All gas station fried chicken is quick and inexpensive. But it is not all created equal. In fact, you can eat a lot of bad gas station chicken before you find really good gas station fried chicken. Trust me, I’ve had more than my share lately.

I’ve been sampling widely, following my nose, leads, rumors and lucky stops when I needed to top off my tank. I tried plenty of chicken that was below average (I’m looking at you, Fuel Express Mart on South Claiborne Avenue). At least it was all cheap.

But below, I’ve assembled my short list of finds that rose to the top. Note that all of these actually double as gas stations, which is the focus for this particular look at the city’s fried chicken obsession. In my separate story, you can find a broader range of Carnival time picks for takeout chicken.

Some notes on methodology: At each stop I bought an eight-piece mixed box to get some variety. I tried one piece immediately, always in the car. I tried it again after three hours in the refrigerator. Leftovers were distributed to neighbors and co-workers. Chicken that didn’t make the cut was turned into fried chicken salad, demonstrating that enough garlic and mayonnaise can redeem almost anything.

These are listed in order, starting with the best of the bunch.

+8 
NO.friedchicken.epl.020718.002

Troy Waguespack puts fresh chicken onto the rack at the Krispy Krunchy Chicken counter inside the Magnolia Discount food mart and gas station in Gert Town.

Magnolia Discount

3415 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-482-8823

There are a few locations of Magnolia Discount around the city. This one in Gert Town is particularly upbeat, and the chicken counter is very busy (high turnover is a good sign for gas station chicken). An outlet of Krispy Krunchy Chicken, it serves a bird with an airy-crisp surface, a red pepper spice and a garlicky, well-seasoned-juice running within. This is also a counter that makes the surprising (and presumably voluntary) decision to post per-piece fried chicken calorie counts right there in the display. You may want to avert your eyes. Eight-piece mixed: $9.99.

+8 
orleans2

Orleans Center in Mid-City is a gas station and food mart with a 24-hour kitchen specializing in fried chicken.

Orleans Center

2707 Orleans Ave., 504-484-3485

Directly across from the headquarters of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club on North Broad Street, this is an off-brand gas station with standout fried chicken. The spice level is low, but the chicken has a flaky-crisp texture. It held up well too, which is an important consideration for parade route chicken. Sampled again four hours after purchase, there was still a crunchy ridge on the surface. An eight-piece mixed was $11.99.

+8 
keys1

Key's Fuel Mart on N. Rampart Street in New Orleans has an all-night food counter specializing in fried chicken.

Key’s Fuel Mart

1167 N. Rampart St., 504-301-4598

On the Treme side of Rampart, just across from the French Quarter, this is a tiny, easy-to-miss filling station with a small fry counter. It has more of a mom-and-pop feel than the others here and is stocked with good stuff. The seasoning is more salty than spicy. The chicken’s amber-colored crust is more dense than flaky and holds together well throughout the jostle of travel, protectively encasing the juice for hours. Eight-piece mixed: $9.99.

+8 
b xpress2

The fried chicken from the Brother's chain of gas stations and food marts has a spicy seasoning blend across its crisp crust. 

Brother’s Food Mart

Various locations

Brother’s has more than 30 locations across the metro area. The fried chicken at its CBD store (not a gas station) at 148 Carondelet St. has bailed out many a late night reveler walking back from the French Quarter (full disclosure: including this reporter [additional disclosure: more than once]). I found similar quality at a Brother’s gas station food mart in New Orleans East (5701 Crowder Blvd., 504-240-0002), with a crunch loud enough to remain audible over the roar of passing interstate traffic. Further sampling paid off at the Algiers location (1926 Newton St., 504-361-3882), where I found no line for gas, no line for groceries but a steady line for chicken. Eight-piece mixed: $8.99.

+8 
b xpress

The B Xpress gas station and food mart on Elysian Fields Avenue at I-610 serves an especially well-seasoned fried chicken at its deli.

B Express

3101 Elysian Fields Ave.

Right by the traffic ramps at Interstate 610 and Elysian Fields Avenue, this big travel plaza looks similar to the Brother’s Food Mart brand, but under a somewhat different name. The chicken is distinctly a cut above. This is gas station fried chicken for those who like their chicken spicy. It registers with a jalapeño hotness just a beat behind the bite. Now an unsavory note: The state pulled its liquor license in 2016 for failure to pay taxes, and the store still sells no alcohol. Eight-piece mixed: $9.39.

+8 
super saver

Louisiana Super Saver is a gas station and food mart on Louisiana Avenue very close to the Uptown Mardi Gras parade route.

Louisiana Super Saver

1641 Louisiana Ave., 504-891-6670

Behind a McDonald’s, a block off St. Charles Avenue (lakeside, naturally) and somewhat obscured by ongoing road construction, the food mart at this gas station specializes in 32-inch, whole loaf po-boys and chicken. The chicken has a dark crust with a smattering of black pepper. It is also a notch cheaper than even the low local norm for gas station chicken. Eight-piece mixed: $7.29.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.