Time is a flattened fried chicken breast: A history of the chicken sandwich wars

Illustration for article titled Time is a flattened fried chicken breast: A history of the chicken sandwich wars
Photo: The Washington Post / Contributor (Getty Images)
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It is the year 2029. In The Terminator, this is the year when Skynet sends a T-800 back in time to destroy John Connor in order to ensure the victory of their violent robot overlords against humanity. In the meantime, I’ve done some serious research about our timeline. *looks at whiteboard filled with crude drawings of butts*

*looks up at the camera with serious expression*

Our timeline, everyone, is the dumbest, yet most delicious one. It’s the timeline where almost every single restaurant serves a fried chicken sandwich, most of them mediocre, while the rest of the world turns descends into utter mayhem. What I surmise is going to happen, is that in the future decades to come, Popeye’s will send its fried chicken sandwich back to 2019, to ignite the fried chicken sandwich wars, whose conclusion can only end deliciously.

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Science. Anyway, I was doing my daily research, and I found this really great post from trade magazine Restaurant Business Online that gives you an interactive overview of the fried chicken sandwich wars so far, and it’s really informative. It starts with the big bang of the modern fried chicken sandwich at Popeye’s in 2019 (ignited by a Twitter battle with Chick-fil-A, which asserted that Popeye’s was a ripoff of its own classic), and goes on to show when other iterations at different restaurants appeared, including the soon-to-be-released KFC fried chicken sandwich that we reviewed yesterday.

I immediately realized that despite the fact that I immerse myself in all sorts of food for a living, there are still regional chains that my puny brain hasn’t processed yet, like Golden Chick. Each sandwich listed on the timeline also has a description, so that you, the aspirational fried chicken sandwich eater that you are, can live vicariously through the descriptions. Most of them are topped with a simple variation on mayo (spicy or regular) and pickles, though you have a few variants with Korean ingredients thrown in for good measure.

Based off my ground intel here during these fried chicken sandwich salvos, I can tell you there are plenty of regional chains that rose up to join the battle too that aren’t listed. We’ll just have to include those in our oral histories when we’re boring the shit out of our grandkids over a Popeye’s fried chicken sandwich. Don’t forget to check out the timeline here. And now I have an idea of what I want for lunch.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

manicotti
Manic Otti

I tried the new KFC spicy chicken sandwich today. It tasted like they pretty much copied the Popeye’s sandwich as closely as possible, but I’m ok with that.