What is a hungry food writer to do when not one, not two, but three newsworthy fast-food sandwiches drop in the same month? Eat them all in the same day and turn them into a single big review rather than three separate reviews in an attempt to avoid having to write about sandwiches three different times in a single week because, at the end of the day, these are all just sandwiches, for better or worse? Yep, exactly that.
Which is why I’m writing from bed. Sprawled out and stuffed like a Thanksgiving turducken.
As you might imagine, writing about food is often cool. But there’s nothing too exciting about having 10 sandwich buns in an afternoon. That’s right, 10 buns, fam — not six. Because today’s menu features the Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich, Wendy’s Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich, and the new McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich (which is actually three different sandwiches, hence the four extra buns).
Here’s the verdict on how they taste.
McDonald’s New Crispy Chicken Sandwich
On February 24th, McDonald’s dropped their brand new Crispy Chicken Sandwich and if that’s news to you, we get it. The Golden Arches making a play in the wild world of fast food chicken sandwiches feels like it should be a more notable moment but, as you can see, there’s a lot going on in the world of fast-food sandwiches this month. The McDonald’s entry, while an improvement over McDonald’s old chicken sandwich, kind of deserves to be ignored in comparison to the heavy hitters from Popeyes and Wendy’s.
But what this sandwich lacks in noteworthiness, it makes up for in variety. Because McDonald’s is offering it in three formulations: the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, a fried chicken patty with thick crinkle-cut pickle chips on a potato roll, the Spicy Chicken Sandwich, which is the same thing plus the inclusion of a spicy pepper sauce, and the Deluxe Chicken Sandwich, which features the fried patty, iceberg lettuce, and tomatoes.
A quick ranking of these sandwiches would have us put them in the following order from worst to best: Crispy, Deluxe, Spicy.
The Crispy’s major flaw is just how boring it is. My sandwich arrived with two pickle chips, it’s dry, surprisingly thick, but too boring to win any real fans. This sandwich is begging for a sauce, McDonald’s is clearly going for a Chick-fil-A vibe here but with the lack of peanut oil and this mid-grade chicken patty, it doesn’t come close.
On to the Deluxe, which is a considerable improvement over the Crispy thanks to the inclusion of lettuce and tomatoes. It’s fine, not really worth getting into.
The star of the show is the Spicy. It fixes the problem that weighs down the Crispy with the inclusion of a spicy pepper sauce that actually packs a pretty good kick. The heat hits you immediately, with a black pepper aftertaste that tames the spice nicely. We’d love to dip fries in it! I like this sauce way better than Popeyes’ spicy sauce used on their famed chicken sandwich, but unfortunately, McDonald’s still hasn’t quite nailed the chicken patty aspect. It’s definitely the highest quality chicken breast McDonald’s has ever had — thick, juicy, and the batter has a nice crisp to it — but it still can’t really compete with Chick-fil-A or Wendy’s and comes nowhere near what Popeyes (its obvious progenitor) offers.
The Bottom Line
The Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich is McDonald’s best chicken sandwich yet. But it’s still got a ways to go.
Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich
I get that fast food sandwiches rarely match the delicious eye candy that is their promotional material, but the difference between what Popeyes advertises as their Cajun Flounder Sandwich versus what it actually looks like is, frankly, ridiculous. The fried fish filet is about half as thick, the tartar sauce does not spill over the edge, and the thing isn’t bursting with pickle chips. All that stuff is in there, but looking at it from the side you see mostly bread. It has a very unappetizing and bland appearance to it — which is a shame because it smells great.
Admittedly I’m not the biggest fried fish sandwich fan, so take all of this with a grain of salt. Popeyes choice of flounder is a solid one — most brands go with Alaskan pollock. Flounder is a very agreeable fish, it has a very mild almost neutral flavor to it, it has a flaky and light texture that is easy to chew through and a mildly sweet aftertaste that pairs nicely with Popeye’s spicy cajun breading. I wish this had a spicier bite to it, though.
The tartar sauce is boring and the batter-to-fish ratio is skewed, with the amount of batter matching the thickness of the filet. Popeyes, your batter is good, but not that good.
The fish filet is pretty good quality, but this sandwich would do well with some sort of slaw that it could sit atop — that would help to marry the flavors together.
The Bottom Line
A far cry from the fast-food culinary masterpiece that is the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich. One of the best filets in the game, but weak construction that doesn’t hold up well with other Popeyes offerings.
Wendy’s Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich
I didn’t take a picture of this sandwich for a couple of reasons, 1) I got it really late at night, and 2) By the time I unwrapped it at home it looked like a brutal car crash,
I’d be doing this sandwich no favors by showing you what it actually looks like. So instead, enjoy this beautiful press photo. That photo is definitely false advertisement, but that goes for all of these sandwiches. Of all the sandwiches I ate today, this one was easily the best, and that’s surprising because I had it last, when I was all sandwiched out.
The Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich features Wendy’s delicious spicy chicken patty smothered in jalapeńo cream cheese, some kind of radioactive cheddar cheese sauce, pickled jalapeños, shredded pepper jack cheese and served on Wendy’s buttery-as-hell buns. It’s an absolute cheese bomb and if you’re looking at that ingredient list wondering how anyone can possibly taste all of those individual ingredients I’m here to tell you: You can’t!
What you do taste is a sort of amalgam of those things, mashed up. Which works. It’s just a beast of a flavor bomb.
The final product is slightly smokey, decadently cheesy, pleasingly crunchy, and incredibly savory, with flavors that marry well, providing a juicy mouthfeel and a spicy aftertaste that lingers between bites. Wendy’s didn’t pull a Jack in the Box and throw actual jalapeño poppers in a chicken sandwich and call it a day, they got high concept with it, delivering all of the elements of a jalapeño popper — the creamy cheese, the crispy crunch by way of the inclusion of bacon, and of course, the jalapeños — resulting in a better end product that doesn’t feel like a shameless food-for-the-sake-of-social-media-chatter stunt.
The Bottom Line
It sounds and looks insane, but the Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich comes together brilliantly. A hit by Wendy’s.