Not to brag, but I’ve eaten a lot of fried-chicken sandwiches in the past year. One might even declare that I’m a fried-chicken sandwich expert. (What an amazing honor that would be, right?)
I didn’t gain this title by idly sitting around. I’ve tried at least 70 different fried-chicken sandwiches in the past 12 months. Along with ranking the 15 best offerings you can only find in Chicago, I for some reason also decided to try every single fast food fried-chicken sandwich I could get my greasy hands on.
Obviously, I’m obligated to have an opinion on Popeye’s new fried-chicken sandwiches, which were dominating social media recently.
Last time I tried the fried-chicken sandwich at Popeye’s, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. That dish might have been called a po’ boy, but it was little more than a few chicken tenders tossed on a soft and tasteless roll that would have been laughed out of New Orleans. While the chicken itself sported a crunchy crust with juicy meat, it didn’t make for a terribly great sandwich. (That it nonetheless landed at number 10 in my fast food ranking, proves how awful most fast food fried-chicken sandwiches tend to be.)
Hoping to take on Chick-fil-A, which landed at No. 2 on my list and has been expanding exponentially over the past few years, Popeye’s decided it was time to step up its game. The new sandwich is one that — shocker! — looks an awful lot like Chick-fil-A’s. It’s a simple sandwich featuring only a soft bun, a hulking piece of fried white meat chicken, pickles and mayo.
But it also has one thing Chick-fil-A does not: crunch. My biggest gripe against Chick-fil-A is that while the chicken is juicy, the crust isn’t crisp. Popeye’s chicken, on the other hand, crunches audibly when you bite in, with all those nooks and crannies on the surface shattering into a thousand delicious pieces. This makes for an exciting contrast to the soft bun. The chicken itself is also juicy and well-seasoned, without tasting wildly over-salted like the fried-chicken sandwiches at McDonald’s.
Along with the classic fried-chicken sandwich ($3.99), Popeye’s also dishes out a spicy version ($3.99). Unfortunately, like every other “spicy” fast food fried-chicken sandwich I’ve tried, this thing is mild. I can’t help but think that a few shakes of Louisiana Hot Sauce would awaken each bite.
Regardless, the new Popeye’s fried-chicken sandwich is an astonishing improvement on the company’s previous sandwich offering. Since it easily bests Chick-fil-A, Popeye’s is now my second favorite fast food fried sandwich in the country. Soon, I’ll have to compare it to Shake Shack’s offering to see if it manages to capture the top spot.