McDonald’s Fried Chicken Sandwich Arrives, But It May Need A Little Tweaking

Food & Drink

In summer, 2019, the nation was awash in a quest to track down the Popeyes Fried Chicken Sandwich.

Its introduction as a competitor for Chick-fil-A’s famous sandwich set off a historic battle, and raised the inevitable question:

When would McDonald’s

MCD
get into the game?

On Wednesday, it did, rolling out the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, in three versions: regular, spicy and deluxe.

I wanted to compare the McDonald’s sandwich head to head with the Popeyes version that I tasted after waiting in a line of cars for nearly an hour, so I went with the regular version.

You know that scene in You’ve Got Mail when Joe Fox tells Kathleen Kelly he’s working on a project that needs a little tweaking? That’s how I came away feeling about the Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

It’s a decent sandwich. However, given the choices out there, especially from places that specialize in chicken, I’d choose other fast food places ahead of it. And, I don’t think there’s going to be much of a line for this one.

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Here’s a breakdown of my experience.

Ordering. Other writers were given the opportunity to try the sandwich ahead of time, on the promise that they would not post reviews until Wednesday, and McDonald’s offered a contest to users of its app to get one early.

However, I was on my own to track one down. Rather than drive to a McDonald’s, I decided this time to test out getting the sandwich via Uber Eats.

I wasn’t sure it would be available on day one, but it popped up at the top of the screen on the menu for my closest McDonald’s.

I ordered two Crispy Chicken Meals, with fries and coffee (this was serving as a late breakfast). The cost, with fees and tip, was $26.96. That was admittedly steep, since a sandwich by itself costs $3.90 or $6.90 in a combo, before tax.

Uber Eats promised delivery no later than 50 minutes after I ordered, and the driver came right at that outer mark.

First impression. The sandwich came in an insulated bag reading “crispy chicken,” like the ones that Popeyes uses for its chicken and and its new fish sandwich.

The fries were cold, but I always expect that with delivery fries. They perked up after 10 minutes in a 300F oven. The coffee was hot enough to drink.

The food. I was underwhelmed by the sandwich’s appearance. The sandwich comes on a potato bun, which has a glossy top and looks more homemade than a typical commercial burger bun.

But, the sandwich seemed a little squished inside the package. The chicken filet was smaller than the slab of chicken that Popeyes puts in its sandwich, and it lacked the crispness of its competitor.

There were two pickles, and that was it. I had been expecting mayonnaise, but it turns out that’s available on the deluxe version, which also has tomato and lettuce.

I am happy to cut McDonald’s slack on the food’s appearance, because it probably suffers somewhat in transit. Perhaps I’d have had a better experience after waiting in the drive-thru myself.

That said, this is an instance where McDonald’s might be better off using cardboard clam shell packaging to preserve the sandwich’s appearance, even though that would be a departure from the presentation that Popeyes and Chick-Fil-A offer.

Taste. The white meat chicken was pleasant, but it did not live up to McDonald’s breathless vow of a “juicy, tender filet” that was “sure to capture the hearts and taste buds of chicken enthusiasts across America.”

It was a piece of white meat chicken, with a coating, and while it seemed like real chicken, as opposed to something processed, you can find better chicken in other sandwiches.

The bun didn’t really add much, and the pickles seemed like the pickles we’re used to getting at McDonald’s.

Overall impression: I’m glad I tried it. The sandwich is filling. But, I would not change my usual McDonald’s order of either Chicken McNuggets or the little cheeseburger to eat this instead.

For me, the Popeyes sandwich remains my favorite of all the fast food chicken offerings I have tasted in the past couple of years.

I’m a fan of Culver’s chicken tenders, which sustained me through the pandemic, and the latest rendition of Wendy’s fried chicken sandwich, which I tried recently, is on a par with that chicken.

I am also interested in trying the Taco Bell fried chicken taco sometime soon, but I’ve eaten two fast food meals this week, and that’s more than enough for now.

From Alison Robicelli’s review for The Takeout, it sounds like the deluxe sandwich is the real winner among the three, and probably something that would have been more satisfying than the basic version.

But, Popeyes’ sandwich doesn’t come dressed, as they say in New Orleans, and it’s still a winner.

So, if you’re going to get in line, perhaps that’s the one to wait for. Otherwise, watch and see if some tweaking takes place on McDonald’s chicken lineup.

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