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Fixating on Chicken Sandwiches as the World Burns

From the Editor: Everything you missed in food news last week

Fried chicken sandwich on a bun, sitting atop a wrapper.
The coveted Popeyes sandwich
Photo: Popeyes

I figure I have three ways to open the letter week: 1) Mario Batali and Ken Friedman inching away from their businesses, 20 months after their respective misconduct allegations went public; 2) How ”no-match letters” and the threat of ICE raids are making it hard to be a humane, ethical, and successful restaurant employer in an industry dependent on immigrants; 3) Something about the chicken sandwich.


If you weren’t following: well-liked fried chicken chain Popeyes launched a new sandwich, and everyone loved it. Everyone. Loved. It. The sandwich, the drama. And everyone covered it — with praise and shrugs, earnest taste tests and failed, sweaty blunders.

Do any of you remember the Double Down? I’ve been getting flashbacks to coverage of KFC’s monstrosity sandwich from almost 10 years ago this week following the Popeyes saga. Every news outlet both niche and mainstream had an angle. CNN got a pre-release taste. The NYT restaurant critic announced three days before trying it that he was anxious about trying it. There was a countdown clock. There were gourmet ripoffs. Someone got a tattoo.

What was actually nice about this week’s frenzy — as nice as the intense popularity of a fast food item made from factory-farmed poultry can be — is that it is simply a chicken sandwich superior to the rivals in the genre. It’s not made of anything unusual. It’s not a cynical and opportunistic marketing play, a gross novelty item dreamed up by some CMO trying to tap into a zeitgeist. This was just a chicken sandwich that people really liked and wanted to like and wanted to tweet about and wait in line for because what else are we going to do when it’s the end of August and the world is literally and figurately on fire?

On Eater

This week on the podcast

This week on Eater’s Digest, Daniel and I talk about restaurant criticism with Bon Appetit’s Julia Kramer and our very own Ryan Sutton. We also discuss the week’s biggest food stories, including Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich, Di Fara’s tax problem, and how Jeff Bezos eats Cheetos.

Off Eater

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