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Drive-thru Gourmet: how does this Classic compare to Chick-fil-A?

Drive-thru Gourmet: how does this Classic compare to Chick-fil-A?

Houston- Drive-Thru Gourmet - Classic Chicken Sandwich
It's chicken. It's cheap. Is it a "Classic?" Courtesy photo

This week I reached out for a Classic Chicken Sandwich, new on the "$1-$2-$3 Dollar Menu" at America's league-leading burger barn, McDonald's, with 14,000 restaurants stretching far and wide. 

McDonald's welcomes the New Year with the return of its skinflint Dollar Menu, last seen in 2013. But is it really a "Dollar" Menu if this chicken sandwich costs three of 'em? (Discuss among yourselves, but do it quietly, I've just pulled up to the drive-thru speaker.)

It's a three-tiered Dollar Menu now. No biggie. My dollar store just put up a "$1.25 Store" sign. It won't stop me from buying 10 pairs of sunglasses at one time. It's not a tragedy when I leave a pair at the movie theater. 

Here's the Classic Chicken Sandwich breakdown: a buttermilk crispy chicken filet, topped with two pickle slices and Signature Sauce, served on a toasted burger bun. The bun is new and improved, made with "no high fructose corn syrup." Creative fast foodies in denial can't count this new bun as a "vegetable." 

The breakdown:
Total calories: 510. Fat grams: 23. Sodium: 1,040 mg. Carbs: 50 g. Dietary fiber: 3 g. Protein: 25 g. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $3. (Pay attention, I've already said that.)

McDonald's take on a Classic Chicken Sandwich goes Chick-fil-A's "Original Chicken Sandwich" one better...or worse. Both feature a white meat chicken filet and two pickles on a toasted bun. But McDonald's adds a slather of Signature Sauce, a creamy smushup of ketchup, mayo, and something called Rochester sauce, which packs a punch of Worcestershire. While the sauce does deliver sweet 'n' tangy notes, it's perhaps subtraction by addition. Chick-fil-A sells a billion trillion Original Chicken Sandwiches with just pickles on top. 

McDonald's introduced Signature Sauce in 2017 to complement the arrival of Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders. If you're a Chick-fil-A loyalist, you can always tell McDonald's to knock off the sauce.

Bottom line — and that's what the $1-$2-$3 Dollar Menu is all about — the Classic Chicken Sandwich is a quality chicken sandwich for less money than the competition. The filet is boneless breast, a real piece of meat from one chicken, none of that particle board nugget nonsense. It's called "Crispy" because that's McDonald's code for breaded and deep fried, hence the heavy-duty calories and fat. Chick-fil-A's version, which also is breaded and deep-fried, costs $3.29 and unleashes only 440 calories and 19 fat grams. McDonald's does not offer a grilled, skinless, unbreaded version. Chick-fil-A does, but it's a considerable taste concession and diet sacrifice. A grilled chicken sandwich is like frozen pizza: nobody's ever made a decent one. (Nice try, though, DiGiorno.)

A new "Classic?"
McDonald's could have thought harder before naming this "Classic Chicken Sandwich." Shouldn't something be around a few years to earn that distinction? Classic Big Mac, absolutely. Classic Quarter-Pounder, I'm good with it. A new chicken sandwich that could be axed in two months if it doesn't sell? No.

McDonald's $1-$2-$3 Dollar Menu aims to please, with a little something for everybody. Each price tier features a breakfast item plus a chicken and beef option.

One dollar: a McChicken sandwich, Sausage Burrito, Cheeseburger and any size soft drink.

Two bucks: Sausage McGriddles, Bacon McDouble, small McCafe drinks and 2-piece Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders.

Three bills: Children's Happy Meals, Sausage McMuffin and Egg, Triple Cheeseburger and our new buddy, Classic Chicken Sandwich.