Photo: Aimee Levitt

2019 was the Chinese Year of the Pig and the American fast food Year of the Fried Chicken Sandwich. For those of you who were not breathlessly following the dramatic saga, all you have to know is that Popeyes won and everybody else lost, but especially McDonald’s, who, in the midst of the madness, made exactly one contribution: a stunningly mediocre Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich. A leaked memo to McDonald’s franchise owners earlier month revealed that the company was encouraging employees to ignore recent lawsuits and other unpleasantness and focus on the chicken, perhaps served with a side of sweet tea.

Accordingly, this morning McDonald’s debuted its two new breakfast chicken sandwiches based on the classic Chick-fil-A/Hardee’s/Bojangles model: a chicken patty sandwiched between two bread-like things. Everyone knows the best—and really, the only acceptable—base for a breakfast chicken sandwich is a biscuit, but McDonald’s had to put its stamp on the thing, so there’s not only the McChicken Biscuit but also the Chicken McGriddle, which actually has the Arches emblazoned on it. (Why no McMuffin, McDonald’s? What are you so afraid of?)

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Naturally The Takeout staff had to go give them a try. We headed over to the fancy new McDonald’s flagship that has replaced the late, lamented Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s. There are phone chargers embedded in the tables and a tree growing in an atrium right in front of the counter, but we paid no attention to these wonders. We were there for the McChicken.

We tried the Chicken McGriddles first. This is because we expected the biscuit would be better and we wanted to prolong the anticipation. Neither of us had ever had a McGriddle before. We understood, based on its shape and its maple flavor, that it was probably supposed to resemble a pancake, but in texture, it was more spongy than fluffy, like it had done some serious time under a heat lamp, and the sweetness of the maple overwhelmed the flavor of the chicken. It took several bites before we realized that the chicken had flecks of pepper in it—it takes a lot of maple flavoring to drown out pepper, but the Chicken McGriddles proved it could be done.

Next, the McChicken Biscuit. This was—there’s no other way to say this—a Yankee biscuit. Southern fast food biscuits are crispy and buttery on the outside and dry and flaky inside. The McBiscuit was dry all the way through. That did allow us a better taste of the chicken, though, which was crispy and spicy, and just greasy enough to keep the biscuit from getting stuck in our throats.

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Both sandwiches are superior to the dry, sad things you can buy at Starbucks, but still a notch or two below a true Southern fast food chicken biscuit. Still, if you must, the best way to eat the Breakfast McChicken is to get both sandwiches, and then swap out the lids so that you get one McGriddle, half of one biscuit, and one piece of chicken. It’s just the right level of sweet and spicy and salty, just the right thing for breakfast.


Chicken McGriddles

Calories: 390
Total Fat: 14 g
Total Carbs: 51 g
Protein: 14 g
Sodium: 980 mg

McChicken Biscuit

Calories: 420
Total Fat: 20 g
Total Carbs: 46 g
Protein: 14 g
Sodium: 1040 mg

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Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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