A new fast food concept has extended its reach to South Florida, starting with two locations including Fort Lauderdale and the newly opened West Palm Beach restaurant
Known as PDQ -- which stands for "People Dedicated to Quality" -- the concept is simple: fresh food served fast, and in a high-end setting. The original chain location opened its doors in Cornelius, North Carolina in 2009. At the time, it was known as Tenders. As the concept grew, the name was changed to PDQ, the first of which opened in Tampa in 2011.
At the newly-built West Palm Beach store, a casual dining room offers a choice of booths and tables, each large enough to comfortably seat a family of four. The focus here is on service: servers are everywhere, and they're eager to greet you, answer any questions or whisk away your trash and tray once you're done eating. On a recent rainy day they waited at the doors -- umbrellas in hand -- for customers to arrive.
While the exterior facade may look fanciful in bright green, yellow and orange, the interior is more functional (and extremely sophisticated) especially for a drive-thru dining spot where most meals take less than five minutes to prepare. How? Unique touches like a communal hand-washing station placed towards the back of the main dining area, as well as a soda machine that offers touch-screen assistance for choosing over 100 different fountain soda flavors, specialty picks not often seen on a fast food menu like the several calorie-free Fanta flavors that included cherry, raspberry and lime. Or Mello Yello, the highly-caffeinated citrus-flavored beverage first introduced in 1979.
The house specialty drink: Cheerwine, what is often referred to as the "Nectar of North Carolina." No wine at all, it's actually a hyper-carbonated, cherry-flavored soda that is well-known across the Carolinas as the official state soda. It is also -- since celebrating its 96th year in business -- the longest-running soft drink company to be owned and run by the same family.
The restaurant specializes in hand-breaded chicken tenders, salads, sandwiches, fresh-cut fries and hand spun malts and milkshakes that include specialty flavors like Heath bar, Oreo and apple pie. The signature dish is the 3-piece crispy chicken finger meal, large chicken strips lightly battered and fried, and served with a variety of dipping sauces and a choice of three sides including hand-cut fries, a blueberry coles slaw or sliced apples that come with a toffee-flavored dipping sauce.
The batter itself is a bit bland -- more than you'd expect -- but for us it wasn't a let-down. Instead, it helps to encourage a real hit of flavor that comes from a choice of one of about eight housemade side sauces with tasty flavors like buffalo bleu cheese, blueberry-ginger vinaigrette and chipotle ranch.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.