Chicken places are a dime-a-dozen, right? There’s the KFCs, the Chik-fil-a’s, the Zaxby’s, etc. You’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. So when a new chicken place enters the very competitive fast-food, fast-casual chicken market, one wonders what’s so special about it? What does newcomer PDQ offer the established chains already don’t? That’s exactly what PDQ intended to show me when they invited us out to their newest location in Julington Creek.
PDQ started in October 2011 in Tampa, Florida. In four short years, they now have restaurants located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. The Julington Creek location has been around for about a year. PDQ stands for People Dedicated to Quality. So right off the bat, PDQ tries to separate themselves from the pack, starting with their name. And when the name of your company touts the high level of food and service you intend to deliver, then you’re setting the bar for yourself mighty high.
So do the People really Deliver on that Quality? Let’s break this review down to the three things PDQ strives to accomplish. People. Dedicated. Quality.
People – While we were invited to try out PDQ’s newest location, no one knew what I looked like, so they didn’t know it was me when I arrived. From the moment I walked in, I was greeted warmly and sincerely. They made eye contact with me and smiled as they said, “Welcome to PDQ.” I really did feel welcomed when I came in. Brittany, my tour guide for the evening, greeted me as I introduced myself. She was very friendly, outgoing, bubbly, and knowledgeable. The kitchen staff seemed to work well together and the food moved smoothly from one station to the next.
Dedicated – PDQ separates themselves from the other chicken places by offering fresh ingredients and making things to order. And they are dedicated to the idea that fresh ingredients make better meals. One thing that surprised me on the tour was a lack of a freezer. They only have a walk-in fridge. All of their ingredients are delivered fresh two to three times a week. Nothing is frozen. The lettuce for the salads are delivered in whole heads and chopped on site. The potatoes for the fries are delivered whole and cut by hand daily. The chicken is delivered fresh, not frozen. They are hand-breaded and cooked to order. You won’t find baskets of chicken sitting under a heat lamp at PDQ. Even the sauces are made in-house every day. Ingredients come in, great food comes out.
Quality – So finally I get to talk about the food. I love chicken. I can eat some form of chicken most every day. So I like to consider myself a chicken connoisseur, a poultry pundit, if you will. After taking a tour of the kitchen and the back of the house, I was looking forward to eating the Quality that I clearly saw around me. PDQ is very high on Quality and isn’t afraid to show it off to their customers. The dining room and kitchen is basically one big room separated by the ordering counter. They have a bar set up to the immediate right of the kitchen that allows anyone to see their order being cooked.
I wanted to try as much of the menu as I could. I ordered fried and grilled tenders. I also tried two of PDQ’s newest offerings, Honey Marinated Nuggets and the Cali Club Chicken Sandwich. I topped off my order with a basket of freshly cut and cooked fries and a lemonade, hand-squeezed that morning.
I started on the tenders, PDQ’s staple offering. The fried tenders were tender and juicy, not greasy. The breading had a great blend of spices that you could see on the chicken tender. The grilled tenders were also juicy for a grilled slice of chicken breast. It could’ve easily gone to dry and crumbly, but PDQs grilling method ensures you get a nice grilled tender. By themselves they were great, but honestly, chicken tenders were made to be dipped in great sauces. I chose the ever-popular honey mustard and the creamy garlic. The honey mustard is the most popular and for good reason. It had a perfect blend of sweetness and vinegary-ness. The creamy garlic had a very stout garlic-parmesan flavor. Yes, I double-dipped. Don’t judge me.
After a few tenders, I moved on to the Honey Marinated Nuggets. I could taste the sweet honey throughout the nugget. PDQ pairs the nuggets with their house-made Honey BBQ sauce. The Honey BBQ sauce is fantastic. It had a nice smokiness that complements the sweetness of the honey. Being that it’s house-made, you could see the flecks of brown sugar in the BBQ sauce. Better than anything in a bottle.
Before I stuffed myself silly on chicken tenders and nuggets, I began working on the Cali Club Chicken Sandwich. The Cali Club is grilled chicken topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, slices of avocado, and ranch sauce all inside a toasted brioche bun. It was a good sandwich. The bacon was crispy. The avocado added a nice creaminess to the sandwich. The brioche bun was a nice choice over a basic white bread bun. Brioche is a buttery and rich bread, which I’m sure is a little pricier than WonderBread, but it’s that attention to Quality that PDQ strives for.
In between the tenders, the nuggets, and the Cali Club, I munched on the hand-cut, cooked to order fries. The fries were perfectly crispy on the outside while being light and fluffy on the inside. They’re the perfect vehicles for the house-made PDQ sauces.
Overall, PDQ does well to stand out among the KFCs, Chick-fil-a’s, and Zaxby’s of the world. PDQ has officially moved to the top of my list for my chicken tender hankerings.
194 N State Road 13, St Johns, FL 32259
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
This post is by Rich Herrera. Since moving to Jax a couple years ago Rich has been voraciously devouring all local Jacksonville restaurants have to offer.