Chick-fil-A: Beyond the Chicken Sandwiches?

Fast Food

Would you like fries (or onion rings or chicken tenders) with that?


[Photo: Carey Jones]


Fried Chicken

Digging into the cluckin' awesome world of our favorite fried food.

When I put on my iPod, I often listen to the same songs over and over again. Some folks like hearing variation: different artists, whole albums, collections, mashups. Not me; I like listening to one song 50 times, until I get sick of it. Similarly, when not reviewing, I like to eat the same dish at fast-food joints every time I go—and I'm sure many of you fall into similar patterns. After all, so much of the appeal of fast-food is predictability; the promise of a chain is that you can get exactly the same meal, every time.

For Chick-fil-A (until the release of the Spicy Chicken) my go-to was the classic chicken sandwich. And I'm not alone. When people rave about Chick-fil-A, it seems to me, they're usually talking about the sandwiches—the chain's flagship item, and the original anchor of their menu.

But is Chick-fil-A more than a one-trick-pony? I wanted to find out.

Chicken Sandwich: Regular and Deluxe

You have to start off with the classics. There's a reason people love Chick-fil-A, and it's partially the Classic Chicken Sandwich: one "hand breaded chicken breast" fried in peanut oil, dill pickle chips, and a buttered bun. That bun makes the sandwich; you bite into a salty, fried delight that feels thick with butter. I don't recommend getting the deluxe because the cheese doesn't complement the fried chicken, and the vegetables are no better than McDonald's. In my opinion, they cheapen a much better original sandwich.

Spicy Chicken Sandwich: Regular and Deluxe


I've previously reviewed the Spicy Chicken sandwich. My initial reaction to the spicy chicken was confirmed on the second date: the spicy chicken has good heat, and the sandwich is best without the cheese, even if it is pepper jack.

Strips and Nuggets


[Photo: John Edwards]

McDonald's not only pioneered the McNugget, they engineered it, too. Chick-fil-A offers an "all breast meat" nugget that, like its chicken fillets, is hand breaded and cooked in peanut oil. These Nuggets are amazing. The chicken is juicy and salty, the breading has a bit of pepper and spice—they're superior to both McDonald's and Wendy's nuggets, by far.

The strips, on the other hand, fell a bit flat. The breading tasted identical to the Nuggets, but they have an odd problem: there's too much chicken. What makes the nuggets and the filets good is the breading; with its higher meat-to-breading ratio, they don't taste as good, as the chicken flavor dominates the spices. Let's be honest here: Chick-fil-A is tasty, but it's not as if you're biting into a juicy rotisserie chicken. It's best in small doses.

Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich and Chargrilled Chicken Club


In theory, the Chargilled Chicken is one of the healthier sandwiches because, well, it's not fried. A grilled chicken breast sits on a Golden Wheat bun with pickles, lettuce, and tomato. If you add a slice of provolone and some applewood smoked bacon, you get the Chargrilled Chicken Club. The Golden Wheat bun is great; they toast it but don't butter it, and it tastes like a real, wheaty bread, as opposed to a vacant, tasteless McBun. The grilled chicken breast, on the other hand, wasn't very appetizing. It reminded me of the chicken from Subway: definitely meat, but bland and somehow stripped of flavor. Adding the limp bacon and cheese only makes it more unappetizing, as that bacon was soggy and, to my taste, undercooked.

Any Winners?

It's a good time to love sandwiches at Chick-fil-A, as the classic chicken sandwich has been supplemented by the Spicy variety. However, I find the deluxe to take away from a good sandwich, rather than adding to it. The nuggets taste great, and the monotony of the strips' chicken can be mitigated with barbecue sauce. But I don't recommend the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich; it tastes more like a reheated Subway breast on a bun. Beyond that, the classics are top-notch, as fast-food goes.