Raising Cane’s ketchup-adjacent sauce as their favorite while one said it was the worst. The honey mustard sauce from Royal Farms was the second ranked while the blackened ranch sauce from Popeye’s came in last. But the scales might have been skewed against them, as more than one of our testers said they hate ranch: “Doesn’t do it for me.”


Winner: Raising Cane’s

The newcomer chicken joint was the winner in four out of five categories including overall appeal, which it won by a large margin. In fact, every voter except for one picked Raising Cane’s as the best.

“This one is my favorite, would just add salt, seasoning,” one tester wrote.

So — is Raising Cane’s really that good? When compared to the competition, the answer is yes.

The results of The Banner’s highly scientific survey indicate that a majority of eaters prefer Raising Cane’s chicken fingers over chicken tenders from both Royal Farms and Popeyes. The results seem to suggest that qualities like texture (crispiness and juiciness) may be more important than flavor alone.

In good news for Caniacs old and new, two more locations are coming to the area soon: one in Gambrills and another in Westminster.

In the meantime, we’ll see you in line.

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