The Story of the Chicken Finger

To get the real story of how the beloved chicken finger was invented, you have to go back farther than 40 years to when Alben Yarborough, Ansley Williams, and Dusty Yarborough were kids growing up in the tiny town of Thomaston, Ga. The three unassuming boys never knew they’d grow up to rule a chicken finger empire.


Fast-forward to 1976, when the three friends began construction on Spanky’s down on River Street. Originally, they planned on opening a pizza and burger joint – that’s where the name Pizza Galley & Saloon comes from. “Savannah didn’t have a signature pizza and burger place at that point, so we thought we’d fill the void,” said Ansley of their business endeavor.


Alben, on the other hand, wouldn’t print a menu without some chicken on it. So, while messing around in the kitchen in December of ’76, Alben decided to make a chicken breast sandwich. Those big breasts were too big for the buns, so they had to trim the edges. Not one to be wasteful, the guys knew they had to do something with these chicken bits.


“I said ‘Give me a minute guys I’ll come up with something,’” recalls Alben. “So then I just seasoned ‘em a bit a threw them in the deep fryer. When they came out I thought, ‘whew, this’ll work!”


To learn more about the invention of the chicken finger and the history of one of Savannah’s restaurant institutions, flip to the dining section of South’s April/May issue.