In a classic season-five episode of The Simpsons, “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy,” Lisa Simpson tries to popularize a new type of doll for girls, one that doesn’t embody the regressive Barbie-esque Malibu Stacy. But just as she’s about to release her Lisa Lionheart doll, a “new” Malibu Stacy crashes onto the scene, distracting would-be buyers.
“Wait, don’t be fooled!” Lisa cries. “She’s just the regular Malibu Stacy with a stupid, cheap hat! She still embodies all the awful stereotypes she did before!”
“But she’s got a new hat!” cries one eager shopper, and everyone stampedes toward the display.
The announcement of the new Popeyes Buffalo Ranch Sandwich, released nationwide this week, carried a bit of that she’s-got-a-new-hat energy. And that’s not entirely the chicken chain’s fault. I mean, how could any restaurant follow up a sandwich that has changed the fast food landscape, possibly forever? Answer: by not messing with success, apparently.
Here’s how a press release sent to The Takeout describes the new offering:
The Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich is made special by an all-new sauce, featuring a creamy herb buttermilk ranch, kicked up with a zesty and buttery buffalo sauce. This flavor profile complements the Popeyes brand’s famous hand battered, and breaded chicken served atop a buttery brioche bun with barrel cured pickles, creating another culinary masterpiece.
The Buffalo Ranch Sandwich doesn’t try to fix what isn’t broken, and all the best parts of the superlative Popeyes chicken sandwich are still on full display here. You’ve got that ridiculously fresh, squishy bun, impressively moist chicken, crunchy crags of breading, and pickle slices of an almost confounding diameter. (Seriously, I want to see the size of the pickles Popeyes is working with.) I last ate the chicken sandwich in 2019, but 2.5 years of nostalgia-clouded memories and the unprecedented growth of the fast food brand since then have done nothing to diminish this sandwich. It’s still a really, really good bite of fast food.
Let’s talk about how the sandwich is “made special by an all-new sauce.” The real condiment hypebeasts among us have always known that buffalo and ranch are the perfect pair—Heinz even bottles them together as “Buffaranch.” Thankfully, Popeyes doesn’t skimp on the sauce: a healthy portion is smeared on both the top and bottom bun, cradling the chicken breast on both sides for maximum flavor.
Despite the flecks of herbs visible in the sauce, the tangy, herbaceous ranch notes could have been stepped up a bit in this combo sauce. The buffalo half of this duo is doing exactly what it should: offering sharp little pops of mild-to-medium heat that die down when you hit the chicken but show up again after each bite is through, lingering in that same way that makes eating buffalo wings so satisfying. Yet the only time I could identify any ranchiness was when I licked the sauce right off the bun. At least for a while. Oddly, about 20 minutes after finishing the sandwich, once the mild but persistent heat of the buffalo flavor had left my palate, those oniony ranch notes I’d been seeking slowly made themselves known, blooming on my palate as an aftertaste. Unfortunately, 20 minutes after I eat something is not the ideal time to taste it.
So yes, maybe this is a bit of a Malibu Stacy situation. But for fast food completists, the Popeyes chicken sandwich’s slightly new flavor profile is as good an excuse as any to get excited. It’s pretty much a no-lose situation: no matter what, you’re walking away with a sandwich whose fame is rightly earned. She’s got a new hat, all right. Maybe that’ll be enough to get you in the door.