Chicken strips, chicken fingers, or chicken tenders. No matter how you slice it, fry it, or dip it (ketchup or honey mustard, usually), this children’s menu mainstay is a staple of American casual cuisine. The Puritan Backroom, a family restaurant that has been serving Manchester, New Hampshire, residents since 1917, claims to have invented the tasty chicken tender.Although claims of restaurants being the “inventors” of certain popular food items have often been disputed (Lombardi’s has had to defend its “first-ever pizzeria” title many times), Puritan Backroom may be the real deal, according to USA Today.
Chris Pappas, part of the family generation that is currently operating the restaurant, says that the restaurant began serving boneless breasts and cutting them into strips. In 1974, the team had the bright idea to marinate and deep-fry these strips, pile them high, and put them on the menu. They became a runaway success. The restaurant does indeed seem to have the first-ever mention of chicken tenders, although variants like chicken nuggets were already in circulation. One can argue though that nuggets and tenders are two very different foods since nuggets usually contain ground and processed chicken, whereas tenders are whole chicken strips.
Today at Puritan Backroom, you can get your tender fix in original, spicy, Buffalo, and coconut flavors. The secret, the owners claim, is in the marinade so that the flavor does not just sit on top of the breading, but goes deeper into the juicy chicken itself.