I’m able to separate politics and food, or if we’re being honest, I’m able to turn a blind eye. I find Chick-fil-A’s politics repugnant, but they’re also close to my house, their sandwiches and waffle fries are tasty, and my 3-year-old thinks the same. It weighs on my mind, believe me, but that triangulation of convenience, efficiency, and quality of food takes precedent once you become a parent.
But this post isn’t about Chick-fil-A, thank goodness. It’s about Popeyes and its new chicken sandwich. It’s a sandwich that, if you feel guilty about handing over money to the Chick-fil-A corporation, you can now turn to instead, because I find it every bit as good.
With both Popeyes and Chick-fil-A you’re getting a boneless fried chicken breast filet and two pickle slices, sandwiched between buttered brioche-like buns that steam inside a foiled envelope. Here the paths diverge.
Chick-fil-A’s breading is light, leaning more on crisp than crunchy, and its flavor is powered by significant savoriness—code for heavy-on-the-MSG (for the record, I don’t find this a negative). Popeyes’, however, has that popcorn ceiling-exterior, and that seasoning plus fry job contributes to that unmistakable “Popeyes fried” aroma. Chick-fil-A’s chicken pieces also tend to be flatter discs, while the Popeyes chicken breast are downright thicccc—my pieces measured nearly 1 1/2 inches in height while maintaining significant juiciness.
Then there’s how Chick-fil-A and Popeyes differentiate its standard and spicy versions. Chick-fil-A’s spiciness is integrated into its breading, while Popeyes employs a standard mayonnaise and “spicy Cajun spread” for its two sandwiches. The spicy chicken sandwich is the highlight, for sure. It’s hotter than most fast food definition of spicy, at a spiciness level that most Louisiana food aficionados could at least respect. Will it burn off your tongue—no. A little bit of “Oooh yeah, there it is”—yes.
In my mind, the tradeoff is the savoriness of Chick-fil-A’s fried chicken vs. the textural satisfaction of Popeyes fried chicken. But with the added richness of that mayo spread, Popeyes has a chicken sandwich that I find every bit as tasty of Chick-fil-A, minus the psychic shame—and in the case of the spicy version, even tastier.