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Carbo-loading made easy

(ran SP edition)

Kentucky Fried Chicken is hardly haute cuisine, but no one pulling up to the drive-through expects Rock Cornish hen or pheasant under glass.

What you get is quick, filling and fairly tasty _ and the family can be fed for less than you'd pay for a burger and fries at some other fast-food restaurants.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I spent the day moving furniture. As the last piece was settled in place, we needed carbohydrates. Kentucky Fried Chicken has 'em.

After informing our toddler that chicken was on the menu (one of his few favorites), we listened to his chant (where's the chicken store? where's the chicken store?, where's the chicken store? . . .) as we drove to the restaurant near 62nd Avenue N and Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street.

Access to Kentucky Fried Chicken from the busy intersection leaves a bit to be desired, as did the performance of the drive-through speaker system.

We repeated our order three times before pulling around to be greeted by a friendly attendant. The food arrived surprisingly quickly and comfortably warm.

Kentucky Fried Chicken's containers are superior to those used by most other fast-food restaurants. The boxes holding the chicken and biscuits are easy to open _ and more important _ easy to close for reheating. The cardboard did an adequate job of containing the delicious juices from the chicken. (My wife calls it grease; I call it juice.)

The same is true for the containers used to hold macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie and the slice of apple pie.

The down side: It was fortunate that we had unpacked the silverware at home, because we received no utensils with our order, not even a plastic spork. That works out fine for the 2-year-old, but adults prefer to be a little more civilized, even with takeout chicken.

And "Finger Lickin' Good" is a fine slogan, but we got just a couple of napkins, hardly enough to clean up the grease, er, juice, that flowed from the chicken. Not a wet-nap in sight.

The food tasted fine _ just fine. When Kentucky Fried Chicken first offered its extra-crispy option years ago, the taste caught on and stayed around.

The relatively new tender roast variety has a chance at remaining on the menu, too. It's not as flavorful as the roasted chicken at some other restaurants, but there was a noticeable absence of grease. Chicken pot pie was tasty and stuffed with vegetables. They didn't skimp on the chicken inside, either. The side orders were predictably bland, but the potato wedges are an interesting diversion from the standard skinny french fries at most fast-food joints.

Perhaps the most appealing quality of Kentucky Fried Chicken is its staying power. Reheated in the microwave for a minute or so the next day, the extra crispy chicken was still flavorful and crisp. The apple pie, which is freshness-dated, was saved for the next day's lunch. After a trip through the microwave, it was sweet and delicious.

PINELLAS TO GO

Kentucky Fried Chicken

6300 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. N, St. Petersburg

Phone: 527-1440

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until midnight Friday and Saturday

Consumers: Two adults, one child

What we got: Three-piece meal with extra crispy chicken, macaroni and cheese and potato wedges; chicken pot pie, biscuit; two-piece tender roast chicken with biscuit and a slice of apple pie

What it cost: $13.87

Time it took: 8 minutes (drive-through)

Pay with: Cash

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