Thursday, November 26, 2020

Eating in lockdown: The saga of the Popeye's Sandwich

 I've long liked that chicken from Popeye's. So much better than KFC. A spicy option, quality fries, biscuits, mac and cheese, corn on the cob -- so good. 

There really weren't any convenient locations for me for awhile though. Living in Toronto, I would hike to the one downtown on Yonge from time to time. When the 2015 campaign was underway there was one just down the street from the campaign office, and as this one offered Halal chicken it became a frequent fixture on the campaign office buffet. When I moved to Ottawa, the nearest one was a two-trip bus away in Alta Vista, so it remained a rare treat.

Then one opened in the Glebe, inside the former KFC turned Rogers Wireless store. There was the expected murmur of discontent from the Glebians, though tempered by past fights lost over Boston Pizza and McDonald's -- though they seem fine with Whole Foods and Starbucks.

Anyways, it was good to have a Popeye's close to home and they did busy business, and I made a few off hours visits due to their limited seating to get my chicken fix. But since pandemic times we've had to turn to Uber Eats, and it has not been a good experience. They do a lot of food delivery business at Popeye's, and they don't do it well.

Nearly every time I've ordered, they've gotten something wrong. They forget an item. They run out of something, so they just make a substitution with no consultation. So many times I'm given the wrong order entirely. If you're there in person, you can make sure you get the right thing, so they're less likely to screw you over. Less so with delivery. Still, many times I've had to complain to Uber Eats for refunds and they're usually good with it, but still, I wanted what I ordered.

Which brings me to the long-awaited flagship Popeye's Chicken Sandwich. I had long since given up on Popeye's via Uber Eats -- fool me four times, shame on you, fool me five times, you can't get fooled again -- but I wasn't going to go down there with dining closed and photograph a chicken sandwich in the parking lot.

Anyway, long store short, on the second order attempt I actually received the chicken sandwich I ordered for a work lunch, standing on Wellington Street to retrieve it and taking in inside passed the undoubtedly jealous Parliamentary security. Opening the bag and my desk and breathing a sigh of relief to find the long-awaited spicy chicken sammy inside.

I plated, photographed, dug in and it was ... OK. After all that, it was OK. It was good. It was a perfectly serviceable chicken sandwich. Probably the best of the fast food chicken sandwiches I've had. But the years of hype, the lines and fights over this sandwich in the US, the chicken sandwich showdowns, the long wait for it to come to Canada, with all that build-up it just underwhelmed.

I think we live in an era where we have been conditioned to lower our expectations. A decade or two ago, this sandwich would have been what you would reliably expect from a fast food chicken sammy. As I think I wrote about before, I still remember the big, juicy KFC Big Crunch of my junior high years. This Popeye's sammy reminded me of that. And it only shines because of the decline in quality over the years we have experienced in fast food.

 Anyway, some 600 words later. The brioche bun was good, the breading was well-seasoned, the patty of good size and the chicken juicy, and the spicy mayo did its job.

I haven’t had it since. When we can dine in safely again, I’ll be back. It’s as quality a fast food chicken Sammy as you’ll find. But it’s not worth the hype, or the Uber Eats Roulette with Popeye’s Glebe.

Other chicken sammies

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