Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. That was the idea when McDonald’s introduced the Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich a few years ago. The Southern Style is a variation on Chik-Fil-A’s famous chicken sandwiches, which consist of a crispy fried chicken breast with pickles on a bun. It’s delicious, but as Chik-Fil-A isn’t a nationwide franchise, it’s somewhat difficult to come by here in the Midwest. McDonald’s made the wise move of marketing it nationally around the same time they introduced their Sweet Tea, another Southern standby. But how does it stack up?
Pretty darn well, actually. The Southern Style has been a favorite of mine for a while now, and I was surprised to find I hadn’t already reviewed it. It’s simple and distinctive, and the combination of chicken and pickles provides a very different flavor from the standard lettuce and tomato framework. It’s also available for breakfast sans pickles on a biscuit, but since I don’t usually frequent McDonald’s before noon, I haven’t yet had the pleasure.
The other nice thing about the Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich is that it’s comparatively cheap. Although it’s not on the Dollar Menu, a la carte it usually runs for only 2-3 dollars. It’s well worth checking out, especially if you’re in the Northern of Eastern parts of the United States where it’s not otherwise available. (I just realized I have no idea if it’s available internationally; if anyone knows, let me know in the comments. Thanks.)
Arby’s has a new rewards card, and it’s one hell of a card. the MyArbysRewards program runs circles around the usual “tenth sandwich free” punch-card system. The card is a plastic credit-card style number which connects to an online database to keep track of your Arby’s purchases. In addition to a free roast beef sandwich upon activation, the card also racks up progressively bigger rewards every two visits each month. These rewards can be selected from one of four different tiered progression systems, which are themed around items like Market Fresh sandwiches, desserts, and classic roast beef. Most of them end with free combos after your eighth (!!!) Arby’s visit in a month. I’ve played role-playing games with designs less advanced than this. My one suggestion would be to add a self check-in upon entry which prompts the cashier to greet you by name, a la Up In The Air, but that’s just me.
And if you’re interested in making your first Qualified Visit* with your new card, the new Cravin’ Chicken Sandwich isn’t a bad bet. It includes the new Prime-Cut chicken breast (which I assume is less processed than the other chicken they use, but I don’t know for sure), lettuce, tomato, and the new Cravin’ sauce, a dark, slightly peppery sauce reminiscent of a fancy salad dressing. It’s pretty good, and it complements the other comparatively basic ingredients well. Although the Chicken Bacon Swiss is still the Cadillac of fast food chicken sandwiches, the Cravin’ Chicken is a worthy competitor.
A Cravin’ Chicken combo runs for about $5, well worth it given its large size and high quality. Plus, it’ll bring you one step closer to those mythic Platinum rewards.
UPDATE: I’ve received word that Arby’s will be discontinuing the MyArbysRewards program in favor of a more traditional email coupon club. I know, I’m disappointed too, but this idea’s time just hasn’t quite come yet.
August 5, 2011
Another month, another Subway Featured $5 Footlong. August’s offering, much to my chagrin, is the Buffalo Chicken sub. I’ve never been a fan of Buffalo sauce. It’s spicy without enough of a flavor, and it tastes like vinegar to me (and not in the good “Salt and Vinegar Chips” way). But I missed last month’s sub, so I figured I owed you guys this one. I made it my mission to create a Buffalo Chicken sub I could actually enjoy, using the ingredients available to me. Let’s see how I did!
I began by adding Monterrey Cheddar cheese, to lessen the bite a bit. I had it toasted, then applied tomatoes and Ranch dressing. (Until Subway starts offering real leaves of Romaine lettuce, as opposed to the napkin-like shredded Iceberg they currently use, I won’t be adding lettuce anytime soon.) It actually ended up being pretty decent. While Bleu Cheese dressing is really the ideal counterpoint to Buffalo sauce, Ranch is a passable alternative,and the tomatoes added a bit of variety without adding heat, the way the recommended green peppers could’ve. If I were to do it again, I might add mayo, onions or a stronger cheese, but I enjoyed it as it was.
Being a Featured sub, it’s $5 for a foot-long sub, which if I haven’t mentioned before is a really good deal. If you like Buffalo Chicken, you’ll probably like this sandwich. If you don’t, you can try a similar strategy to what I did, or you can skip it altogether.
August 2, 2011
Having conquered breakfast, paninis, and “healthy” fare, Hot Pockets are expanding their empire into more snack-based offerings. Though their “Snackers” line falls just outside of my purview, the recent “Sideshots” line is somewhat more sandwichy. You may recognize them from this horrifying TV ad:
Seriously, what the hell? Anyway, I tried the Cheeseburger and Buffalo Chicken versions, mainly because they didn’t have the Sloppy Joes at Target. They’re actually pretty good. Unlike regular Hot Pockets, Sideshots don’t include crisping sleeves, but they manage to keep the bread soft and flaky. The Cheeseburger Sideshot tastes EXACTLY like a fast food cheeseburger you’d get from McDonald’s or Burger King. It’s uncanny, and somewhat reminiscent of the cheeseburger-flavored Doritos, although less creepy. I was a little less crazy about the Buffalo Chicken, but it was still pretty decent quality chicken meat. Dipping it in Ranch dressing helped a lot, and the shape and style of the bun made dipping an easy and fun option.
Hot Pockets Sideshots come four to a box, packaged in pairs. In my experience, it takes about four to make a satisfying meal, but two could be a nice quick snack option. They cost about $2 per box, which is a pretty good deal. I wouldn’t get them every time, but the Sideshots are a nice change of pace from the usual Hot Pockets.