So let’s just get this out of the way immediately.
I’m a fan of sandwiches. I’m a fan of chicken that is cooked in preparation of me eating it. And I’m a fan of chicken that is fried before I eat it. Unfortunately, the marriage between these three is usually unsuccessful, as the fried chicken sandwich tends to be a better idea than an actual meal. Basically, the fried chicken sandwich is both the Cory Booker of sandwiches and the Kamala Harris of ways to eat fried chicken.
The reason for this is simple. The frying process requires a coating of some sort of breading on the chicken. When you add actual bread with that, you’re often left with just too many bread-like substances to be as enjoyable as you want it to be. But then if you try to overcompensate by having an extra-large piece of chicken, you’re left with too much meat. Also, larger pieces of meat take longer to marinate, prepare, and cook, so as the size increases the quality often decreases. (Also, related, it’s a fast-food fried chicken sandwich so no one really gives a shit.)
Anyway, the search for a proper fast-food fried chicken sandwich has traditionally been so saddled with failure that we’ve collectively allowed a Mike Pence-ass bird franchise to cook despite the fact that they ain’t even open on the day we most seek terrible food decisions. Why? Because they determined whichever formula needed determining. (Perhaps homophobia is the secret ingredient.) Others have tried. McDonald’s and Wendy’s particularly have made quasi-acceptable Chick-fil-A facsimiles—the equivalents of the people you’re cool with but don’t like enough to save their numbers in your phone. (What’s wild is that KFC hasn’t even really tried. I mean they have their little chicken snacker joints—which I think is just a nugget between two crackers—but that’s it. Are they too intimidated by Chick-fil-A’s success to even try to compete, or are they just good with being the Billy Joel of fried chicken?)
It’s with this historical context that I considered the idea that Popeyes—Popeyes!—now had the best fast food fried chicken sandwich with deep skepticism. Adding to the unwillingness to believe this is the fact that Popeyes are hard to find in the greater Pittsburgh area. There’s one in a shopping plaza on the South Side, and one in Monroeville, and that’s it. Basically, I’d have to make a trek to get one, and the only people who trek for fast food fried chicken sandwiches have recently lost arbitration hearings. Last Friday, however, I happened to run some errands that took me to Monroeville, and I decided to stop at their drive-thru on the way back home.
Like most products purchased from Popeyes, the sandwich looked uninspired and annoyed. Despondent even. Like an uncle at a cookout who literally just sat down for the first time all day but was just asked to make a store run for more cheese. It looked like it had other places to be. It looked like it’d rather be watching NCIS. But then I took a bite. And this is what happened in my head.
(Bite one) “Wait...what is happening?”
(Bite two) “How?”
(Bite three) “LOLOLOLOLOLOL!”
(Bite four) “THIS TENUOUS-LIVING-SITUATION-ASS SANDWICH HAS NO FUCKING BUSINESS BEING THIS GOOD!”
I’m not a fancypants food blogger like Kara Brown or Samantha Irby, so aside from superlatives and analogies, I don’t have much else to say. But I’ll try. It was tender. It was juicy. It was crunchy, but not too crunchy. It was tasty. It had the perfect bread-to-breading ratio. It had the right amount of meat. It had heft, but it wasn’t heavy. It had character, but it wasn’t trying too hard. It was soft in the right places, but tough when it needed to be, like Tim Meadows in Mean Girls. It was like watching John Wick 2, when those homeless men were assassins because this star-crossed-ass sandwich straight murdered my mouth.
I don’t remember how much it costs. But even if I did, if you’re the type of person who’d make an excursion for fast food fried chicken sandwiches, do things like “the cost of things” and “the color of your blood” even matter to you? Of course not. You obviously don’t give a shit about anything! So go treat yourself today and cop a Popeyes fried chicken sandwich. And then go to Chick-fil-A and eat it while in line. And then, once it’s time to take your order, leave the wrapper and a DVD boxset of Euphoria on the counter. And then...I don’t know what to do next because I haven’t thought this action out fully yet!