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It’s become a meme, a Twitter war and storylines on CNBC, HuffPo and many other outlets. It involves a bun, a pickle, sometimes mayo and fried chicken. I’m talking about a chicken sandwich.
We have ourselves a battle of supremacy for the original white meat. That’s right, the Restaurant Guru has been mobilized for a special assignment, Operation Chicken Sandwich: Popeyes vs. Chick-fil-A (with Bojangles’ making a celebrity guest appearance).
My journey started with a phone call to the local Popeyes to ensure my voyage wasn’t in vain as, starting from its release back in August, the fast food chain has famously sold out of this sandwich on a regular basis. A team member answered my call thusly: “Thank you for calling Popeyes, we are fully stocked with chicken sandwiches, how may I help you?” Well, that’s all I needed to hear.
Fifteen minutes later, I approached a line of vehicles backed up onto Western Boulevard, all aiming for the drive-through. So, I parked next door and hiked over.
Chick-fil-A was no different. Heading in to the Cameron Village location, the two-lane drive-through was packed and overflowing out on to the street. Again, I parked next door and hoofed it on over.
What is going on here? Is there something I’m missing about this chicken? Let’s go inside and find out.
To get the most accurate comparison, I ordered one Classic and one Spicy chicken sandwich at each restaurant.
At Popeyes, I received my sandwiches rather quickly and noticed that the kitchen had pre-made dozens of sandwiches in anticipation of high volume sales. In contrast, Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches were made-to-order and it took seven or eight minutes for them to be served.
At Popeyes, the Classic, which cost $3.99, came on a squished bun—flattened under a stack of other sandwiches—with a dollop of mayo and a couple of sliced pickles. The spicy mayo was the only difference between the Classic and the Spicy sandwiches, though Popeyes Louisiana hot sauce was available upon request.
Chick-fil-A’s bun was significantly fresher, also served with pickle slices. They don’t ‘sauce’ their sandwich, which costs $4.19, with mayo, but you can get a packet along with Winston-Salem’s own Texas Pete Hot Sauce or any other sauces upon request. Unlike Popeyes, Chick-fil-A uses spicy breading instead of sauce to differentiate its sandwiches.
The verdict: Popeyes’ actual fried chicken was crispier than its competitor’s, but Chick-fil-A’s was packed with more flavor. So, who has the best chicken sandwich overall? That honor goes to Chick-fil-A for providing an all-around better sandwich that almost feels like it’s from a real restaurant … almost.
Let it be known that I also squeezed in a little Bo Time and wasn’t impressed with the Bojangles’ Cajun Filet chicken sandwich (cost: $4.19).
If people are already going nuts for mediocre chicken sandwiches from fast food joints, they’re going to lose their minds when Ashley Christensen is ready with her answer to this trend: Project Xtra Crispy. Or you could shell out a few extra bucks and get her Carolina Reaper Hot Chicken Sandwich ($9) or Classic Chicken Sandwich ($8) at Beasley’s in downtown Raleigh right now!
In summation, I will not be writing home to Mama about either Popeyes’ or Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwiches. She’ll just have to pick up a copy of Raleigh Magazine to get the scoop like everyone else.
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