Place: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
Lunch: Mild chicken sandwich, spicy chicken sandwich, Hawaiian Punch
Popeyes originally launched their chicken sandwich in August. It was such a sensation that locations were overwhelmed with business at levels they’d never seen before. Lines around the building and down the street. By the time I got around to trying it, the chain was sold out of supplies, and it turns out the local Popeyes stores never bothered to offer the thing in the first place.
Sunday November 3...Just in time for National Sandwich Day, Popeyes has refreshed, hired more staff, and reloaded, with the intention of making their sandwich a permanent menu item. The frenzy to get it continues, with reports all over the country of long lines awaiting sandwiches and fights and what not.
Tuesday November 5...I stopped by the local Popeyes mid-afternoon to find cars filling the parking lot, people walking up to the doors, and turning around and leaving. Huh? Turns out there’s a notice on the door that the local stores STILL haven’t gotten the sandwich and have no idea when they can be bothered. So people leave empty handed and head to the Chick-Fil-A next door. This must be doing wonders for their business. Two different people stop me in their cars.
“Are they out?”
“They never launched it here in the first place.”
Yeah. Basically the same conversation both times.
Friday Noveember 8, Champaign, IL...It’s a travel weekend for me, so I decided to try a Popeyes from the road. There’s one down the street from my hotel. Google reviews indicate they have the sandwich. It’s 4:30pm.
“Not until 7,”Frowning Counter Girl says.
“You have to come back after 7.”
You have got to be kidding me.
I don’t go back. I go to my hotel and order a Monical’s Pizza. Screw this.
This has got to be one incredible sandwich to be this much bother. Chick-Fil-A makes a good chicken sandwich, but it alone doesn’t drive traffic. When Popeyes sandwich went viral, I read a real food critic’s review of it and several other chain chicken sandwiches. Chick-Fil-A only came in like fourth. Popeyes was tops. The big surprise? McDonald’s crispy buttermilk chicken sandwich came in really high.
A key part of Chick-Fil-A’s success, especially with women, is customer service. Everyone is terribly nice, clean, neat, and well mannered. People love that about them and make a point of bringing it up when recommending them.
Popeyes is the polar opposite. The staff yells at each other, swears as if they think the counter is a magical barrier that customers can’t hear through, and hardly ever smile. Some of those people can be outright abusive. I remember a girl working the drive-thru shouting at her customer “We aint got no daaaamn ice cream!” once.
But they do make my favorite chicken (it would be second favorite if Kenny Rogers Roasters were still around). Give me a couple spicy thighs or some blackened chicken tenders (they’re unbreaded, heavily seasoned, and fantastic) and that’s as good as it gets. Good butterfly shrimp too.
What actually drives me into Chick-Fil-A is their incredible chicken noodle soup, which is a seasonal item. It shows up with the cold weather. Thus, so do I.
Thursday November 14, Wichita...Not getting a good vibe when I pull up. There’s no mayhem in the drive-thru. I go inside.
Smiling Counter Girl: “Spicy or mild?”
Me: “Uh, one of each? And a drink?”
She cheerfully rings me up. HOLY CRAP!
I tap my Apple Watch on the payment reader. “THAT IS SO COOL!“ she exclaims. “You don’t have to take your card out or anything!”
Five minutes later, I have the two famous Popeyes chicken sandwiches in front of me in all their glory.
It’s a better breast filet than anyone else. Nice and plump with a solid crispy breading that has a bit of flavor all its on. Seems to be the same either mild or spicy...they get the “spicy” through the sauce they use on the sandwich. And that sauce is waaay too spicy for me. But the mild has a really good mayo. Both have excellent pickle slices that compliment the overall flavor perfectly.
Damn good sandwich.
Still, i’d prefer my spicy thighs and blackened chicken tenders to the sandwich, and I can’t get that chicken noodle soup here, so I’m probably not going to change my Popeyes or Chick-Fil-A habits.
But hey...that’s just me.