Chicken Wars: Popeyes vs. Zaxby’s

When you’re 50 years old and you hate when fast-food marketers turn nouns into verbs, the best way to Saturday is to dip your toe into the chicken wars and find out for yourself who’s got a better sandwich.

First, let’s get one thing straight: I’m not committing to any follow-up posts here. I just had some time on my hands, as an appointment at the local drinkery up the block isn’t for a few hours yet, and I was in a part of town where chicken sandwiches are readily available.

Popeyes vs Zaxby's chicken sandwich war
You know you’re living right when you you arrange a couple of fast-food chicken sandwiches on the passenger seat of your car, eating them both while standing outside in the parking lot.

The “C” in NCAA may not stand for “chicken,” but this bracketologist is ready to announce a first-round winner, so keep reading.

Now, large respect to Dave Portnoy’s hella-popular One Bite Reviews, and maybe it’s easier to do with pizza, but I had to consume my chicken to completion in order to reach a conclusion. I also wanted to crush both sandwiches because how often do we really treat ourselves?

After the first bite of each sandwich, I thought the Popeyes classic chicken sandwich had muscled its way ahead of the Zaxby’s classic chicken sandwich. I don’t do spicy; that’s for tourists.

My only complaint about the Popeyes offering was that the bottom bun felt a little stale in my hand. The Zaxby’s sandwich wasn’t bad but it may have started out a little bland, whereas the Popeyes felt like slightly fresher chicken, and perhaps even a little larger.

Each sandwich boasted its own sauce, neither of which asserted itself as being superior. The first bites of the Popeyes sandwich gave me more and larger pickles, and that’s not nothing.

But once I got into the second half of each sandwich, much like Rocky in his post-bout remarks to the Russian crowd in Rocky IV, I seen a lot of changin. In my head I was channeling the great Philadelphia underdog, “the way yous felt about me, and the way I felt about you.”

In quite the role reversal, by the end of the 1,220-calorie consumption in the name of comparison, I thought the Zaxby’s chicken, and its pickles, at least caught up to those offered by Popeyes, if not surpassed them.

The breading was pretty good on both sandwiches, almost comparable to that of its industry’s standard, Chick-fil-A.

At some point I’m going to have to show some decisiveness here, lest I look like a chicken. Get it?

It was a very close competition, but I think the Zaxby’s sandwich gets the edge mostly because of a fresher bun, better pickles and even a better presentation. And, not for nothing, the Zaxby’s sandwich is 530 calories, compared to Popeyes’ 690.

I think I’ll order a 160-calorie beer here in a couple hours.

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