Popeyes has a special place in my life. Growing up with immigrant parents meant we ate out a lot, and just by proximity Popeyes was there. When money was tight, 99 cent Tuesdays was there. When Thanksgiving rolled around, mounds of fried chicken with all the extras filled the void. It has nestled its way into my life more so than any other fast food chain. That’s why it pains me so much to say it- but the new Popeyes fried chicken sandwich is not all that good.
Wait wait wait, before you start stringing up the crosses and dousing your torches in kerosene, hear me out. I don’t think the sandwich is bad- not by any means, but it comes down to one key element that Popeyes has overlooked. Richness.
Let’s look at McDonalds for one second. Food from McDonalds is not rich; but it is satisfying. Its salty, savory, a little sweet. If Thanos was a fast food joint, it would be McDonalds; perfectly in balance. This balance is key. In the junk food world, keeping people coming back is the name of the game, that’s why the giants (doritos, mcdonalds, chick-fil-a, ect) all know to not overpower customers’ tastes. They give just enough of a flavorful, salty, fatty bite to hook you, but not enough to make you feel ‘complete’. In the food science world, this is called “sensory specific satiety”. Just how one cookie tastes good, but eating 20 of them make you feel ill even seeing something sweet, making a burger, fries, or a chicken sandwich too rich burns out your taste buds too quickly.
Here we are at Popeyes. They didn’t do anything wrong. They planned on making a chicken sandwich so powerful that not even Chick-fil-a stood a chance. Instead they created a Louisiana seasoning covered Icarus, flapping its breaded chicken wings too close to the sun. It’s just too damn rich.
Here’s a quick sandwich rundown; the bun is a sweet brioche style one, buttery and toasted. It houses five or so thick pickle slices, a heavy spread of either mayo or ‘cajun spread’ (its mayo with some cajun spices), and a whole breaded and fried chicken breast that too comes regular or spicy. Lets run through that again, but in flavor terms. First is a buttery bun. Then is a heavy hit of vinegar pickles. Then is a slick and smooth mayo-zone. Then a crunch, a pinch of seasoning, and a one inch thick slab of pure poultry. All of these elements by themselves are fine. All of them together is like making a birthday cake out of nothing but frosting, fudge and fondant.
I tried both. I was so surprised about the seemingly endless hype of this ‘chick-fil-a killer’ that I was let down. I thought it was the exorbitant amount of mayo/cajun spread that turned me off. I went back in again and got it with the sauce on the side. It wasn’t much better. The bun is soft and squishy; I like that. The spread is rich and flavorful; I like that. The pickles…well they’re pickles. The chicken is breaded and fried just like Popeyes is known for; I like that too. Together; well I don’t know.
I felt noticeably worse after eating this sandwich. Just how no one leaves Buffalo Wild Wings going “I’m really happy about my decision to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, that was exactly what I wanted.” but instead they’re usually halfway asleep as they exit the building, their pancreas desperately pouring insulin on top of the raging inferno of meat and sauce brewing inside them. The human body just simply isn’t ready for this sandwich. My tryptophan levels beat my all time thanksgiving records. I desperately wanted to find a recliner to hibernate for the upcoming winter after eating this sandwich. My stomach didn’t even make its usually ‘what are you doing up there’ noises; it just sat quietly- resigned to dealing with this million calorie bomb, while plotting a huge ulcer as revenge in the near future.
Chick-fil-a’s sandwiches are not as rich. Some would equate that as not as decadent as = not as good. I don’t believe that. Chick-fil-a, while not making me feel like a million bucks after eating it, doesn’t make me feel like I just ate a whole can of frosting either. Chick-fil-a satisfies my hunger with minimal damage, all the while tasting pretty dang good. This sandwich satisfied my hunger, with maximum damage, all the while tasting rich AF.
Popeyes fries are still top game though.