“Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!”
I wonder who came up with that phrase.
However, it is something that I’m sure that the wait staff in Frankenmuth hears quite a lot.
I heard it at least twice on my last visit.
When you visit Frankenmuth for the first time or the fifteenth, two restaurants offer a delicious all-you-can-eat fried chicken family dinner.
The Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth are two of the nation’s most prominent independently owned restaurants that serve an amazingly high amount of chicken dinners each year (over two million) and are located directly across from each other.
Which one should you choose?
Who makes the best fried chicken in Frankenmuth?
How Is the Chicken Made?
Chickens arrive fresh at the restaurants.
They are steamed for up to an hour.
The stock leftover from this process is used as the main ingredient for their noodle soup, light gravy, and sauerkraut.
The chickens are cooled rapidly in a quick chill freezer and expertly cut into pieces.
The chickens are then covered in a homemade egg wash with flour and a cracker meal.
Then the chicken is dunked in a deep fryer for a few minutes, making it nice and crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.
It isn’t surprising that there are only slight differences in the fried chicken recipes at both restaurants because cousins of the same Zehnder family own and operate them.
Best Fried Chicken in Frankenmuth, MI
1. Bavarian Inn
The Bavarian Inn is the oldest out of the two Frankenmuth chicken dinner restaurants, having started in 1888 with the Fischer family.
The Fischer family originated the all-you-can-eat chicken dinner by serving it at the Fischer Hotel.
In 1959, the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn re-opened after a complete remodel by the Zehnder family, who bought out the Fischers.
This wood timber frame building has the look and essence of Germany.
When you walk inside, you are immersed in the German design, music, cuisine, and the Bavarian costume-clad servers.
There are twelve dining rooms with seating to support up to 1,200 guests at once.
The rooms seem more intimate than the large open rooms at Zehnder’s.
While you are enjoying your meal, you are entertained by a wandering accordion player polkas and other dinner tunes.
The chicken dinner at Bavarian Inn is $26.99/person and includes their fresh, lightly breaded chicken, with their own blend of seasonings on the golden fried coating.
If you have picky eaters, you can get a meal with all white meat chicken for an extra $2/person.
The dinner experience includes more than just chicken.
You get bread made fresh in their bakery, Stollen which is a fruit & nut bread, Backofenbrot which is their house-made white bread, noodle soup, coleslaw, pasta salad, cranberry relish, a Michigan seasonal salad, baked dressing, vegetable du jour, mashed potatoes and gravy, buttered noodles, and house-made ice cream.
If you are interested in trying more German food, you can order Kasseler Rippchen, Sauerbraten, Bratwurst, or Schnitzel and add these to your chicken dinner.
Trust me when I say that you will be stuffed after eating a meal at the Bavarian Inn.
After you finish your meal, make sure to go downstairs to the Castle shops and pick up some German souvenirs, beer steins, or take some German desserts home.
Then head outside to listen to the 50-ft Glockenspiel that tells the legend of the Pied Piper of Hameln.
2. Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth
Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth’s is the larger of the two restaurants and opened in 1929 when the Zehnder family bought the Exchange Hotel.
Zehnder’s was designed to look similar to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
With an early American theme, their Heritage Room was doubled in size, giving Zehnder’s an overall seating capacity of 1,500.
When you visit Frankenmuth, you might find yourself waiting in long lines outside Zehnder’s if you don’t make reservations.
The main difference I find between the restaurants is that the experience at Zehnder’s is more kid friendly.
Kids are given coloring pages of the chicken Fritz, and Fritz wanders around the dining rooms saying hi to the kiddos.
The all-you-can-eat chicken dinner at Zehnder’s restaurant is $27.95/person.
Your meal starts with their homemade noodle soup, which is more noodles than soup.
If you are like every kid and me, you love the noodles more than the broth anyway!
After the soup, they bring out plates and plates of appetizers.
The appetizers include Zehnder’s creamy cabbage salad (very yummy!), house-made chicken liver pate, large curd cottage cheese, Zehnder’s cheese spread with garlic toast, freshly baked bread, whole fruit preserves, and their house-made cranberry relish.
It is hard to decide what to try first, but I say just dig in and try everything.
The servers do a great job of watching when you are about to finish with the appetizers before bringing out your main meal.
Besides the delicious golden-fried chicken, you get creamy mashed potatoes, chicken gravy, Grandma Zehnder’s dressing, buttered egg noodles with breadcrumbs on them, and a seasonal garden vegetable.
Oh, and don’t forget the ice cream for dessert.
Zehnder’s is a full four-season destination with its restaurant, marketplace, Splash Village, and the Fortress Golf Course, making this a fun place for the whole family to visit.
Both restaurants offer you platters of crispy, golden fried chicken plus options to add traditional German food to your dinner.
The chicken dinners are very similar, and the only difference I found is a slight variation in the chicken coating.
They both offer family-style dining with house-made sides like buttery noodles and freshly baked bread.
Zehnder’s seems to have more of a bread crumb or cracker topping on the noodles than at the Bavarian Inn.
There is also a slight difference in stuffing and fresh bread selections, which they use in their stuffing.
Between Bavarian Inn and Zehnder’s, which Frankenmuth restaurant has the best chicken dinner?
With the recipes being so close, the only way to decide is to look at the whole experience.
I have found long lines at Zehnder’s and have been able to walk right into Bavarian Inn when that happens.
Also, Zehnder’s has a slightly higher cost for the all-you-can-eat dinner than Bavarian Inn.
If you are with your family, Zehnder’s is more family-oriented with the entertaining Fritz the Chicken.
For me, these restaurants are tied for making the best chicken dinner in Frankenmuth.
Which restaurant should you choose?
Why not both of them?
Come to Frankenmuth for the weekend and eat at Zehnder’s one night and Bavarian Inn the next or vice versa.
Then you can decide for yourself who makes the best chicken dinner in Frankenmuth.
Whichever restaurant you choose, you can rest assured you will be enjoying a fabulous meal fit for a king!