Is the hoopla over Popeyes Classic Chicken Sandwich worth it?
These things happened:
• The folks in charge of adding words to new editions of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary issued a bulletin announcing that the noun "hysteria" shall henceforth be spelled in all-caps — HYSTERIA — when used in connection with the hoopla over Popeyes Classic Chicken Sandwich.
• A fistfight broke out at a YouTube Influencer Convention last week in Las Vegas over which of the young, rich Hipness-Arbiters gets to exclusively endorse the Popeyes Classic Chicken Sandwich.
• Spokespeople for major chicken processing plants in America announced a high level of agitation amongst their fowl. "These animals are smart," says a Perdue rep. "They have an intuitive sixth sense, and I think they can somehow anticipate impending, ah, mass executions in order to keep up with an arithmetically increasing demand for Popeyes Classic Sandwich customers happy."
Actually, none of those things happened.
But they COULD have because ours has become a society that thrives on fast-breaking trends and has reacted with a Sherman-march-to-the-sea mentality over the Popeyes sandwich. Social media, popular culture threads and mainstream news have been aglow; millions claim with evangelical zeal, for example, that the Beatles are the Popeyes Fried Chicken Sandwich of music.
I'm far from the first to chime in on this — but I AM the only one you can trust.
As such, it was with confidence and Dickensian great expectations last week that I marched into the Popeyes on Colman Avenue in New London for the sole mission of trying the Classic Chicken Sandwich ($3.99, $7.99 combo). It was early, right after they opened, because I anticipated a crowd of folks like myself who follow every trend and like to eat and are similar to sheep in that we're easily led anywhere for any reason.
When I entered, a bizarre memory popped into my head. It concerned a much-loved and long-time waiter at one of those elite New Orleans restaurants — Galatoire's or Antoine's maybe — who, upon retirement, sold his customer list to another waiter for six-figures! His diners were that loyal to him and reflected his legacy of service and passion for ensuring his customers' maximum dining experience.
Why did this occur to me? Because, on the opposite side of the Popeyes counter, the expressions on the faces of the staff reflected none of those food-service qualities. Instead, they ranged from sullen to frightened, meek to weary. Clearly, these folks had been thrust into a war they didn't ask for and were zombified by having faced wave after wave of curious stooges who wanted — no, needed! — to try a Popeyes Classic Chicken Sandwich, and they needed to try it NOW.
Well, I've tried it.
Verdict: It's good.
No, seriously. They're pretty damned good sandwiches. But keep in mind these have also replaced the Popeyes Chicken Po-boy, which I happened to enjoy because it at was anchored in the chain's New Orleans/hometown tradition. I'd rather have the po-boy back. Oh, well.
The Classic comes on a brioche bun. Company propaganda says the bun is toasted but, in my case, and I tried two, neither was. They did seem fresh, but definitely not toasted.
Like a kiddie's bowler hat on John Daly's head, the bun didn't begin to cover the plump, boneless breast, which, shaped roughly like a football, poked out on opposite sides. The filet was hot and moist and had that signature marinade or seasoning Popeyes uses to provide that signature, cayenne-dusted torque. (You can also get non-spicy chicken at Popeyes.)
Too, Popeyes chicken is dipped in a thick batter that spends quality time luxuriating in the deep fryer. When served, the crust is thick and has the look of crumpled tinfoil that's been spray-painted with honey. After the filet is placed on the bun, coins of tangy dill pickle are added; most humans, I think, appreciate the dill pickle/chicken relationship, which is far more reliably compatible than any newly betrothed couple that's ever happily walked off "The Bachelor."
The only other touch is a daub of mayo (regular or spicy). In the future, I'll just order the spicy chicken with no mayo and maybe a jalapeno from the jar by the cash register. Bite the tip of the pepper off and then squeeze the jal-juice onto the chicken. That's the way to do it.
A note: Do you remember the "run on the bank" scene in "It's a Wonderful Life"? Well, that's happened to virtually every Popeyes in the country in the wake of this sandwich frenzy. I've been back to the Colman Popeyes as well as the Norwich Popeyes and both were out. There might not be any signs outside alerting you to that fact because, if I was Popeye — the fried chicken impressario, not the idiotic cartoon sailor — I'd wait till you were inside to let you know, figuring you'd go ahead and buy something.
Anyway, it won't hurt you to run down the street to Wendy's for their very fine spicy chicken sandwich, or run up to Mohegan Sun and hit, if your politics allow you to do so, the Chick-fil-A. You'll be just fine.
Popeyes Classic Chicken Sandwich
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens
What: Popeyes Classic Chicken Sandwich
How much: $3.99 sandwich, $7.99 combo
Service: The poor servers have been subjected to hordes of screeching lunatics charging their restaurants, so reactions have varied as per any large group experiences profound shock.
Reservations: HA! They're having a hard time keeping these babies in stock. Give it a few days and let the tsunami recede a bit.