Popeyes chicken sandwich

Chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, left, and Popeyes.

Why did the human cross the road? To check if their local Popeyes had a chicken sandwich.

That’s what many humans, including your new food reporter, spent the last three weeks doing after Popeyes Louisiana Chicken debuted their first-ever fried chicken sandwich.

As more people began to get their hands on one, the fame of the sandwich blew up online. As one user on Twitter noted, the “chicken wars of 2019” began as Popeyes, Chick-fil-a and Wendy’s lobbed smartly written attacks at one another trying to lay claim to who truly had the best chicken sandwich.

As former food reporter Kate Masters’ last day at The Frederick News-Post approached along with the deadline of my first food story, we decided to traverse Frederick County looking for the sandwich.

By this point, many Popeyes franchise locations across the country had sold out of the item. Pictures of store doors and drive-thru menus with pieces of paper saying “Sold out of chicken sandwich” had quickly populated the internet.

But we were hopeful. How many people in Frederick were actually going out to get this sandwich? It couldn’t be that many.

We were so wrong.

Every location in Frederick County was sold out and we came back to the newsroom disappointed.

Later that afternoon, the official Twitter account of Popeyes tweeted “Y’all. We love that you love The Sandwich. Unfortunately we’re sold out (for now).” Most took that to mean they were sold out nationwide.

Andrea Moreno, an employee of the communications department of Restaurant Brands International Inc., which handles public relations for chains like Popeyes and Burger King, said the franchise had seen an “extraordinary demand” for the new sandwich.

“The demand for the new Chicken Sandwich in the first few weeks following launch far exceeded our very optimistic expectations. In fact, Popeyes aggressively forecasted demand through the end of September and has already sold through that inventory,” Moreno said in an email. “As a result, Popeyes restaurants across the country are expected to sell out of the Chicken Sandwich by the end of this week.”

The nail had been put in the coffin. I would have to wait, perhaps months, to try this sandwich and my first food review was going from bad to worse.

But being a journalist and being trained how to think on your feet, I quickly pivoted the story to where else in Frederick County could one get a chicken sandwich.

The answer? A lot of places, but I zeroed in on Café Nola downtown. Their sandwich is pretty classic — a buttermilk fried chicken breast, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and a honey mustard vinaigrette all served on a kaiser roll.

I spent my Friday lunch break sitting at the bar of the cafe trying their version. The chicken breast was thick but slightly bland. There was no immediate sense of flavor in the batter, although the pickles and vinaigrette made up for it. And at a whopping $14 it was hardly worth it, even if you did have a craving.

As I sat there eating my lunch listening to the BeeGee’s playing loudly over the speaker system, continuing to wallow in the disappointment of not succeeding with Popeyes, I received the tip of a lifetime: The New Market Popeye’s had the chicken sandwich. As I raced down Route 70, Kate texted me. “I am on the edge of my seat. The tension in the newsroom is high,” she said.

Popeyes

The New Market Popeyes restaurant on Md. 144 was serving chicken sandwiches last Thursday.

I pulled in so fast to the red and orange shop tucked next to a CVS that I practically jumped the curb. After waiting in line for what seemed like an eternity, I held the most famous chicken sandwich currently in the nation in my hands.

Bite one. “Wow this is really hot,” I thought. Bite two. “This is so juicy.”

The chicken had just come out of the fryer and it tasted like it. The bun was slightly sweet and the batter was flavorful. The mayonnaise didn’t add much but the tang of the pickles was a nice addition.

Chicken Sandwich.jpg

An official photo of the new Popeyes chicken sandwich provided by corporate officials.

Compared to Chick-fil-A’s classic chicken sandwich which is the same sans mayo, Popeye’s was leagues ahead. Mostly due to the freshness. Chick-fil-A’s chicken — which I ate two days prior — tasted like it had been sitting under a warmer and the breading was a little dry.

Yamisha Hansberry, general manager of the Popeyes in New Market, confirmed that almost every sandwich is made fresh to order and the process is tedious. Hansberry said each chicken breast meant for a sandwich must be knuckle-kneaded by an employee nine times before being battered and thrown in the fryer.

“We have an entire new station in the kitchen and it’s new batter and chicken,” Hansberry said.

Before the debut, she was told to hire two more employees but that quickly proved to not be enough.

“We don’t even have time to talk to one other, that’s how busy it’s been,” Hansberry said.

When I asked one of the cashiers how many people had come in to order sandwiches his reply was short but meaningful.

“Too many,” he said.

As I finished up my sandwich one big question still lingered in my mind — the does the New Market location still have the sandwiches? Hansberry explained. She said the New Market store and 34 others in the area are all owned by the same family. Once they recognized how high the demand was, they rented their own U-Haul trucks to drive to distribution centers and get as many supplies and ingredients for their stores as possible.

This little change by one cluster of franchises has paid off. Hansberry said at their store alone, sales have increased by 100 percent. They were expected to increase by only six.

“The fact that it’s running out people are more in a frenzy to get it, but it really is a good sandwich,” Hansberry said.

