Kenny Rogers Roasters, a chain that started and failed all within the 1990s, has all but been wiped out in the United States. With only a dozen or so restaurants left during bankruptcy in 1999, Nathan's Famous purchased the chain and experimented around with it for nine years before selling it off to its Philippine franchiser. As a part of the sale agreement, the last-remaining Kenny Rogers Roasters, located in a mall food court in Ontario, California, may continue to operate, and Nathan's may continue to sell Kenny Rogers Roasters' items in their restaurants.
Thus, if you want to visit a true Kenny Rogers Roasters, you must either travel to the Philippines (check out the website), perhaps a couple other Asian/Pacific countries, or California, although it's debateable whether a mall food court location even counts.
Thankfully, however, since Nathan's Famous may continue to sell KRR, traveling far is not required to enjoy their amazing chicken. All you have to do is figure out which locations actually sell KRR menu items. This is easier said than done, as Nathan's does not provide such search filtering on their restaurant locator. (This is the same problem experienced when trying to find a Dunkin' Deli).
The only Nathan's with a Kenny Rogers Roasters counter that I'm currently aware of in New York City is their flagship location on Coney Island. KRR has a small "Express" counter within this famous location.
I arrived during a major thunderstorm after a hot and sunny day, so the inside of the restaurant was packed with beachgoers and tourists that were waiting out the rain by consuming fast food. Although there was a significant line for the hot dog section, there were only two people in line at Kenny Rogers Roasters Express.
I ordered a 1/4 white meat chicken platter, which includes cornbread and a choice of two sides, for which I chose corn and coleslaw. KRR has a small display/serving case, similar to Boston Market, with chicken and the hot sides, which looks absolutely delicious. Soups and wings are also available. The combo platters have a simple pricing structure depending on size of the chicken and dark versus white meat. Some examples include:
- 1/4 chicken (dark meat) platter: $5.59
- 1/4 chicken (white meat) platter: $6.59
- 1/2 chicken (dark meat) platter: $7.59
- 1/2 chicken (white meat) platter: $8.59
Now for the taste: It was absolutely amazing! Some of the best chicken I have ever had, if not the best. I was almost immediately angry at myself for not ordering 1/2 a chicken for two dollars more. The meat fell right off the bone, the skin fell right off the meat, and the seasoning is truly something special! The sides were great too, but the chicken was breathtaking.
Please check your nearest Nathan's and let me know if they have Kenny Rogers Roasters. Doing searches on Yelp reveals that there are other locations out there with KRR inside, such as Oceanside and Hollywood. I highly recommend taking the trip to Coney Island and sampling this amazing chicken, and now have full understanding of why Kramer fell in love with it in the Seinfeld episode "The Chicken Roaster":