Let’s Talk Chicken
I understand that this company/website is generally a sports-centric type of enterprise. As of today, I don’t believe we have had any posts that have not, in some way, related to sports. I like sports. You like sports. We all like sports. That being said, after the debacle that was the Minnesota Vikings NFC Championship shellacking, I have zero interest in talking about sports. Absolutely none. The Vikes took my heart from my chest, stomped on it, sent it through a blender, drank it with a mixture of yogurt, frozen berries, and kale (healthy), pissed it out, and flushed it down a toilet… as is tradition. With that in mind I’d like to talk instead about another topic which has been weighing heavily on my mind. Yes, I’m talking chicken, folks. Specifically I’m talking the fast food chicken powerhouses of Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane’s.
As is the case with most organizations that are jockeying for the same market space (looking at you Chipotle and Qdoba), people have drawn a hard line in the sand on which of these two chicken tycoons they support. Until just recently, I myself was a firm Chick-fil-A backer. This is probably because I had never had Cane’s but that’s really neither here nor there. Over the past three weeks my eyes have been opened to the brilliance that is Raising Cane’s chicken fingers and it’s put my entire worldview in a blender. I started questioning everything I’ve ever known about chicken. I ate Cane’s for lunch 7 of 10 work days during the Vikings playoff run and was beginning to forget about Chick-fil-A altogether. Last Friday, just when I was ready to walk out on my long term chicken girlfiend, Chick-fil-A slipped on a little black number and reminded me why I fell in love in the first place. This put my brain in a pretzel. Can a man have two chicken loves? Which comes first? Which is my rock and which is my side chicken? There was really only one option: line them up and break down their strengths and weaknesses based on all of the important categories. So without further ado, let’s talk chicken.
This is a big win for Cane’s and to be honest, it better be. The chicken strips are where Cane’s makes their money. I’ve never really been a big chicken fingers/strips/nuggets guy, always preferred burgers and such, but the chicken strips at Cane’s are about as good as you can make solitary chicken. Crispy, juicy, tender. It has all the tangibles and intangibles you look for in a chicken strip. And this isn’t knock on Chick-fil-A either. Those little nuggets are quite the treat, but that’s just it: they’re a treat. I view the Chick-fil-A nuggets as essentially a side dish. They’re for after I finish my sandwich and I still have some sauce that needs a vessel. No way they can compete with the juggernaut that is Cane’s chicken strips.
Again this one is pretty easy. Chick-fil-A has the best chicken sandwich I have ever eaten. Period. When Chick-fil-A was first introduced to me, I was very skeptical. “How good can a chicken sandwich be?” I thought. What a fool I was. The bun. The patty. The pickle. It’s all perfect. Just as the Cane’s chicken fingers check all the chicken related boxes, the Chick-fil-A sandwich hits every important note. Incredible. The Cane’s sandwich is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s out of its depth when competing with the Chick-fil-A sandwich. The only thing that could even hold a candle to the Chick-fil-A sandwich is splitting the texas toast from Cane’s in half and sticking a chicken strip between the two pieces for a makeshift sandwich but I’m talking texas toast in the sides portion of this blog so that concoction is disqualified from the sandwich discussion.
So this is where things start to get a little tricky. Both restaurants offer some pretty convincing arguments when we start to look at the sides. In one corner you have Cane’s bringing a loaded arsenal of texas toast, coleslaw, and fries. In the other corner Chick-fil-A counters with waffle fries, milkshakes, and, if you are like me, the chicken nuggets. For the sanctity of this argument I’ll remove the chicken nuggets from the table since I already talked about them in the strips/fingers/nuggets section. Texas toast is the best side on the board here, I think that much is clear, but the Cane’s coleslaw is also top notch. I generally substitute the coleslaw for two slices of the toast but there are certainly days where the coleslaw tickles my fancy. While Cane’s may have the best individual side on the menu, Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries blow Canes’ generic frozen Oneda style fries out of the water. Add in the shake option at Chick-fil-A and things start to get a little closer. I’m still going to give the edge to Cane’s because the texas toast is maybe the best fast food side on the market today.
This is the big one. Winner of the sauce battle gets a HUGE advantage in the overall “Who does fast food chicken better” argument. Both restaurants have staunch, and I mean staunch, backers of their respective sauces. I’ll admit I am a fan of both sauces, although they are far from similar. My first couple of dips of the Cane’s sauce left me uncertain of how I felt about the savory cup of goo. It’s almost overpowering. Kind of has that “make the back of your jaw seize up” type of flavor. It hits hard. Once I got my bearings it grew on me. It’s a great chicken dipping sauce, my only issue with it is it’s not versatile enough. I finished my chicken and went to try to dip my fries and was shocked to find it didn’t do it for me. I had had enough of the Cane’s sauce and there was still some left in the container. It’s a great first 5 minutes of chicken inhalation sauce but it doesn’t hold out for the entire meal. This is where Chick-fil-A has a major advantage. Chick-fil-A chicken, as good as it is on its own, might as well be just a wehical for Chick-fil-A sauce. I could drink that sauce on its own and I don’t actually think I’m joking. It’s good with the sandwich, the nuggets, the fries… there is nothing that the Chick-fil-A sauce doesn’t make better. It’s damn near perfect.
This basically comes down to two things: Chick-fil-A serves breakfast but Cane’s is open on Sunday. Let’s start with the breakfast. If you’ve never had Chick-fil-A’s breakfast before, get your ass out of bed and get to the nearest Chick-fil-A before 10:30 AM. It is maybe the best breakfast, fast food or otherwise, I’ve had. The Chicken biscuit, egg and cheese biscuit, and chicken minnies are all absolutely top notch breakfast options (and once again all viable options to be smothered in Chick-fil-A sauce). It’s one of the better food experiences I’ve ever had and would only be made better if I could enter this type of breakfast Valhalla on Sunday. Which brings me to my next point: Chick-fil-A being closed on Sundays is one of the larger American tragedies of the 21st century. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten myself excited for Chick-fil-A only to have my dreams crushed by the Lord’s day. The best ability is availability and Cane’s gets a huge intangible advantage just by being available 7 days a week. Just when you think Chick-fil-A is going to pull ahead, they close their doors on Sunday. This one’s a wash in my opinion.
Overall Winner: Chick-Fil-A
To me, the overall chicken of both restaurants is essentially a tie. Cane’s has the advantage in their chicken fingers but nobody does a chicken sandwich like Chick-fil-A. Chick-fil-A distances itself in the my competition in its sauce dominance. There are few sauces or condiments (chipotle sour cream being another one) that I would very honestly drink on their own. That’s a difference maker. That kind of performance wins championships, or in this case, my personal ranking system as it regards to fast food chicken.