I ordered the same meal at Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane's, and Zaxby's and preferred both of the smaller chains

I ordered the same meal at Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane's, and Zaxby's and preferred both of the smaller chains
  • I compared the chicken tenders, fries, lemonade, and signature sauces at Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane's, and Zaxby's.

  • I thought Raising Cane's signature sauce was the best, though I was impressed by Zaxby's tenders.

  • I also thought my meal from Zaxby's was the best bang for my buck.

On a recent trip to Austin, I decided to try out Raising Cane's to see how it compared to fellow chicken chains Chick-fil-A and Zaxby's.

raising canes chicken tenders meal
My meal from Raising Cane's.Erin McDowell/Insider

I ordered a Caniac Combo, which comes with six chicken tenders, fries, two Cane's sauces, Texas Toast, coleslaw, and a large drink. I decided to swap out the coleslaw for a side of honey mustard. The chain is limited when it comes to sauces, but you can ask for honey mustard on the side if you wish.

My meal came to $14.27, including tax.

The chicken tenders looked super crispy.

raising canes chicken tenders meal
Raising Cane's chicken tenders.Erin McDowell/Insider

The box of food was stuffed to the brim with the crispy chicken tenders, fries, and sauces.

Next, I tried the tenders with the Cane's sauce.

raising canes chicken tender dipped in canes sauce
Raising Cane's chicken tender dipped in Cane's sauce.Erin McDowell/Insider

The chain is famous for its sauce, and after biting in, I could definitely see why. It had a slight kick to it, was super creamy, and surprisingly tangy. It paired perfectly with the chicken and was unlike any other sauce I've ever tried.

The Cane's sauce also paired well with the fries.

raising canes fries dipped in canes sauce
Raising Cane's fry dipped in Cane's sauce.Erin McDowell/Insider

For me, the crinkle-cut fries were just OK, but I didn't mind them. They were soft and fluffy, and there was a generous serving.

I also enjoyed the Texas toast, though the meal was already carb-heavy.

raising canes texas toast
Raising Cane's toast.Erin McDowell/Insider

I didn't feel like it was totally necessary, but I did enjoy it. As a new visitor to Raising Cane's, I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to eat it with the chicken fingers like an open-faced sandwich, dip it in the sauce, or just eat it on its own.

Regardless, I thought it was perfectly fluffy and had a nice crisp on the outside of the bread.

The lemonade wasn't overly pulpy and had a subtle sweetness.

raising canes lemonade
Raising Cane's lemonade.Erin McDowell/Insider

It was perfectly sweet and sour.

I tried ordering the same meal at Chick-fil-A to see how the chains compared.

chick fil a chicken tenders fries meal
My meal from Chick-fil-A.Erin McDowell/Insider

Chick-fil-A doesn't sell a six-piece chicken tenders meal so I ordered a four-piece tenders meal instead. I could have ordered two three-piece chicken tenders, but that would have made for a pricier meal.

I ordered the chicken tenders meal with a large lemonade and a medium fry at my local Chick-fil-A in New York City. I also was able to add two Chick-fil-A sauces and two honey-mustard sauces to my order. It came to $14.14 including tax, making it just slightly less expensive than the Raising Cane's meal. However, I did get less food.

The Chick-fil-A tenders were heavily fried and darker in color than the Raising Cane's tenders.

chick fil a chicken tenders
Chick-fil-A chicken tenders.Erin McDowell/Insider

A four-piece chicken tender box costs $7.65 when not included in a meal deal.

I tried the tenders with the chain's signature Chick-fil-A sauce.

chick fil a chicken tenders dipped in chick fil a sauce
Chick-fil-A chicken tender dipped in Chick-fil-A sauce.Erin McDowell/Insider

Chick-fil-A sauce is undeniably delicious, in my opinion. I even have a bottle of it in my fridge at all times. While I loved the sauce and thought it paired well with the crispy tenders, I still thought the tenders could have been a little juicier.

