Double Down Showdown: KFC's New Doublicious
If the Big Mac is the fast food equivalent of Michael Jackson, the KFC Double Down is Justin Bieber. Think about it: the Big Mac is the most famous fast-food item of all time, but there was a time recently when the Double Down stole the show. In the wake of the Double Down's success, KFC wants to capitalize on its fame with the "Doublicious," a new iteration that re-incorporates that old sandwich staple: bread.
KFC bills the Doublicious as a Double Down on a bun. "It combines a savory boneless chicken filet with a sweet Hawaiian Bread bun for a one-of-a-kind sweet and savory taste," the company is quoted as saying. It comes in two varieties: original recipe and grilled. (I had hoped for extra crispy, but that option doesn't exist). The original recipe sandwich has all of the same ingredients as the Double Down—fried chicken, bacon, Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheeses, and the Colonel's Sauce—plus a Hawaiian bun. The grilled variety? KFC's newer grilled chicken, Honey Mustard BBQ sauce, and lettuce instead of bacon.
Uninitiated to the original, I tried the Double Down first. What surprised me right off the bat was its size. Knowing how big KFC's breasts and thighs can be, I assumed I would receive a massive sandwich—but it's no larger than a Big Mac. The original recipe chicken was, as always, solid: the breading and spices were good, despite the chicken being so salt-infused. The cheese is nothing to write home about (tasting more like white American than pepper jack) and the bacon is the same chewy, thin, uninspiring stuff you find in most fast food burgers. The Colonel's sauce is a bit ranch-y, with a hint of spice.
When I reached the regular Doublicious, however, I was totally let down. The Hawaiian bun, very cake-like, was good, if sweet, and panini-pressed, a nice touch—but there was absolutely nothing novel or interesting about this sandwich, even from a fast-food gimmick point of view. The bacon, cheese, and sauce were all the same, but without the fried-chicken-as-bun, it lost its appeal. It reminded me of the Gold Rush chicken sandwich at Roy Rogers, which I love. Though the Doublicious chicken beats Roy Rogers' "chicken patty"-like breast, Roy's sauce is definitely better. And, while you do save in terms of calories with the Doublicious versus the Double Down (540/470 for Original recipe, 480/360 for Grilled), the new sandwich just isn't very inspiring.
The Grilled Chicken Doublicious came next. On the second sandwich, I did notice how much easier a bun makes the sandwich. You don't have the awkwardness of holding onto two oblong chicken breasts, and nothing falls out of the Doublicious into your lap like it does in the Double Down. The grilled chicken breast tasted just the same as the chicken at Subway or Wendy's, albeit a bit juicier. The lettuce was standard-issue limp fast-food fare, and, again, the cheese could have been Kraft. (Sometimes I feel a bit repetitive commenting on fast-food, but there are an awful lot of shared characteristics. Why shouldn't the chicken at Subway taste like the chicken at KFC, if they're both mass-supplied?) But again—it's just a chicken sandwich.
The Double Down is, by far, the best of the three. I know it's unhealthy. I know it's uber-American. I know it's a gimmick. But it's still better, both tastier and more exciting, than its newer, "healthier" counterpart. To extend the Justin Bieber analogy, it's possible to like the Double Down, even though it's obnoxious and you know you shouldn't. The Doublicious is more analogous to Ke$ha: it's out there, they're marketing it, but it's just not anything special.