Is the Popeye's Chicken Sandwich Worth the Hype?

Yeah, it's THAT good.
Yeah, it's THAT good. Photo by Jeff Balke
I have spent nearly two years reviewing Houston's sandwiches, yet I found myself resistant to the most popular sandwich in the country. Why? Maybe it's because it is fast food and I was looking for more unique, Houston-centric options. Also, I wasn't going to consider it for "best sandwiches" because it's a chain.

But, it is a sandwich after all, which has, for better and worse, become my domain. Nevermind that virtually everyone I know has been prodding me to try it. "It's amazing" they told me. "Like crack," one friend said. Ok, fine, already.

So, I finally found myself in the drive through of a Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen (that's what they call them now) ordering a sandwich that still causes long lines of cars snaking out of parking lots and into the street. Fortunately, I went early, before the lunch rush, and it took no time at all to get my sandwich and go.

Look, I've tried to avoid this thing for weeks. The 700 calories (most from fat) alone kept me at arm's length, but I just didn't believe a fast food chicken sandwich could be as good as everyone was saying, even people I trusted to give me the straight truth.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not to overstate it, but this is truly one of the best fried chicken sandwiches I've ever eaten, like ever. I truly thought it was overhyped, but it might actually be under hyped.

The bun is fine. It's nothing special, but better than the average fast food bun. The pickle and mayo are good complements. The chicken though...holy crap. When I bit into the sandwich, it made this sound. It's like the sound you hear on a food show where someone bites into something really crispy and you just know the audio of someone smashing potato chips was dubbed in to make it sound crispier than it actually is. This crunch was audible.

The breading is light and delicate (slightly greasy, but to be expected) and sounds like walking on dead leaves. That's not an exaggeration.

Still, what really blew my mind was the chicken inside the breading. How did they get it that moist? How was chicken from a fast food joint that juicy and well seasoned? I have no idea, but whoa.

Let's be honest. I'm probably never buying another one of these again. I didn't even eat all of this one given my desire to lose rather than gain weight right now and with seasons eatings rapidly approaching. But, if one of these shows up in my face and a bite is offered, I'm taking it.

You probably should too.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke