Chick-Fil-A

The Chicken Sandwich
The Chicken Sandwich
The Spicy Chicken Sandwich
The Spicy Chicken Sandwich

In 2012, Chick-Fil-A’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Dan Cathy, went on The Ken Coleman Show and voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage. The corporation, it was revealed, donated money to groups that opposed same-sex marriage.

A total shitshow followed. Never before had chicken sandwiches been so prominent in the public consciousness. Chick-Fil-A became an avatar for bigotry to progressives. Thomas Menino, mayor of Boston, said he would prohibit the company from opening franchises unless they disavowed their statements. An LGBT ally went to a Chick-Fil-A drive-thru and verbally assaulted a Chick-Fil-A employee in the name of tolerance. It backfired.

Boycotts and sit-ins ensued. The Christian right launched a strident, artery-clogging counterattack, spearheaded by none other than America’s most affable maniac: Mike Huckabee. They crowed about the victimization of white Christians (which…um…). Millions of people lined up outside Chick-Fil-A restaurants all around the country to show solidarity with a company that, in their view, had been unfairly maligned. It’s anyone’s guess as to how many really understood why they were there.

These sorts of faddish expressions of support don’t really impress me. Not only do I not share the morally exhibitionist impulses of many in my generation (on all sides of the political spectrum), but I like fried chicken. So I carried on eating at Chick-Fil-A, annoyed by the lines of socially conservative culinary philistines who had no interest in experimenting with different sauce-sandwich combinations, but were just there to prove a point; annoyed by the hordes of self-righteous idiot undergraduates blocking the sauce station, eager to post photos of themselves being socially aware for their Facebook friends to see and then go home and find something else to pretend to care about. Just annoyed. And hungry.

Many of my more progressive law school classmates wanted to stop eating Chick-Fil-A. They wanted to show solidarity and help bleed dry the homophobic corporate monster. They wanted it so badly. But the biscuits are just too goddamn fluffy. The chicken is too goddamn juicy. So they ate. They ate with guilty relish. They drew straws to see who would drive and pick up sandwiches for everyone. They couldn’t quit Chick-Fil-A, no matter how repulsive its organizational gestalt.

What we have here, then, is something special. It’s not special because I ignored social currents out of a love for fried chicken. That expression of my metasociopathy will surprise nobody. What’s special is that we have here a chicken sandwich that made self-righteous law students mortgage their socially progressive principles. When a chicken sandwich overcomes the preening moral awareness of the most insufferably self-righteous subset of the population, that warrants attention.

Shanil and I went to Chick-Fil-A for his farewell lunch, a fitting tribute to his two weeks in the land of the free before his return to the freedomless tundra of Canada. We had to put the most controversial (and incidentally, the most popular) sandwich in America to the test.

The Place
Chick-Fil-A
1700 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91106

The Order: Chicken Sandwich, Spicy Chicken Sandwich

The Price: $3.39 (Chicken Sandwich); $3.69 (Spicy Chicken Sandwich)

The Burgers
There really can be no controversy about one thing: these sandwiches are pretty delicious. Chick-Fil-A is quick to point out that they didn’t invent the chicken (God did that)…just the chicken sandwich. And they present the dish with the masterful simplicity of the inventor. There are no bells and whistles here. Each sandwich is cheeseless. On a sweet but too-thin white bun sits a thick chicken breast, breaded and fried to perfection, adorned only by a few meek pickle chips. The flavor profile is spare. Sauce is optional (I recommend the honey roasted BBQ). There is endless room to innovate: some add combinations of sauces. Others add a weblike layer of waffle fries. Still more are purists, allowing the sandwich to stand alone.

There is little to say here. The fried chicken is crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside. The standard chicken sandwich features flavorful breading, golden and summery. It crunches like deep fried sunshine, giving way to a perfectly prepared, succulent piece of chicken. The spicy version is similar, but with a sassy little kick on the front end. It’s got personality. It’s got spunk. The honey roasted BBQ, my sauce of choice, adds a creamy, mellowing sweetness that dovetails nicely with the pickles and complements the complexity of the chicken admirably. Sure, the composition lacks that inspired creative spark, and therefore there is little to balance. But it’s a delicious sandwich. No matter which version you order.

The unadorned beauty of these sandwiches are their primary virtue. They have the unprepared, untreated charm of Eliza Doolittle. But at the end of the day, Eliza Doolittle was still Audrey Hepburn. Who, you know, was a knockout. Another remarkable feature of these sandwiches, though, is the price point. At less than four dollars apiece, these are a serviceable alternative to In-N-Out if you aren’t in the mood for beef, but still don’t want to break the bank.

Don’t let the controversy surrounding Chick-Fil-A fool you. It had nothing to do with the food. And for the most part, it seems as though eating there is no longer a slap in the face of the gay rights movement. As a testament to that, Chick-Fil-A is thriving in West Hollywood, a city where a rainbow flag flies at city hall. So the controversy has passed. And the food is still delicious.

The Ratings
Chicken Sandwich
Flavor: 9.00 / 10.00
Freshness/Quality: 9.00 / 10.00
Value: 10.00 / 10.00
Efficiency: 10.00 / 10.00
Creativity/Style: 5.00 / 10.00
Bun: 7.70 / 10.00
Patty: 8.30 / 10.00
Sauce: 8.90 / 10.00
Toppings: 6.80 / 10.00
Balance: 7.90 / 10.00

Total: 82.60 / 100.00

Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Flavor: 9.00 / 10.00
Freshness/Quality: 9.00 / 10.00
Value: 10.00 / 10.00
Efficiency: 10.00 / 10.00
Creativity/Style: 5.50 / 10.00
Bun: 7.70 / 10.00
Patty: 8.70 / 10.00
Sauce: 8.90 / 10.00
Toppings: 6.80 / 10.00
Balance: 8.10 / 10.00

Total: 83.70 / 100.00

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