As a parting gift, I brought Kate a sandwich to try and after her first bite, she gave her last review for the News-Post in four words.

“It’s really f—ing good,” she said

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

(27) comments

AlanM987

The secret behind Popeye's and Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches is MSG. They use MSG rather than use real seasonings. At least Popeye's is open about it on their website, Chick-fil-A does not disclose that they use MSG. Some folks get headaches and heart palpitations from MSG, so neither restaurant is an option for them.

Jchaney2528

Does new market still have the sandwiches ???

rickterps

New Market ran out of the REAL chicken sandwiches when all the other stores did. But in a cunning (and somewhat bait-and-switch) move. They started putting their chicken strips on the brioches roll and kept selling THIS as their chicken sandwich. I had the REAL Popeye's chicken sandwich then went back when I heard they 'still had them'. WRONG.

FCPS-Principal

Well, if you can't find a so-called chicken sandwich at Popeyes, then there's always Wendy's. I read where they're introducing a new thing called a chicken sandwich. It too is primarily composed of processed chicken parts including gizzards and bones, broken down and cooked into a thick brew, injected with make-believe flavors and poured into molds to be re-fabricated into a disk shape. Then it is machine deep fried and covered in an artificial cheese product, also called American cheese even though it isn't cheese at all. The only thing genuine about this glop on a bun is it contains real jalapeno slices. I recommend if you order one, throw everything away except the jalapeno slices, and take those home to spice up some real food. These chicken things aren't food, so you shouldn't eat them. It really is that simple. It's not food so feed it to a dog or racoon, not yourself.

gary4books

You can have my jalapenos. I can not eat them.

gary4books

If you got dogs or racoons, I pity them.

FCPS-Principal

I hope people understand there is no chicken in one of these so-called chicken sandwiches. Only chemical laden processed meat product, deep fried and engineered to taste good. It comes that way from the factory, for there is nothing done at the local joint other than microwave it. Hardly walking, much less racing, across the street for.

gary4books

I read 'Bite one. “Wow this is really hot,” I thought. Bite two. “This is so juicy.” ' with some interest since I have had both types of Popeyes chicken - spicy and mild and like only the mild.



Is the sandwich hot from spices or just fresh out of the fryer?

FCPS-Principal

The reason it is they inject chemicals that simulate hot pepper. The reason it is juicy is they inject water into the processed meat product.

gary4books

Do you thik thye have a "mild" version? I suspect not. Everything is high on peppers these days. Sigh.

rcfoster

Fine, they were overwhelmed with the response. By the second week, Popeye's should be ready for the crush of people wanting to try it. Where is their supply chain manager?

gary4books

Over rulled by the publicity department. Can yu imagine how much free publicity they got? Close to a billion dollars I bet.

stjohn42

Although Popeye's deserves credit for successful marketing campaign, clearly the "fresh" component is what is succeeding here. It hardly seems worth all the fuss.

matthewboh

Popeye's is so much better because they don't have all the homophobia that Chick-fil-A adds in.


rcfoster

Cathy's comment was in 2012 and now he's dead. Time to move on. They hire openly gay people and have made no additional donations to organizations that espouse 'homophobic' beliefs. How long is this talking point going to be repeated?

BunnyLou

Apparently, you have done very little to understand what happened. What the owner did or does is the owner’s prerogative. His views are not promoted in his stores. BTW, the Chick-fil-a product and experience is far superior in every way to Popeye’s sandwich. Plus the fact that there employees are treated better than other fast food chains.

cleanrunoff

Yes, exactly- it is a business owners prerogative and right to be as vocal or silent about any issue they wish to, and business owners should be encouraged to share their views with their customers. No one should be afraid to speak out. As a consumer, many factors go into the decision as to whether to purchase a product or patronize a business- that is what being an engaged and educated consumer is all about, and I "think" educated and engaged consumers are generally good for the economy. Surely you yourself would be interested to know a business owners position on various issues before you decide to support that owner with your dollars. So we appear to be in agreement except for your last sentence- in matters of taste I need to see extensive hard evidence and scientific data before I can accept that one product is "superior" to another. Please show your cards.

BunnyLou

The sandwich is good because it is predictable, always tasty and in stock. Service is always from a pleasant young adult with excellent manners. The restaurant is clean and in always working order. Try the Popeye’s on Route 40 near Boscov’s, it is totally opposite of what I previously described.

gary4books

Better than In-N-Out Burger? They do well, too. I will have to try both before I can decide which is best. But if the Popeyes product is too spicy to eat, I know what I will like.


FCPS-Principal

In chick fill A I've heard you can taste the homophobia in every bite.

Reader1954

it was a nice story - up until the last line. That was the quote you chose to use?

gary4books

You may like the "ePages version" which is "ItMs really fing good,m she:" and the rest of the article is just as jumbled. Too.

Marwin3105

Just another example of Ms. Masters' propensity for profanity, working hard to normalize obscenity in local news reporting.. Don't follow her lead Katryna! You're better than that!


sevenstones1000

Unclench.

gary4books

Did you read the byline?

gary4books

OK. You did. My error.

sevenstones1000

Made you clutch your pearls?

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