As I was leaving San Marcos last Wednesday night about 9:30 pm, I decided to stop into Popeye’s for a quick plate of chicken tenders since I had skipped dinner and was about to eat my arm. As I stood in line (there were only two of us), I saw what appeared to be about nine chicken sandwiches beneath the heater. When they asked for my order, I inquired, “Are those chicken sandwiches?” Indeed, miracle of miracles, they were! However, another clerk was negotiating with a drive-thru customer on whether or not the greedy bastard wanted to buy all of the remaining sandwiches. “I’ll wait,” I said. The descriptions and negotiations went back and forth for five minutes because one of the nine was spicy. A queue formed behind me. “Are those sandwiches?” asked one incredulously.
Finally Mr. Drive-thru settled on his order, and my clerk turned and said: “I’m sorry.”
My heart (and stomach) sank.
“We only have one sandwich left, and it’s spicy.”
Are you kidding me? “That’s exactly what I want!” I yelped with joy.
After a few minutes (that sandwich never left my vision), I sat down and unwrapped the most sought-after sammich this side of Dorian (well, perhaps after the classic, non-spicy, version).
Well, she wasn’t much to look at, smooshed in the wrapper, a sliver of fried enticingly stretched out from the bun. Like nearly all fast food, the corporate super-model image of the food (see top) is entirely different than the I-just-worked-a-16-hour-shift-fighting-spiders-monkeys-in-a-forest-fire version you get at the counter. But fast food is about engineered flavors. So how were those engineered flavors?
Fan. Freaking. Tastic. Popeye’s chicken sandwich is a perfect ensemble of buttery bun, crispy but juicy fried chicken breast, thick-cut pickles, and spicy mayo (regular mayo for the classic). There was enough spiciness from the batter and mayo to make you glad to be alive. Unlike the homophobic Chick-Fil-A sammich, this sandwich falsetto’d like Jimmy Somerville in Bronski Beat’s ‘Hometown Boy.’ After several mmm-bites, I saw a bright future for our country, I saw people holding hands and smiling at each other, and I saw disco balls. I wanted another one, stat.
Was this the best chicken sammich I’ve ever had? No. But it’s by far the best one I’ve had slung by a nationwide fast food joint (the best chicken sammich I’ve had was at Tumble 22).
Drive-thru orders willing, I hope to have another one before I die.