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POPEYES CHICKEN TEAM — From left are Hector Vega, Kwame Walker, Omonte Rodriguez and Steven Rivera at the Orange City Popeyes. The staff was very friendly and was more than happy to put up with my random questions about chicken at 9 p.m. on a Thursday.

Who has the best chicken sandwich? The question is being debated across the nation. 

The chicken sandwich holds a very special place in the hearts and stomachs of many of us.

Many restaurants have claimed to be the first to offer a chicken sandwich; however, I’m more interested in which has the best.

Today’s current debate over the best chicken sandwich took on more weight after Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, headquartered in Miami, released a new chicken sandwich, apparently taking aim at the popularity of Chick-fil-A, headquartered in College Park, Georgia. 

The new sandwich even made an appearance on ESPN.

The marketing effort is working, as it’s causing quite a commotion between Chick-fil-A lovers and other foodies.

So who has the best chicken sandwich? The Beacon set out for a few restaurants to try to find out. 

 

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

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Popeyes

2561 Enterprise Rd., Orange City, FL 32763

Being as much of a fan of chicken sandwiches as I am, I was particularly interested to see how the new Popeyes sandwich would measure up. 

It can be ordered in two flavors, spicy and regular. Because the only real difference between the two is mayonnaise or spicy mayo, there isn’t a reason to choose the spicy if you’re going to opt out of mayo. 

DeLand Popeyes manager Hector Vega said there may be plans down the road to offer a more authentic spicy sandwich. 

The new Popeyes sandwich also comes with pickles, which you can opt to leave off. 

I ordered mine with pickles and regular mayo. 

The sandwich is much larger than I thought it would be. It has a generous helping of chicken breast with an especially crunchy breading. Four slices of pickles were hidden under the meat, with a good amount of mayo spread on top. 

As with most of the chicken at Popeyes, the flavor was very good. Thanks to the crispy breading, it has a satisfying crunch when you bite, with the fried-chicken taste intact. 

It was very tender, and the ratio of chicken to bread was satisfactory. This sandwich didn’t need any extra sauce. 

Hector told us that the breading is different from the breading on the restaurant’s other chicken items, as it’s made with a buttermilk, oregano and secret ingredients. 

He also said the chicken sandwich is likely here to stay, as the company spent serious money on new equipment for the special purpose of making it.

Popeyes menu addition seems to have provided at least an initial boost to its restaurants. The DeLand restaurant staff told us that they’ve more than doubled their sales, which normally run around $4,000 a day.

The Popeye’s chicken sandwich cost me $3.99.

 

Chick-fil-A 

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Chick-fil-A

1141 Saxon Blvd., Orange City, FL 32763

As the “home of the original chicken sandwich,” according to its marketing, Chick-fil-A has long been considered the reigning champ of chicken sandwiches. 

Their sandwich also comes in either the original flavor or spicy. 

While I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of Chick-fil-A’s original chicken sandwich, I’ve ordered the spicy version regularly for years.  

In an attempt to level the playing field for this survey, I went with their original chicken sandwich with all the bells and whistles. 

The Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich doesn’t come with mayo, but it does come with pickles. Mayo and other sauces can be added. 

Chick-fil-A’s sandwich is a lot smaller than Popeyes, with less breading. It may be a more kid-friendly or senior-friendly option for those who would prefer a smaller sandwich with softer breading. 

A Chick-fil-A employee told me that customers ask all the time if there’s a larger version of their chicken sandwich.

I now find myself questioning whether I can truly consider Chick-fil-A to be the reigning champ any longer. The original sandwich seems a bit bland to me, and I still prefer the spicy. 

I do like that the breading on Chick-fil-A’s chicken is actually spicy, instead of only the mayonnaise, but sometimes I am still hungry after only one sandwich. 

I paid $3.65 for the original Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.  

 

Local options

While fast-food chains are great and all, I really wanted to do more than compare the two corporate giants. After talking to a few friends and doing some internet reconnaissance, I found a few local options. 

 

Rachel’s Wing Shack 

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Rachel’s Wing Shack

495 Old Daytona Rd., DeLand, FL 32724

While best known for their chicken wings, Rachel’s Wing Shack in DeLand offers other menu items, including hamburgers and briskets. 

Rachel’s also offers a chicken sandwich. Along with the usual lettuce and tomato, the restaurant also offers sauces to put on it. 

I ordered mine plain.

The Rachel’s sandwich was bigger than Chick-fil-A’s, but smaller than Popeye’s. It was thinner than both.

The chicken itself was soft, and every bite had a buttery taste, which no doubt came from the buttery bun. The breading lacked any noticeable seasonings.

The Rachel’s chicken sandwich struck me as more of a homemade type. It was a bit plain, but perhaps I should have added some toppings. 

I paid $7 for the Rachel’s Wing Shack chicken sandwich with a side.

 

Spring Hill BBQ and Soul Food Lounge

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Spring Hill BBQ & Soul Food Lounge 

905 S. Adelle Ave., DeLand, FL 32720

When I visited Spring Hill BBQ and Soul Food Lounge a few weeks ago, I had a one-on-one experience with their fried-chicken sandwich.

The big distinction here is the bone-in presentation. The sandwich, also, is served on white bread, not a bun.

If you don’t mind maneuvering around the bones in the breast, this chicken sandwich is worth trying. 

It was a bit drier than either the Popeyes or Chick-fil-A sandwiches, but you can order pretty much any topping to alleviate that. 

This was also by far the biggest chicken sandwich, but accounting for the bone, the Popeye’s chicken sandwich likely actually has more chicken.  

I paid $6 for the Spring Hill BBQ and Soul Food Lounge chicken sandwich

 

O’Learys Irish Pub

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O’Learys Irish Pub

24 N. Charles Richard Beall Blvd. #17-92, DeBary, FL 32713

I’ve visited two neighbors of O’Leary’s — Nonna Maria’s Pizzeria and Italian Ristorante and DeBary Diner — for Foodie Files. I thought I’d give their chicken sandwich try. 

The sandwich comes with lettuce, tomato, and “O’Leary sauce,” which our server told us contains hot sauce and tastes almost like a sweet-and-sour sauce.

The sandwich was very juicy and the sauce was flavorful, but not so much hot. It appeared the chicken itself was highly seasoned, and I could taste a bit of pepper. 

This was a strong contrast to the sandwich from Rachel’s. I found this sandwich to almost have too much seasoning for my taste.

In the end, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I was happy this sandwich wasn’t as plain as some of the others. 

I paid $9.99 for the O’Learys Irish Pub chicken sandwich (that price includes a side of french fries or coleslaw).

 

So, who’s the best?

So who has the best chicken sandwich? It’s hard to say. While I can’t say all of them were great, I can say that none of them were terrible.

Popeye’s seemed to be the most promising. The size of the chicken, its flavor and the crunchy breading all impressed me. 

But is it the best chicken sandwich ever made? Probably not. I think there’s room for improvement.

If you are perfectly happy with the size and flavor of the Chick-fil-A sandwich, you may not care so much about what Popeyes has to offer, but if you’ve been wishing for a larger helping of a good old chicken sandwich, you may find what you’re looking for at Popeyes.

And, don’t forget the local options. The “shop local” principle applies here. While national chains pay taxes and provide jobs for local residents, at locally owned restaurants, more of your money stays in your community.

Are there any other places with top-tier chicken sandwiches? Give us your recommendation via email: david@beacononlinenews.com.