Unfortunately, KFC's new Mac & Cheese Bowls are missing one crucial element

Photo: KFC

As some regular Takeout readers may know, this is by and large a website staffed with fans of KFC food. Over time we’ve admired its BBQ chicken, its coleslaw, and its Cheeto-dusted chicken sandwiches, to say nothing of making a sandwich out of its crispy, greasy chicken skin alone. All of this is to say that while we may have some thoughts on the fried chicken chain’s latest menu item, it all comes from a place of wholehearted affection.

Once again, a KFC side dish has become what KFC diehards crave, and what Patton Oswalt once cemented as a touchstone of culinary nihilism. Beginning next week, KFC will sell Mac & Cheese Bowls, modeled after the long-established Famous Bowl. They’ll be part of the restaurant’s $5 Fill-Up menu and can be enjoyed on their own, or with some Nashville hot sauce added to the mix for extra spice.

Except for one thing.

While the Mac & Cheese Bowl is very likely something the Takeout staff will sample in the future, it did introduce a few questions about the nature of the Famous Bowl. The initial idea was ostensibly to re-purpose as many of the restaurant’s ingredients at possible, in one bite, delivered from table to mouth via spork. The flavor combination of boneless fried chicken, starchy-but-fluffy mashed potatoes, sweet corn, gravy, and shredded cheese is not for all, but it’s certainly for some, as evidenced by the Famous Bowl’s 13 years and counting on-and-off the KFC menu.

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We’re then moved to ask, in light of the Mac & Cheese Bowl: Where’s the gravy? It was arguably the inclusion of gravy that made the original Famous Bowl, well, infamous. The gravy was the gilding of the lily, and it was on brand with KFC’s ethos. Sure, there’s an argument to be made that the moisture of the cheese sauce is all that one Famous Bowl can (or should) handle, but there certainly should be another for what a dollop of tangy, savory gravy would bring to the dish. Where the gravy constitutes so much of the flavor profile of the classic Famous Bowl, the comparatively neutral mac and cheese will have to shoulder far more of the load with the new item. Some people like their KFC a little more characteristically audacious.

Of course, we shouldn’t judge something without tasting it, but on optics alone, the exclusion of gravy from a KFC item with “Bowl” in its name feels like a glaring omission. Maybe we’re off-base, but we won’t know for certain until the Mac and Cheese Bowl begins selling at KFC on August 26.

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