Fast Food Review: Chick-Fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Chick-Fil-A's Spicy Chicken Sandwich began rolling out to the masses today with the giveaway of a free sandwich to those who made a reservation. The store here in Brandon was all smiles and excitement about the new menu item and I was happily surprised by the spicy and appropriately tasty sandwich.

There was a mood of giddiness in the air as the various Chick-Fil-A staff, team leaders, managers and regional people scurried about the restaurant. They saw me coming and called out I had the look of someone getting a spicy chicken sandwich (maybe it was my cool straw hat). Some of what I perceived as the hire ups on hand to help with the rollout were very interested in the reactions of the people getting the sandwiches.

All were warned the sandwich was for those who liked spicy foods and not for meek. I balked at this warning, seeing it as a standard marketing ploy anytime something "spicy" hits the menu. The second question of if I wanted the sandwich sans pepper jack cheese caught me off guard. The sandwich normally would come looking like the standard chicken sandwich (two pickles, chicken breast, & bread) but with the added cheese for an extra kick. Though as an added twist/consideration on the "not for the faint of taste buds" crowd it was being offered both ways. Given the amount of salsa I consume on a regular basis and the fact I usually put hot sauce on both the sandwich and fries, I went "all in" with the cheese on top.

I removed the pickles and ate those first; it's how I roll. I then peeled back the barely melted cheese to try a bite of the chicken directly. The warnings were not just for show, the breading on the breast was particularly spicy. Comparing it to just pouring hot sauce on the regular sandwich the official Spicy Chicken carried a slightly less intense heat, but still higher than I would have expected for a mass marketed sandwich. Additionally, the spicy breading gave the breast a balanced flavor and heat, unlike when hot sauce is applied. I would normally put mayo on the sandwich, but due both to the desire to gauge the heat and flavor, as well as the fact the cheese was already on it, I went without mayonnaise.

The cheese annoyed me. The rule in fast food land seems to be "Spicy = Pepper Jack cheese" and came across as a psychological gimmick cheapening the outstanding overall product. The cheese added nothing but negative nutritional info to the sandwich and, despite being a spicy cheese, seemed to mitigate some of the spiciness of the chicken. It also caused a KFC Double Down flashback - very bad association.

The Spicy Chicken will cost about $.30 more than the basic chicken sandwich. I was told this was due to the breading and seasoning, but seems to really be about the addition of cheese. Chick-Fil-A has updated the nutritional info on their site with the Spicy Chicken sandwich (both Regular and Deluxe versions).

Overall the Spicy Chicken Sandwich is my new go-to sandwich at Chick-Fil-A, (I'll probably splurge for the Deluxe version with lettuce and tomato too). The franchise delivered a long overdue menu item deserving of it's title. Despite my personal dislike of the cheese, the overall product is a winner.
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