The way I see it we can start this one of two ways. The first is periphrastic, if not predictable. I tell you some sad story about how urban life deprived me of backyard cookouts as a child (a lie), or maybe I opine with a completely unnecessary (but eloquently articulated) treatise on how grilled chicken is the bastard stepchild of the fast food community and should never be ordered when a deep fried and crispy counterpart is available.
Or I could just cut the bullshit and tell you that Chick-fil-A’s new Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich is one of the best grilled chicken sandwiches I’ve ever had.
Yes, ever, and certainly the best rendition from a fast food or quick service restaurant. And no, that’s not an indictment of my own grilling ability, nor should it be confused with a history of rarely ordering grilled chicken sandwiches. Simply put, the new and improved marinade, combined with the preparation on what’s being labeled a “proprietary grill,” yields a flavor and texture that’s unlike the boring and prefabricated “grilled” chicken breasts served half-assed by other fast food restaurants.
I was skeptical at first. Opportunity cost and its ever-present threat of regret make ordering anything but the classic Chick-fil-A sandwich virtually impossible for me, while a natural prejudice against fast food items above the five dollar mark made me initially question my decision. Still, with a full court press campaign touting what a game-changing sandwich this is, I figured it couldn’t hurt to go grilled over crispy at least once. If nothing else, it would give me an excuse to replenish my precariously low stash of Chick-fil-A sauces.
Let’s just say I was more than pleasantly surprised. Actually, I was blown away, and plan to come back for more. The chicken breast itself is head and shoulders above what most fast food restaurants dole out. Unlike the “chicken breast filet with rib meat” patties at places like McDonald’s, the Chick-fil-A breast retains its natural shape, and doesn’t have any off flavors from injected sodium filler used to plump it up. Instead, the marinade and the grill contribute the main flavors. It’s got a nice apple cider vinegar tang and lemon zing while still having a really herby element and a touch of sweetness. The grill flavor is pronounced and authentic—I kid you not, had you blindfolded me and thrown a Frisbee at my head, I would have sworn I was at a backyard cookout (I would have also chucked the Frisbee back at your head, sicko.) Finally, it’s beyond juicy. Succulent sounds about right to me.
The rest of the fixings really push the sandwich over the top and help validate the $5.36 price tag. Unlike most club sandwiches, it divorces the usual swiss cheese in favor of Colby-Jack. I think it’s a good move because it has a richer, more milky-sweet taste than domestic slices of “swiss cheese,” although for the full flavor to come into effect, it’s best to let the cheese steam while in the container. The bacon has an enjoyable smoke flavor that really helps bolster the taste of the cheese and chicken, but it’s middle of pack texturally speaking now that McDonald’s has upgraded to thicker slices. Still, the produce is fresh if not a bit excessive, while the bun, which might just boast every whole grain on the planet, has a pleasant give and complex flavor. It’s not cloying like all these newfangled “brioche” style buns or dense like the old Chick-fil-A wheat buns, and instead tastes solidly of toasted grains without tasting too healthy.
Finally, the removal of pickles (which appeared on the old Grilled Chicken sandwich) does wonders, getting rid of any last vestment of “canned” flavor and producing something unabashedly fresh in every sense of the word. It was so enjoyable that, after taking several bites and being greeted by the symphonic flavors and textures, I completely forgot about the seven separate sauces I was provided with for, uh, “testing” purposes.
Look, I get it. It’s a grilled chicken sandwich, and not something 90 percent of us who eat fast food regularly are going to get excited about. Having subjected myself to grilled chicken sandwiches from the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s in semi-regular spats of misguided healthy-eating, I really can’t fault you for having low expectations. But this sandwich is different. It really is a game-changer, and looks and feels every part of a perfectly cooked grilled chicken sandwich you’d expect to pay at least eight or nine bucks for at a full service restaurant. I’m no branding expert, and I definitely don’t plan on getting into bovine linguistics, but with a club sandwich this good, the cows might want to change their slogan to “eat more grilled chicken*.”
*translated, roughly, from “moooo.”
(Nutrition Facts – 440 calories, 14 grams of fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1090 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 38 grams of protein, 25% DV calcium.).)
Item: Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich
Purchased Price: $5.36
Purchased at: Chick-fil-A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Unbelievably succulent chicken breast with amazing chargrilled flavor. Lemon, herb, and garlic marinade completely permeates the meat. No rib meat slime or “butter oil” flavor. Colby-Jack cheese has milky-sweet notes. Bacon has good smoke flavor, produce is fresh and clean, and bun is exceptional. No extra charge for ridiculous sauce requests.
Cons: Cheese flavor is better once warmed and slightly melted, so better to get to-go. Bacon could be thicker and more assertive. Size of the lettuce leaf makes it awkward to eat.