A Valentine For Chick-Fil-A (And A Taste-Off)
I'd never had Chick-fil-A sandwich until four years ago. It was while getting a pedicure in a Richmond mall, where I'll be should I ever need to go in the Witness Protection Program, since it's among the most unlikely places you'd find me in this life.
I was visiting my friend Robin with Meg, my DC buddy who went to University of Richmond with her. As we sat ducks in a row in our chairs, their conversation spiraled into a discussion of guilty pleasure foods and landed on the classic sandwich that inspires mad passions.
"Melissa," they asked. "Why are you quiet?" I confessed I'd never been to Chick-fil-A before. Jesus chicken hadn't reach the landscape of New York, Massachusetts, or New Jersey where I'd lived most of my life.
My friend Robin was horrified. She bolted from her chair, grabbed a pair of paper flip flops, and proceeded semi-barefoot through the mall -- mid-pedicure-- so she could buy me a sandwich immediately.
"This is perfection," she said, as she brought it to me and unwrapped it from its foil bag, much like Charlie ripped open his Wonka Bar for the golden ticket. "You will become addicted."
I may be one of the few who have eaten Chick-fil-A in a nail salon. There's plenty wrong with that, I can assure you.
I remember less about the sandwich -- aside from the salty, savory chicken and the sweetness of pickles-- than the expression on my friends' faces, eyes glued to my mouth as they attempted to indoctrinate me. It was pretty good. They looked a little crestfallen. I felt bad that I wasn't going to count myself among the Northern converts to sprint through airports to grab one between flights, doubly so after stories like this.
|Charm City chicken sandwich|
The Presentation: Both chicken sandwiches are delivered in the foil-wrapped bag emblazoned with company logos. In both cases, the logos are just cute enough.
Winner: Chick-fil-A. I can't resist the cows.
The Bun: Chick-Fil-A's steamy white buttered bun faces off against Charm City's sesame number that's more crusty and less squishy than the chain's.
Winner: Charm City's bun is better.
The Breast: The breast to bun ratio for Chick-fil-A is like a little bird nestled in a nest. (I'm being generous here. Robert Sietsema likens them to "tired mush.") Charm City chicken, in contrast, juts obscenely over the sides. Yet this bird is juicer and more flavorful.
Winner: Charm City
A cook demonstrated how Charm City's breading is like that of a chicken fried steak. A breast is seasoned and brushed with egg, then rolled in flour. That's all.
The People: Chick-fil-A had a whole lot of kids and a couple of characters. Charm City was inked folks and owners. My favorite outfit of the day was a woman in a black studded skirt, fishnets, Chucks, and a wife-beater half shirt.
Winner: Charm City. A beer-drinking, inked crowd wins out over crying babies.
The Service: It took 38 seconds after I paid to get my sandwich. I got a hand towel, a mint, and tableside water service from Chick-fil-A. They even asked if I wanted my photo taken with it when I whipped out my camera phone.
At Charm City, it took 15 minutes for my chicken breast that was cooked to order. Which would have been awhile, except I like the people there so it went quickly. I could sit at a bar and drink a beer.
Winner: Tough call, but table side service, hand towels, and the correct order tips it to Chick-fil-A.
The Price: Chick-fil-A was $3.17 for a plain sandwich. Charm City's chicken breast is $5.25.
Winner: Charm City for higher quality ingredients and a made to order sandwich for just a couple bucks more.
What's missing? Charm City needs bread and butter pickles so they'll stir devotion that inspires song.
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