In honor of March, the bracket-iest month of the year, The Wire decided to go all out and create a tournament for everything. Every weekday for the rest of the month, we're presenting a different tournament to determine the very best (or worst) thing in a given field. And we're doing it the way that God intended: Bracket showdowns.
We picked the field, but you vote for the winner. Fill out our interactive bracket, round-by-round, to determine the people's champion, then read through our choices to find out who we think is be the best of the best. Each day is a new champion!
Our March Madness (patent pending) continues today with a field as adaptable and universal as you're going to find: Best Chicken. "Best chicken what?" Best chicken. "Best chicken like food?" Best chicken. "Or best chicken like alive chickens?" Best chicken. Pick the best chicken. Free your mind.
- Fried chicken: Be it deep-fried, pan-fried, or Kentucky-fried, this is your classic chicken. Crispy, delicious, probably awful for you, just don't give us the specifics because: don't care.
- Chicken soup: This is literally food that doubles as medicine. Reconsider any and all arguments against it. Quick poll: Ideal noodle for chicken soup? Traditional egg probably wins out, but watch out for penne coming up along the outside rail.
- Chicken parm: Does anybody still bother ordering chicken parm in the traditional, nested-on-a-bed-of-spaghetti model anymore? Or has this so fully morphed into a sandwich-based dish? Either way, all the goodness of breaded chicken topped with red sauce and melted cheese? That's like every food group plus a few more that were just discovered within a chicken parm sub.
- Rotisserie chicken: Even when you're not actually consuming rotisserie chicken, it's comforting to see it there at the deli counter, rotating and glistening just so.
- General Tso's chicken: The easiest thing to remember that you like when you're drunk and hollering your Chinese order across the room to your friend on the phone.
- The Famous San Diego Chicken: The world will always need a mascot to dance with old ladies between innings at baseball games or at NASCAR events or wherever there's a crowd.
- Chicken wings: In order: barbecue, medium, hot, honey mustard, mild, garlic, teriyaki. (No "Buffalo." They're all "Buffalo." If they weren't "Buffalo" wings, you'd be eating "plain" chicken wings, which are a waste of a creature that God put on this earth to feed you.)
- Chicken cutlets (food): Breaded or grilled, nice and flat and perfect for sandwiches. Or maybe schnitzel is your thing. There will be stacked chicken cutlets behind a glass partition at your local deli until nuclear armageddon. Probably a few days after that.
- Chicken cutlets (boob): The harsh reality of the beauty-industrial complex has necessitated these flesh-colored ad-hoc breast enhancements. Helpful for women and drag queens alike.
- Chicken nuggets: "What part of the chicken is the nugget?" you ask. "Shut up and dip it in your barbecue sauce," we say.
- Chicken salad: Free tip from The Wire to you: don't overdo your chicken salad. A few well-placed ingredients (apples; maybe some nut action) are fine, but remember who your star ingredient is.
- Chik-fil-a: Problematic. Regional. Delicious.
- The Chicken Dance: Pinch your hands. Flap your arms. Shimmy on down. Clap four times. Your great-aunt can do this, don't pretend you don't understand how it goes. (Not eligible: the Bluth family chicken dance, as it is non-regulation.)
- Chicken pot pie: All the goodness of chicken, gravy, peas, and carrots, joined together under a dome of pastry like a delicious Stephen King adaptation.
- Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: Keeping the "Used" section of your local library in business, since 1993.
- Chicken of the Sea: Pros: delicious. Cons: not chicken.
Last Four Out:
- Chicken Kiev
- Chicken tikka masala
- Chicken fingers
- Camilla from The Muppet Show
Your vote: Fried Chicken
The Wire's vote: Fried Chicken
The fact that Chicken of the Sea isn't chicken at all kind of doomed it right out of the gate, leaving fried chicken with a bit of a walkover victory. The battle of the chicken cutlets keeps it close, but ultimately, the versatility of cutlets as food ends up trumping cutlets as breast enhancement. The best chicken bracket isn't interested in perpetuating unrealistic standards of beauty. Chik-fil-a presents a bit of a moral dilemma, until you start picking the scab of how many other corporate heads are actually nightmare homophobes. The bigger hurdle for Chik-fil-a is that it isn't present everywhere in the United States. Still, its devotees are legion, while General Tso's is a compromise choice on the menu. Rotisserie chicken is such a cornerstone of America's chicken experience that it's easy to take it for granted, but the advent of iPod-curated wedding music has really been the death knell of the Chicken Dance.
Chicken salad is, like many mayonnaise-based dishes, not for everyone. And it's always so easy to over-celery. The Famous San Diego Chicken, by contrast, goes anywhere, with anything. Chicken pot pie is fine and comforting, but being the subject of the best single moment from the NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me doesn't mean it's a match for chicken parm, and I hope I don't even have to get into why. Chicken nuggets are, frankly, disgusting if you think about them for more than three seconds, and dipping sauces are an insultingly pale comparison to the full-body coating you get with wings and you get to dip them in blue cheese besides. Finally, simple logic tells you that while chicken soup could exist without Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, the converse is not true.
Fried chicken vs. Chicken cutlets (food): Chicken cutlets are great, but they depend a lot on how you use them. Not so for fried chicken, which stands on its own quite nicely. Winner: Fried chicken
Chik-fil-a vs. Rotisserie chicken: It's not even about the politics. ...Okay, it's not entirely about the politics. A big part of the joy of eating chicken is that you feel good doing it. It's tough to feel good when you know your chicken has been marinating in homophobic hatred all day. Meanwhile, that rotisserie chicken has been basting in its own delicious, open-minded juices. Winner: Rotisserie chicken
The Famous San Diego Chicken vs. Chicken parm: There's only so far a novelty mascot who isn't even associated with a particular sports team can go. This is how far. Winner: Chicken parm
Chicken wings vs. Chicken soup: Chicken soup makes you feel better when you're sick, but if you know anybody who orders chicken soup when their friends come over to watch the Super Bowl or the Golden Globes, report that person to the police. Winner: Chicken wings
Fried chicken vs. Rotisserie chicken: Rotisserie feels a little safe to be a finalist. Winner: Fried chicken
Chicken parm vs. Chicken wings: A quick word about people who order the hotter-than-hot wings (your "inferno," your "suicide," your "atomic"): you people are masochist showoffs who treat food the way demolition derbies treat cars. Chicken parm isn't for showoffs. Chicken parm is for everybody. Winner: Chicken parm
Fried chicken vs. Chicken parm: Chicken parm, while delicious, is still a bit basic. That's a good thing when it comes chicken, which is as democratic a protein as there is. But it doesn't have the ability to go to the places that fried chicken goes. Places like waffles, for one thing. Fried chicken also makes the best use of the whole bird. White meat, dark meat, breasts, thighs, drumsticks. Food, fun, and fashion, fried chicken has it all.
Winner: Fried chicken