I thought that parts of the chicken tenders contained less chicken than the ones from Raising Cane's and Zaxby's.

chick fil a chicken tender dipped in honey mustard
Chick-fil-A chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

Whereas the Raising Cane's tenders were thick and super juicy, the ones from Chick-fil-A had more of a crunch and were flatter in shape. It's all up to personal preference, but I preferred the tenders from Raising Cane's.

I also tried Chick-fil-A's waffle fries.

chick fil a chicken fries on a blue background
Chick-fil-A waffle fries.Erin McDowell/Insider

They were perfectly salted and fluffy.

The fries were fluffy and paired well with both sauces.

chick fil a chicken fries dipped in chick fil a sauce
Chick-fil-A waffle fry dipped in Chick-fil-A sauce.Erin McDowell/Insider

I'm a big fan of the waffle fry shape. I find it helps to scoop up the sauce.

It may just be me, but I wasn't a huge fan of the lemonade from Chick-fil-A.

chick fil a drink cup
Chick-fil-A lemonade.Erin McDowell/Insider

I know many people love the signature lemonade from Chick-fil-A, but it was a little too pulpy for my taste. I also thought it could have been a touch sweeter.

I visited a Zaxby's location a few months after my trip to Austin to see how it would stack up against the other two chains.

zaxbys meal
Zaxby's chicken tenders meal.Erin McDowell/Insider

A five-piece chicken tenders combo came with fries, a small drink, coleslaw, and a piece of Texas toast. I also asked for a side of honey mustard and Zaxby's famous Zax sauce. My meal cost $9.89, excluding taxes and fees. It was the cheapest meal that I tried.

The Texas toast at Zaxby's was thinner than the toast at Raising Cane's, and much more buttery.

zaxbys meal
Zaxby's toast.Erin McDowell/Insider

It was perfectly crisp and had a lot of flavor.

I also tried the coleslaw that came with the meal.

zaxbys meal
Zaxby's coleslaw.Erin McDowell/Insider

It tasted mostly of vinegar and had a tart, refreshing taste. I actually thought it was really similar in flavor to coleslaw I've gotten from Popeyes in the past.

The chicken tenders' breading was very similar to Chick-fil-A's in its consistency, flavor, and texture, but I thought these chicken tenders had more chicken meat.

zaxbys chicken tenders
Zaxby's chicken tender.Erin McDowell/Insider

The breading was perfectly crispy and super flavorful, with a slight sweetness.

The chicken tenders held their own without sauce but were really taken to the next level when dipped in the tangy Zax sauce.

zaxbys meal
Zaxby's chicken tender dipped in sauce.Erin McDowell/Insider

Zax sauce tastes similar to Cane's sauce, but I found it to be just ever-so-slightly less flavorful, and creamy. I also thought that it didn't have the same kick.

However, the chicken tenders really impressed me.

zaxbys chicken tenders
Zaxby's chicken tender dipped in sauce.Erin McDowell/Insider

They were a good size, extremely flavorful, and addictingly delicious. I found myself craving even more than the five chicken tenders I was given, which is rare for me.

I thought the lemonade was average, but tasty.

zaxbys lemonade
Zaxby's lemonade.Erin McDowell/Insider

It was just Minute-Maid lemonade from a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. However, I thought it was subtly sweet, without any added pulp, and paired nicely with my meal.

In the end, I had to give the win to Zaxby's.

zaxbys restaurant
Zaxby's restaurant exterior.Erin McDowell/Insider

In the end, it was a really tough call on whether I preferred Zaxby's or Raising Cane's chicken tenders meal. For me, Chick-fil-A's didn't even come close. I preferred liked the addition of coleslaw in the Zaxby's meal. With Zaxby's, I could order honey mustard on the side without having to give up the coleslaw.

I also preferred Zaxby's toast, which had a more buttery flavor and a more crispy texture. I easily polished off the entire meal and for the lowest price, it simply couldn't be beat.

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