Chick-fil-A versus Popeyes has become a national obsession. The king of chicken sandwiches faces a vigorous challenge from fast food’s premier purveyor of bone-in fried chicken.
Popeyes has been so overwhelmed by the demand that locations have been selling out. For an informal taste test at the CultureMap office, entertainment writer Craig Lindsey had to visit three stores to find it!
Briefly, the Popeyes sandwich has a larger piece of chicken with a thicker, more crispy crust. At first bite, it’s clearly the more flavorful sandwich; however, the comparison between the two is a little bit reminiscent of the Pepsi Challenge. Just as people prefer one sip of Pepsi in a blind taste test but prefer to drink a whole can (bottle, etc) of Coke, the Popeyes sandwich may be better on first bite, but the Chick-fil-A sandwich is easier to finish.
Like most fast food, they’re both “fine” — more convenient than delicious. Of course, Houston restaurants turn out far better chicken sandwiches than either Popeyes or Chick-fil-A. Rather than sit in a drive-thru for an hour, consider these options instead.
Relish Restaurant & Bar
This River Oaks restaurant has a strong claim to the title of Houston's best chicken sandwich. Instead of a bland breast, Relish makes its signature sandwich with more flavorful chicken thigh meat. Topped with cheddar cheese, tarragon ranch dressing, and housemade pickles, it’s worth every penny of the $15 (includes choice of side) that chef Dustin Teague charges.
FM Kitchen & Bar
Not only does this comfort food spot turn out a better version of a Shake Shack-style burger than the restaurant from New York, it also turns out a damn fine chicken sandwich. Available in both mild — topped with coleslaw and pickles — or spicy — topped with American cheese, pickled jalapeños, and spicy aioli — the crispy chicken and solid toppings deliver more flavor than anything found in a drive-thru.
Located in a food truck park on Chimney Rock, this trailer only serves one thing: Nashville-style hot chicken. The pieces are so huge they extend well beyond the bun, and the heat level (available as mild, medium, hot, and X-tra hot) will make even the most devoted chilihead sweat. The coleslaw on top provides a little crunch, but it does almost nothing to abate the spicy tingle.
Passing on the restaurant’s signature burgers isn’t an easy choice, but the fried chicken sandwich is a winner. Juicy and flavorful, the buttermilk-brined breast meat comes topped with housemade pickles and dressing that enhance the crispy batter. We recommend pairing it with the restaurant's housemade tater tots and a craft beer.
For those who prefer to eat a Nashville hot chicken sandwich in someplace with air conditioning, consider the acclaimed bakery and cafe. As local blogger Renia Butler writes, Common Bond’s sandwich “is perfectly crispy and spicy with a hint of sweetness. ... This sandwich will have you smacking your lips and licking your fingers.” Find it at either the original Montrose location and the recently opened Medical Center outpost.
Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys
One of Houston’s most well-known sandwich purveyors entered the chicken sandwich wars this week, courtesy of a collaboration with local hip-hop legend Bun B. The "hot wang sandwich" features a breaded and fried chicken breast that's "drizzled" with buffalo sauce and topped with crispy bacon and blue cheese-ranch dressing. Even better, proceeds from the sandwich benefit Second Servings of Houston. Get it through the end of September.