The first of 13 new Popeyes restaurants — part of a major Twin Cities offensive by the national chicken chain — opened this week in Brooklyn Park.

Another Popeyes is slated to open in early April in Coon Rapids, followed within roughly a month by openings in Maplewood and Crystal, according to company spokespeople.

Popeyes won the 13 former KFC restaurants in a contentious bankruptcy proceeding last fall, effectively wresting them from its fried chicken archrival.

Popeyes is converting the former KFCs in phases and plans to have the job completed by late July — “that’s our target, ” said Alicia Thompson, spokeswoman for suburban Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises, Popeyes’ corporate parent.

Popeyes, the nation’s second-largest fried chicken chain, has had only a tiny presence in the Twin Cities, one store on Lake Street in south Minneapolis.

But AFC capitalized on the bankruptcy of KFC franchisee Wagstaff Management when it submitted a bid last year for 28 of Wagstaff’s bankrupt restaurants, equally split between the Twin Cities and northern California.

KFC Enterprises, a unit of Louisville-based restaurant giant Yum Brands, vigorously fought the deal in bankruptcy court, backing a late-inning bid by a KFC franchisee for the same properties.

But Wagstaff’s main creditor, GE Capital, supported AFC’s offer, and it was approved in November by a bankruptcy judge in Minneapolis.

The deal instantly gave Popeyes significant market share, since Wagstaff’s stores represented 14 of over 40 KFC outlets in the Twin Cities. It appears AFC has opted not to reopen one of the 14 stores that Wagstaff put up for sale, though it’s not clear which one.

According to bankruptcy court documents, Wagstaff’s locations included outlets in Richfield, south Minneapolis, Hopkins, Savage, Rosemount, Bloomington, Inver Grove Heights and St. Paul.

The Popeyes that opened this week is at 8025 Brooklyn Blvd. The next store in line to open is at 3220 124th Av. NW. in Coon Rapids.

Popeyes is known for a menu that draws on the flavors of New Orleans, where it was founded and long had its headquarters.