Remember back in 2019 when Popeyes dropping a chicken sandwich somehow became a huge cultural phenomenon?  Well, two years later (somehow???) we’ve got three new contenders trying to muscle in on this hot market: McDonalds, Shake Shack, and KFC.  Normally, I’d be very harsh on them taking 2 years to catch up to a trend as straightforward as “put chicken on bread,” but, y’know, COVID, I guess.

“But Riley,” I hear you say. “McDonalds already has chicken sandwiches!” you cry in desperation. Oh, my sweet summer child.  Have you learned nothing? McDonalds, eager to maintain its position as the #1 fast food chain worldwide knows that it always needs to keep innovating.  And by innovating, I mean doing the same thing as everyone else. In a letter to their franchisees, McDonald’s’ corporate offices wrote, “JFK called for a man on the moon. Our call should be a category leading chicken sandwich.”

Whether or not these sandwiches are going to the moon or not (or… something? I’ve already lost the plot), the new lineup does show promise.  The new chicken cutlet can be served three ways: The Deluxe (lettuce, tomato, and mayo), spicy mayo and pickles, and Just Pickles™.   They’re simple, but I think that’s part of why the chicken sandwich trend took off like it did. Focus on just making a good chicken sandwich, and you don’t really need too much else on it.  (The sandwich doesn’t come out for another month, we’ll have to wait and see if they deliver on the “just make a good chicken sandwich” part.)

At the other end of the “keep it simple, stupid” spectrum, we have Shake Shack.  Their latest sandwich creation comes with a gochujang glaze, sesame seeds and “white kimchi slaw” (it kinda just looks like regular coleslaw from the picture)  It might not actually be entirely accurate to call this an entry in the chicken sandwich wars, though, because it’s actually part of a whole line of Korean-inspired menu items.  In addition to the sandwich, there’s chicken bites with gochujang mayo, fries topped with gochujang mayo, and a black sugar vanilla shake.  Considering the popularity of Korean fried chicken, this does seem like the logical next step in the evolution of the chicken sandwich wars.

As much as I’d love to try one of each of these, I’m not even sure where the nearest Shake Shake is to me, if I were so inclined to go on a road trip JUST for Shake Shack.  Like, there’s one in Saratoga that’s pretty much only open when the racetrack is open, so that doesn’t count.  So, King of Prussia? Cleveland? You want me to go to fucking Ohio??  For chicken?  Actually, I’m so desperate for any form of travel that sure, after I get vaccinated, fine, I’ll go to Ohio, why not.  And their chicken will be available from now until April, so maybe travel will be safer by then?

And last but probably least, KFC wants everyone to remember that they still make chicken too, you know.  Their new sandwich boasts a quarter pound fillet (apparently a 20% from their existing sandwich offering) on a brioche bun that required working with 6 different bakeries through 10 different recipes to get just right.  Much like the Popeyes’ version, these will be available with either plain or spicy mayo, both being served with a newly upgraded pickle that is apparently thicker than the old ones.  Can’t wait to get some of those thickles.  I guess, I don’t know.  This one seems like too much of a straight copy of the Popeyes one, so it’s harder to get excited over it.  

Will any of these be able to usurp the #1 in my heart, Popeyes? Only time, and a roadtrip to Ohio, can tell.

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