Like many good things, it started with snark.
“Y’all good?” Popeyes asked Chick-fil-A on Twitter August 19.
The social media fallout, and bumper-to-bumper drive-thru lines for a sandwich that eventually sold out nationwide, is the stuff of Good Ole’ (or perhaps “Oil”?) Fashioned Fried Chicken Sandwich legend.
Yet as Popeyes’ masterful takedown and brand-boosting continues to ride high, and as the cars continue to loop Chick-fil-A stores ’round the nation, and, yes, maybe there’s even a five-minute wait at your local Wendy’s, I can’t help but wonder why chicken? And why now?
Maybe the beef is that we’re tired of beef. Certainly “Impossible” imitations of beef (See: Burger King). Or we’re all just ready to skip the summer salads in favor of heartier fall fare. In that case, here are five of my favorite area chicken sandwiches — all of which you can’t get in a drive-thru.
Most Upscale/Downhome: Fixe Southern House
What it is: A thoroughly Southern take on the classic sandwich (it’s called Fried Chicken Sandwich on the menu, after all), this one’s a beauty, and one of the few on this list that don’t require the old fork-and-knife routine.
How it’s made: A boneless thigh is pounded lightly, then marinated in buttermilk, hot sauce and pickle brine, according to executive chef and co-owner James Robert. It’s then dredged in seasoned flour, battered a second time in plain buttermilk and then breaded in “slightly pulverized” Panko breadcrumbs. Once it is seasoned with “lots of spices” and chicken bouillon powder, it’s ready to be fried in an organic corn/canola oil blend.
Garnish this: Dressed with a “chicken mayo,” (made with egg yolks, grapeseed oil, vinegar, chicken fat and chicken boullion powder), sweet tea pickles and red onion, it’s all piled on a housemade sunchoke bun, which was naturally leavened with a sourdough starter, dehydrated roasted sunchokes and flour.
All good? Heck, yes. The slightly sweet bun holds up to a variety of textures and well-balanced ingredients. Even better? It is served with the restaurant’s excellent salt-and-pepper Kennebec fries — all for $10, and only on the Happy Hour menu.
Most Creative: Buffalo Bros Pizza Wings & Subs
What it is: The Chicken Finger Sub ($14.99 for a whole) is the beautiful, spicy marriage of a chicken wing and a sub sandwich. Messy and tremendously tasty, it is best eaten while wearing a dark-colored shirt and with paper towel segments on standby.
How it’s made: “We start with a toasted sub roll, dressed with our blue cheese dressing,” says Buffalo Bros.’ Shannon McOwen. Flattened chicken fingers, tossed in a medium-hot wing sauce and topped with a slice of white American cheese, complete the look..
Garnish this: A pickle spear comes with, but to get the full effect, you’ll really need to order a side of the thin-cut McDonald’s-esque fries, like I did recently at the TCU location.
All good? Riff ram, yah. The sub has perfect heat, and is well matched with the blue-cheesy dressing coating all those lettuce shreds.
Most Addictive: Cane Rosso
What it is: The Chicken Parm Sandwich ($14) is a standout offering on the restaurant’s lunch menu. Double-stacked cuts of fried chicken commingle with a sugo/marinara sauce and very melty mozzarella. Served on a ciabatta roll made by the restaurant’s bakery group in Dallas, this is the stuff of which Italian food dreams are made.
How it’s made: A boneless, skinless chicken breast is marinated in lemon, rosemary and garlic, according to Cane Rosso’s Jeff Amador. After it’s tossed in seasoned flour, it’s fried, then topped with housemade mozzarella, Calabrian chile aioli, the sugo and dressed arugula.
Garnish this: It comes with your choice of small salad (caesar or house) or rosemary parm tots. Choose the salad, and you can trick yourself into thinking this is a moderately healthy lunch.
All good? The chicken is so crunchy, it flakes off the sandwich; the sauce so tangy it’ll have you reaching for your iced tea. All of which to say this is one sandwich I’d order again and again.
Most Elevated: Pacific Table
What it is: The Korean Chicken Sandwich ($14) is fusion fare at its finest, and it effortlessly mirrors chef/owner Felipe Armenta’s Pacific/Northwest mindset.
How it’s made: The chicken is lightly fried in canola oil, according to general manager Charisse Henry.
Garnish this: Topped with a subtly spicy slaw—which features cabbage, mint, cilantro and basil tossed in a sweet chili sauce—as well as red onion and pickles, it’s bathed in a spicy mayo and enveloped by a housemade poppy seed torta bun.
All good? Indeed. Especially if you go for the side of rosemary-flecked shoestring fries, piled high and usually inextricably linked to the sandwich’s innards. That’s a good thing.
Most Outrageous: Super Chix
What it is: The Crispy Avocado ($5.99) is insane. There’s really no other way to describe this terrific concoction, which requires near impossible feats-of-jaw to bite into. Picture a thick-cut chicken breast, fried, then topped with half of a fried avocado, which is stuffed with cheese (naturally).
How it’s made: It is dredged in a “simple seven-ingredient breading, all of which you probably keep in your pantry at home,” Mike Hansen, Super Chix CFO, told me. It’s then fried in 100 percent peanut oil, which Hansen says the company found to be the “highest-quality, and it brings out the best taste.”
Garnish this: A garlic aioli, lettuce and tomato accompany, all on a potato bun that tastes exactly the same as those served at Shake Shack. (Hansen says he’s not sure if their buns come from the same supplier.)
All good? There’s melted gouda stuffed inside the avocado. I rest my case.