I haven’t eaten beef since Tupac died. Which makes me, by default, an avid chicken-sandwich enthusiast. It also made me very excited when I heard that Popeyes would be dropping its first-ever chicken sandwich. I was so excited, in fact, that I showed up to the closest Popeyes to my place in L.A. the moment that bird dropped. I was on the phone with my brother when I took my first bite. He thought I’d died because I was silent for 10 minutes. In a way, I had, as I spent those blissful 10 minutes relishing in all the flavors exploding in my mouth.
The next day I was consumed with the sandwich, and so, as soon as dinner time hit, I drove for another hit. This time, though, I was greeted with a massive line, with the drive-thru so jammed that the traffic around the Popeyes was gridlocked in every direction.
Not that it stopped me. Yesterday, I went for a third fix. Even though the wait time now numbered roughly two hours, it was still worth it. I know it’s high praise, but I swear on Tupac’s grave that the only chicken sandwich I’ve had in my life that was better was from Howlin’ Rays, an L.A. staple where the wait times approach four hours. (That said, I’m excited for when the hype dies down and I can get a Popeyes sandwich in 15 minutes or less.)
While clearly a glutton for Popeyes, I’m also a kind soul. Thus, I was sure to hook up all of my coworkers with the sandwich — as well as all the competitors’ options (from the dastardly rival that is Chick-fil-A, to the versions Wendy’s and KFC offer). That way they could compare it to what else is out there and see if the Popeyes sandwich was really as great as I (and everyone else) was claiming.
Here’s how they choked on that all chicken…
A Honey-Dripped Heaven
First off, it’s wild that KFC — a franchise with “fried chicken” in the fucking name — has skated by on such poor quality poultry for so long. There’s a reason you have no positive memories of this place: It’s because you only went as a last resort, half-starving and miserable after driving 130 miles on the freeway without seeing another rest stop.
Seeing their monstrously overbreaded chicken sammies alongside the dusty-ass fare from Wendy’s — each garnished with a translucent leaf of lettuce (as if that’s fooling anyone) — I couldn’t calculate which meal was a faster ticket to gastric distress. Instead, I opted for a ticket straight to hell: the spicy Chick-fil-A sandwich, with its sweet soft bun, savory pickle slices and tangy miasma of homophobic bigotry. A fine and easily devoured fast-food item, it still fell short of the golden miracle that is Popeyes’ new virally popular chicken sandwich. The Louisiana kitchen has achieved a batter so ideally light and crispy that the meat itself can sing. Indeed, this kind of natural succulence, long on offer at the restaurant, makes the bun a nearly irrelevant proposition — except as a means of sticking it to Chick-fil-A.
Put another way: the sandwich makes you fall in love with what was there all along. Hit it with some honey and leave this stupid world behind. — Miles Klee, Staff Writer
Anything Tastes Better Than Hate
I’ve never had Chick-fil-A because I have what some call dignity. As a self-righteous homosexual, I made a commitment to myself when coming out in 2015: no eating Chick-fil-A and no crafting from Hobby Lobby. These two suburban staples are run by homophobic men, and there’s nothing I love more than to have a company to vocally stand against. So when I heard Popeyes was coming for Chick-fil-A’s wig, I immediately veered from my low-carb diet to try these famously faggy sandwiches. But while the pickles add a nice crunch to what’s a bland sandwich, and the spicy version packed a stronger punch, it’s neither memorable nor worth the calories.
Would I do it again? Only when I’m drunk.
Will I stan Popeyes anyway to spite Chick-fil-A? Always. — Joe Longo, Contributing Writer
What If There Were One Super Sandwich?
I’ve never really gotten the point of ordering a chicken sandwich at a fast-food place. If you’re going to eat badly, eat badly — don’t pretend you’re going to be healthy by skipping the burger and having chicken. You’re not fooling anyone. At most fast-food joints, the chicken sandwich is just flavorless chicken, thin tomato, blah lettuce, so much goddamn mayonnaise and a meh bun. Just have the burger and be done with it. It’s not like you’re going to actually do something good for yourself and order a salad.
