By Gary Nager

OK, so you’re driving along S.R. 56 and decide that you’re hungry, but you’re in something of a hurry. Well, whether drive-through or dine-in, the new PDQ Fresh Tenders, Salads, Sandwiches & Shakes is a fast, fun, attractive place with a delicious (but admittedly, a little bit limited) menu.

PDQ, which today has three locations (the other two are in Carrollwood and South Tampa), will grow to seven locations by the year’s end, and the place has a pedigree. It was founded (as “Tenders”) in North Carolina by a new restaurant company created by Outback co-founder Bob Basham.

But, PDQ isn’t about impressing you with history lessons, it’s about trying to get you to come back for its food, service and high-energy atmosphere. The menu includes plump, freshly fried tenders (served with amazing sauces; more on them below), grilled and “crispy” chicken and turkey sandwiches, hand-tossed salads with unique (especially for a “fast food” place) dressings, fresh-cut fries, freshly made cole slaw, fresh apple slices with a decadent toffee dip, amazing hand-spun shakes in a variety of delish flavors and the coolest fountain sodas in the biz. And that’s it.

In other words, if you’re not up for a salad, sandwich or fried tenders, you need to take your business elsewhere. But, if you’re looking for a unique take on fresh poultry, here are a few of my favorite items on the menu.

In my opinion, the fried tenders are better than Publix’s and the crispy chicken sandwiches are better than Chick-fil-A’s… and I really love Chick-fil-A sandwiches, too. I just think the chicken itself is superior.

The grilled chicken salad, grilled chicken and turkey sandwiches also are served fresh, hot and tasty, and all of PDQ’s entrée items taste even better to me with either the zesty “Sweet Heat” or creamy garlic dipping sauces. The creamy garlic also is an outstanding salad dressing, although I do love PDQ’s Caesar dressing and I’ve heard many customers asking for both the unique blueberry vinaigrette and low-fat “Fiesta” dressings, too.

The fresh-cut, skin-on fries are crispy (but not overly crisp) perfection (but diet-deadly) and the homemade fresh cole slaw has a little spice and a lot less mayo than most I’ve tasted. Yum.

The hand-spun shakes are utterly delicious, but definitely not on the diet for those trying to watch their weight (like yours truly). Instead of the shakes, I have enjoyed both the regular and diet Cheerwine, which is a tasty, 95-year-old cherry soda bottled in North Carolina, and especially, the amazing, 100-option soda machine which allows me to fill my drink with all the ice I want and cover it with my favorite 75-percent diet and 25-percent regular Barq’s vanilla root beer, but you can opt for any combination of any other Coca-Cola product.

Wesley Chapel PDQ operating partner Eric Knott and his enthusiastic team (they will even come to you in the parking lot and walk you under an umbrella if it’s raining and you don’t have one) of more than 70 invite you to check out a truly unique dining concept that’s perfect for families — kids and their parents love the food — and there’s even a nice outdoor seating area with misters to keep you cool.

PDQ (27757 S.R. 56) is open every day at 11 a.m. and until 10 p.m. Sun.-Thur., and until 11 p.m. on Fri. & Sat. For info, call 528-8770 or visit


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