On consecutive days I ventured out to Popeye’s Fried Chicken with a friend from work. Why did we go? To finally eat the much-lauded new fried chicken sandwich. (We are both evangelical Christians. Given Chick-fil-A’s bond with that affinity group, I feel I must disclose the connection. I mean, I actually know somebody from the CFA family.)
It was not our intent to go two days in a row. On the first day, I had the regular Popeye’s fried chicken sandwich. My friend had the spicy version. Intrigued by the experience, we both finished lunch thinking we needed to have the full experience and try the one we hadn’t had. Having tried both and both possessing decades of experience with Chick-fil-A, we are able to render a verdict.
But first, I’d like to describe the actual eating of the sandwiches. On the first day, I had the regular sandwich. What grabs you right away is size. We are talking about a big, thick piece of boneless, fried chicken. It is perched on a very good bun with excellent gourmet pickles and something like a thin mayonnaise dressing. The second thing you get is crunch. The sandwich is crunchier than Chick-fil-A. It is a delightful kind of crunch. My primary takeaway was that I had encountered a worthy competitor to Chick-fil-A’s original sandwich. On flavor of the chicken breast, I give the nod to Chick-fil-A, but the superior pickles, plus the bun and the crunch put Popeye’s into the conversation for best chicken sandwich.
However, there was a second day and a second sandwich. I had the spicy chicken sandwich on the next visit. I’m going to go ahead and declare that it is the best chicken sandwich in America and possibly the world. I believe that when Popeye’s created their sandwich, they actually created the spicy version. The spicy Popeye’s sandwich is perhaps the Platonic form of the chicken sandwich.
What makes the difference? I think the key is that Popeye’s has a thin, spicy mayonnaise that goes PERFECTLY with the gourmet pickles in the spicy version. The result is one of the better tasting things I have ever put into my mouth. I will be going back for this sandwich, repeatedly.
My eating partner declared that Popeye’s spicy chicken is better than CFA’s spicy chicken, but that he prefers the CFA original to the Popeye’s regular sandwich. I think I might agree with that, BUT I would put the Popeye’s spicy at the top of the list, period.
There is an important note to add that cannot be avoided. On both days, my eating partner had to wait a long time for his order at Popeye’s. On the second day, he may have had to wait 15 minutes. That NEVER happens at Chick-fil-A. In decades of CFA experience, I have yet to encounter a service failure or slow service. So, regardless of the sandwich, itself, they are unmatched in service and speed.