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The Last Pioneer Chicken

A savage journey to the heart of the greasy-as-hell, California fast food dream.

“We’re going to Malaysia!” my cousin Brett yelled on the phone. No, I said. Yes, he replied. Why, I asked. “Because you can still go to fuckin’ Kenny Rogers Roasters there. We’re going to Malaysia, and I’m eating that chicken. You owe me.” I hung up on him. Or maybe he hung up on me. One of us always hangs up on the other.

I figured he was just lying to me. There’s no way the chicken chain founded by country legend Kenny Rogers still exists, but I Googled it anyway, because sometimes my cousin tells whatever you call a not-lie. And damn it, he was right. Kenny Rogers Roasters is a big deal in Malaysia. It is totally gone in America — the last one was in San Bernardino County, and it closed in 2011— but there are tons of them in Malaysia. My cousin had no intention of going to Malaysia, of course. He was just entertaining a deranged fantasy about how he would piss his money away if he were rich. But the discovery that this chain I had almost completely forgotten had a second life somewhere fascinated me. So down the rabbit hole I went, investigating the ghosts of lesser-known American fast food chains and where and whether you could still find them… read more >

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