Chicken tenders, as a food item, aren’t necessarily newsworthy. But make the outlandish claim that your restaurant invented chicken tenders, and suddenly you’re making headlines. Donald Trump would be proud.
USA Today recently profiled The Puritan Backroom in Manchester, New Hampshire. The relatively standard sounding diner is best known for its chicken tenders, not just because they are the restaurant’s best seller, but also because they claim to have invented the dish – in 1974, no less.
Skepticism is probably your first instinct, and writer Larry Olmsted wasn’t entirely convinced either. “The story, as told by Chris Pappas, current generation of one of the founding families, is that back in 1974 they were serving boneless breasts, which involved trimming down whole breasts and leaving them with a pile of strips. The solution was to marinate and fry these, and they were quickly added to the menu and became a runaway success,” he wrote. “While it does appear to be the first national mention of chicken tenders, there were other restaurants serving variations such as chicken fingers (generally thinner slices of the same piece) and chicken nuggets (often ground and reformed) at the time. So whether or not the Puritan was the progenitor of the chicken tender as we know it today involves semantics and is debatable.”
So there you have it. I’ll let you make up your own mind about their origin story. Far be it from me to shit on a restaurant that has become famous for serving chicken tenders. That, in itself, is a noteworthy accomplishment – regardless of who invented what.