So maybe then I shouldn’t be surprised that the worst chicken sandwich of the bunch by far came from Wendy’s — a burger joint. Its chicken sandwich is lots of mayonnaise trying to distract you from soulless calories. And it’s still not even filling.
Kentucky Fried Chicken is a blight on society but, surprisingly, its chicken sandwich isn’t awful. For one thing, it actually sorta tastes good. Plus, I’m almost positive it had real lettuce on there. Or at the very least, a lettuce-like substitute that didn’t make me feel sad eating it.
Obviously, though, the real competition was between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A. (For the record, I decided not to judge either sandwich on its makers’ abhorrent political views for the moment.) My verdict: A draw. The chicken in the Popeyes sandwich was superior — it felt and tasted like a great piece of fried chicken that someone had magically placed between two pieces of bread. (Basically then, it was Popeyes, but on a bun.) But the Chick-fil-A sandwich was an overall better product: fresher, more flavorful and dynamic. Its bun is so buttery, where Popeyes’ was soggy and defeated.
I know that these two chains are duking it out right now for chicken-sandwich dominance, but I suggest they combine forces. Put the Popeyes chicken in the Chick-fil-A bun. That’s the way to do it. — Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor
Popeyes Has A Lot to Answer For
Listen, I agree with the fandom around this Popeyes sandwich, which I preferred to the gold standard version from CFA. It’s a hunk of delicious, flaky fried chicken lacquered in sauce and sandwiched by soft buns that collapse into chewy goodness when you bite down. This isn’t exactly rocket science, folks… Which then demands the question: Uhhhhhh, Popeyes Corporate, what exactly took so long? Did they forget that their already delicious fried chicken would be equally delicious in sandwich form? Did they think a sandwich was disrespectful to the brand’s legacy? Did avowed Popeyes megafan Beyonce put the kibosh on the plan? Why didn’t I have access to this crunchy little bundle of deliciousness as a teenager, when my body could fully appreciate the endorphin rush of gulping down grease and salt?
So many questions, so little time (and energy, now, since my body is crashing from said grease and salt). Anyway, shame on you, Popeyes, for holding out on us all along. Someone call me when the lines die down and I can enjoy this sandwich without it feeling so damn zeitgeist-y. — Eddie Kim, Staff Writer
Sides > Chicken (Whatever the Chicken)
I don’t eat meat, but for the sake of the experiment, I tried half a Chick-fil-A spicy chicken sandwich and a bite of Popeyes. They’re both resoundingly fine, but I feel worse physically, mentally and spiritually for having eaten them. That said, I’d let whoever developed KFC’s mac and cheese recipe rearrange my guts. — Magdalene Taylor, Editorial Assistant
Believe the Hype
I hate hopping on hype trains, but damn, the Popeyes sando is legit. Crunchy, well-seasoned and juicy on the inside, it was the only sandwich of the bunch that used an actually recognizable piece of the chicken, which has the secondary effect of making it twice as large as its closest competitor, Chick-fil-A.
Chick-fil-A’s offering might have the best bread, however, sweet, soft and a perfect accompaniment to the briny bird. Unfortunately, we weren’t provided Chick-fil-A sauce so I can’t properly compare the two, but my now-busted gut tells me Popeyes would likely still pull ahead.
Not much can be said for the sandwiches from KFC and, ugh, Wendy’s. Both were grossly oversauced with mayo, and I’m not even sure Wendy’s had what can honestly be described as “chicken” in it. Stay away at all costs. — Jeff Gross, Social Media Editor
Spice It Up
Get the Popeyes sandwich. It’s better than almost every fast-food chicken sandwich. Get it spicy, because you have a tongue and you walk freely on this earth and you are lucky to experience all the sensory pleasures of being alive. Do not think about or utter the name of the cursed C****-***-* brand as you eat this chicken. Popeyes is the only chicken. The pickles are good, too. — Cooper Fleishman, New York Bureau Chief
It’s the Shits
I just sat in the bathroom for more than a half-hour thinking about what I’ve done to my body… Popeyes, and it’s not even close. — Sam Dworkin, Senior Designer