You might think we’re just having a little fun with wordplay, but there’s actually a chicken church. Of course, unless you don’t eat meat, you know that Church’s Chicken is the correct answer to our question.
Branching out across the world from its origin in San Antonio, Texas, nothing beats the bold, spicy flavors Church’s Chicken devotees crave. Unlike the tastes of some other fast food fried chicken chains, Church’s has something special that makes it uniquely Texas.
Let’s look at the history of Church’s Chicken and what keeps diners coming back. And maybe, if you’re lucky, we’ll take a little trip to the Chicken Church. You’ll just have to read on to find out.
Let’s get started!
What Is Church’s Chicken?
In 1952 a food sand across the street from the Alamo in the heart of San Antonio, Texas, changed the world. George Church opened the stand to sell his secret family recipe to hungry tourists. Three years before the golden arches went up in California, Mr. Church pioneered the fast food idea.
Fast wasn’t the only requirement for the budding entrepreneur; quality played an important role. The extended Church family gathered for dinner every Sunday, where George tested his recipe. And because he focused on feeding family first, his chicken recipes all had his touch. Even today, everything on the menu at Church’s is handmade.
Today, the chain reaches all over the world. And while some menu items change depending on local tastes, some things never will. Whether you feed your whole family with a feast or grab something for yourself, Church’s has what you need.
According to the website Fast Food Nutrition, the most popular items at Church’s are about what you’d expect. Mashed potatoes and gravy, the original recipe chicken breast, the original recipe chicken thigh, and the honey butter biscuits top the list.
Other favorites come from the long list of sides. Fried okra, coleslaw, and jalapeno cheese bombers keep folks happy. And the restaurant still holds onto one of George’s most essential requirements; each dish comes with a whole pickled jalapeno.
Is Church’s Chicken the Same as Church’s Texas Chicken?
American brands often find that their names don’t translate well in other countries. Church’s Chicken is no different. When they expanded into southeast Asia, customers started asking questions.
In the United States, customers don’t think twice about the name of the chicken chain. But in the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia, customers were concerned.
When the company went public in 1969, expansion was the focus. Over 100 locations in seven states grew into an international explosion in the 1970s. Brand managers realized quickly that the word “church” turned off customers. So Church’s became Texas Chicken in southeast Asia and surged in popularity.
Customers outside of the United States positively associate with Texas from popular culture. Images of cowboys sitting down to chicken dinners fill their minds. And the company is happy to adapt to local customs as well. The company changed its menus in Muslim countries to remove pork and add Halal meat products.
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What Is Chicken Church?
So now that we fully understand Church’s Chicken, what about the Chicken Church? Funny enough, the Chicken Church exists in Indonesia, the first place Church’s expanded to in 1980.
The connection stops there, though. On a mountaintop less than twenty minutes from the world’s largest Buddhist monument, the distorted image of a bird rises.
The story of the Chicken Church goes back to a dream in 1988. Daniel Alamsjah worked as a manager at BASF, a German chemical company. He reports that he dreamt of a white dove resting on a hill one night.
Accompanying the vision, a voice told him to build a house of worship for all people. Alamsjah, a Christian in a Muslim nation, thought nothing of the dream until one night during Ramadan.
When one of his team members didn’t show up for work, Alamsjah traveled to his village to find out what had happened. After seeing things were fine, he saw something unbelievable. Outside the village, the hill from his dream existed! He left word with a local, and someone reached out to sell him part of the hill a few years later.
Several false starts led to the final version of the Chicken Church, or Gereja Ayam, that exists today. But challenges presented themselves at every step along the way.
What Challenges Has Gereja Ayam Faced?
The first challenge that Gereja Ayam faced came from the local community. Information circulated that a Christian broke ground on a church in a Muslim society. Locals started filing complaints with the town, so many that one person couldn’t lift the stack. But Alamsjah pushed forward.
After completing the outside of the church, something else happened. Alamsjah lost his job, and funding for the project dried up. For over fifteen years, Gereja Ayam sat incomplete. Dirt floors and unfinished rooms didn’t mean any visitors, just not enough to continue to build. But something changed in 2015.
On July 13, 2015, The Daily Mail and the Huffington Post ran pieces on the church. That, paired with the church appearing in a popular Indonesian film, meant a massive uptick in visitors. Charging $1 per visitor, Alamsjah suddenly had more than enough funds to complete his quest.
What is Gereja Ayam Like Today?
So, after over thirty years of construction, what can you expect? Jeweled tiles, stained glass windows, a paved road, and a museum inside. Once the Chicken Church achieved notoriety, visitors haven’t stopped coming.
Prayer rooms dedicated to other faiths make this church a pilgrimage destination for the faithful. Visitors take inspiration from Alamsjah’s personal journey and reflect on their own lives. The museum inside shows the church’s evolution from a divine dream to reality. And who isn’t inspired by an underdog?
Included in the church are a cafe and snack bar. There’s no Church’s Chicken, but you can sample traditional Indonesian treats on your way out.
Is There a Chicken Church in Florida?
Rounding out our fascination with everything Church’s Chicken is the Church by the Sea in Madeira Beach, Florida. Built in the 1940s for the coastal community, the church serves locals and the surrounding area.
The tallest structure for miles, the church’s spire served as a guidepost for boats making their way back to shore. But more than safety came from the tower; some folks also got a good laugh.
When architects designed the church tower, they included two round windows with white edges. Because of this, the Church by the Sea looks like a giant chicken from nearly every angle.
Attendees may not love the association, but it does draw visitors and donations to the non-denominational church.
If you get lost at sea in Madeira Beach, just look for the giant chicken, and you’ll be home-free.
Pro Tip: Feeling hungry? Grab a bite to eat at one of these Best Places to Get Chicken and Waffles in the USA.
So, Would You Rather Go to Chicken Church or Church’s Chicken?
If you happen to be in Indonesia and a trip to the Chicken Church is possible, definitely make that a destination. But for most of us, that isn’t an option.
We know where to go to taste the authentic, handmade chicken dishes that brought George Church happiness. Stop at Church’s for some of the classic eats that made them famous. And make sure to grab that jalapeno and squeeze. It’s what George wanted.
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