It seems like every restaurant says their premium chicken sandwich is the best.
The “chicken sandwich” wars started in 2019 with Popeyes’ “now you see it, now you don’t” approach. The chicken fast-foodery offered a juicier chicken sandwich, similar to Chik-Fil-A. It then pulled it from the market, creating more of a demand and a social media outcry.
Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s also started offering premium chicken sandwiches.
Now, Chili’s Grill & Bar says its sandwich puts “all other chicken sandwiches to shame.”
“The premium chicken sandwich has really blown up on social media,” regional operation director Fernando Vega said. “What makes this Chili’s chicken sandwich so special is first, it is hand-breaded, hand-tossed, made-to-order every time. Second is their secret sauce. You’ll love this sauce so much, you’ll want to put it on everything.”
Appetite for Fresno was willing to test out that claim.
Bottom line: it was good, really good. Whether it put others to shame may be marketing hyperbole.
The Secret: Double Breading
At the Chili’s in northwest Fresno, Vega showed how the sandwich is prepared.
The fresh chicken breast is hand-dipped in breading two times, giving it a crispy taste, kitchen manager Tino Lea said. It is served on a potato brioche bun.
It is then doused in a “secret” sauce, 14 lines of sauce on the top, and seven on the bottom. The sauce is similar to “Chik-Fil-A” sauce, sweet with a hint of smokiness.
The breaded chicken patty is larger than the bun and served with shredded lettuce and tomato. It has a crispiness throughout and remains juicy.
The sandwich is for a limited time only, through the end of June. It is part of the “3 for $10” package, which comes with a drink and appetizer, available through “My Chili’s Rewards.”
BK Also Offers a Special Chicken Sandwich
Burger King began offering a new chicken sandwich this month, known as the “Ch’King” sandwich.
A Burger King spokesperson said the fast-food chain spent two years in research and development.
“The intentional-from-scratch preparation of the Ch’King creates a distinct taste and experience – and its spicy counterpart. We start with a freshly prepared thick-cut marinated white meat chicken breast, add crunch that only hand-breading can offer, and top it off with a toasty, potato bun, crisp pickles, and savory signature sauce,” Burger King said.
The Ch’King also comes with a special sauce, but it is not as prevalent as the Chili’s counterpart. It has the usual optional condiments such as lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
While it is crispy like Chili’s offering, it is not as juicy. It is about average among other fast food offerings. Chik-Fil-A may still be the true chicken king among fast-food restaurants.
Help Wanted at Chili’s
Chili’s, like many other Fresno restaurants, is looking for employees at all positions. This is especially true with full capacity coming on June 15.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to be staffed, but we are always looking for new great team members,” Vega said. Employees are called “ChiliHeads.”
Vega said the restaurant kept all managers during the pandemic. Brisk “to-go” business allowed Chili’s to keep many other employees as well. But servers were furloughed.
“When the vaccination process began, it was really tough to get team members,” Vega said. “Anyone that wanted to come back, we were able to bring back.”
A recent hiring effort yielded 100 new employees for Chili’s in the Central Valley. The northwest Fresno Chili’s has about 50 employees.