I'm a die-hard Chick-fil-A fan who just went to Popeyes for the first time to try the new sandwich. I probably won't go back.

Chick-fil-A fan goes to PopeyesDave Johnson

  • Popeyes has introduced a new chicken sandwich that's getting rave reviews and positive comparisons to Chick-fil-A.
  • As a long-time Chick-Fil-A fan, I wanted to compare the overall meal at Popeyes to what I already knew and loved.
  • While the food was surprisingly good, the overall experience at Popeyes lags far behind what I have come to expect at Chick-fil-A.

Popeyes and Chick-fil-A are suddenly and unexpectedly embroiled in a chicken feud.

The two franchises traditionally sell relatively different fare - Popeyes focuses on Cajun-influenced chicken with an emphasis on fried chicken pieces, while Chick-fil-A is known for sandwiches and tenders. All that changed last week when Popeyes rolled out its new chicken sandwich, available in both a classic and spicy version.

The sandwich is so new that the company didn't add it to its web site's menu for at least a week, though Popeyes took the time to engage in a weirdly fascinating Twitter exchange with rival Chick-fil-A.

Read more: I ate spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, and Wendy's, and Popeyes' was majorly disappointing

As a committed Chick-fil-A fan, I tend to have lunch there at least once a week, usually enjoying either a spicy chicken sandwich or Chick-n-Strips.

But whether out of convenience or a weird aversion to the name, I've never been through the doors of one - not even once. But when Business Insider's Irene Jiang gushed about how much better the new sandwich was compared to Chick-fil-A's old standby, I had to taste it for myself.

Rather than just comparing the two sandwiches, I took a different approach: I wanted to know what the overall experience of eating at Popeyes was like, and how it compares to my more familiar Chick-fil-A dining experience.

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There are perhaps a dozen Popeyes in the greater LA area, but none are near me on the west side of the city, so I had to drive about a half hour to reach the closest one. Positioned at the corner of a strip mall, the street-side entrance is about what you’d expect — it’s clean and attractive.

There are perhaps a dozen Popeyes in the greater LA area, but none are near me on the west side of the city, so I had to drive about a half hour to reach the closest one. Positioned at the corner of a strip mall, the street-side entrance is about what you’d expect — it’s clean and attractive.

But to get there from the parking lot, you have to carefully navigate past a line of traffic at the drive-through.

But to get there from the parking lot, you have to carefully navigate past a line of traffic at the drive-through.

Wanting the best overall Popeyes experience, I checked Yelp to see which one to drive to. Unfortunately, crowdsourced reviews have not been kind to Popeyes in LA. They’re pretty much all 1.5 or 2 stars, which was not super encouraging.

Wanting the best overall Popeyes experience, I checked Yelp to see which one to drive to. Unfortunately, crowdsourced reviews have not been kind to Popeyes in LA. They’re pretty much all 1.5 or 2 stars, which was not super encouraging.

Stepping inside though, I immediately doubted the online reviews. The first thing you see is a charming rack of jars with decorative beans, rice, and spices designed to visually divide the register from the dining area.

Stepping inside though, I immediately doubted the online reviews. The first thing you see is a charming rack of jars with decorative beans, rice, and spices designed to visually divide the register from the dining area.

But despite multiple registers and a line of only about three people ahead of me, I had to wait more than 15 minutes for my order to be taken. It was unclear why nothing was happening.

But despite multiple registers and a line of only about three people ahead of me, I had to wait more than 15 minutes for my order to be taken. It was unclear why nothing was happening.

Before I left home, I had installed the Popeyes app. I was hoping I’d love the food and could start building points in a reward program right away. I diligently use apps for Chick-fil-A app and Jimmy John’s because those chains award points for free food just for scanning the app at the register. Alas, Popeyes has no such promotion program.

Before I left home, I had installed the Popeyes app. I was hoping I’d love the food and could start building points in a reward program right away. I diligently use apps for Chick-fil-A app and Jimmy John’s because those chains award points for free food just for scanning the app at the register. Alas, Popeyes has no such promotion program.

The menu was a mix of familiar and tantalizingly different. For someone used to seeing nothing but burgers and chicken on illuminated menus, it was cool seeing shrimp as well as New Orleans staples like red beans & rice and jambalaya.

The menu was a mix of familiar and tantalizingly different. For someone used to seeing nothing but burgers and chicken on illuminated menus, it was cool seeing shrimp as well as New Orleans staples like red beans & rice and jambalaya.

Finally reaching the register, I decided to try a Popeyes version of the meal I know best from Chick-fil-A. I ordered the new chicken sandwich (the spicy version, of course) meal, which included Cajun fries and a soda. How are the deserts? Let’s find out. I added a pecan pie. I wanted apple, but they were sold out.

Finally reaching the register, I decided to try a Popeyes version of the meal I know best from Chick-fil-A. I ordered the new chicken sandwich (the spicy version, of course) meal, which included Cajun fries and a soda. How are the deserts? Let’s find out. I added a pecan pie. I wanted apple, but they were sold out.

The total came to a reasonable $10.06, which is exactly 71 cents cheaper than a similar lunch at Chick-fil-A: chicken sandwich, waffle fries, soda, and a cookie for dessert.

The total came to a reasonable $10.06, which is exactly 71 cents cheaper than a similar lunch at Chick-fil-A: chicken sandwich, waffle fries, soda, and a cookie for dessert.

While I waited for my meal, I noticed the overall upkeep of the restaurant left a little to be desired. The restrooms were out of order. The floor was stickier than a run-down movie theater. Although the ambiance isn't the most important thing for a fast-food restaurant, the service did stand in contrast to Chick-fil-A, where employees famously say "my pleasure" and offer to refill your drink for you.

While I waited for my meal, I noticed the overall upkeep of the restaurant left a little to be desired. The restrooms were out of order. The floor was stickier than a run-down movie theater. Although the ambiance isn't the most important thing for a fast-food restaurant, the service did stand in contrast to Chick-fil-A, where employees famously say "my pleasure" and offer to refill your drink for you.

The food has arrived! I was eating in, but the meal was delivered in a to-go bag anyway. I didn’t see trays in use at any of the other tables, so perhaps they don’t have any.

The food has arrived! I was eating in, but the meal was delivered in a to-go bag anyway. I didn’t see trays in use at any of the other tables, so perhaps they don’t have any.

Here’s my meal: the spicy chicken sandwich, Cajun fries, and a pecan pie.

Here’s my meal: the spicy chicken sandwich, Cajun fries, and a pecan pie.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right up front: the fries are amazing. Hot, crisp, and spicy, they had a wonderful outer crispness and soft mashed-potato-like inner texture which I knew would not be nearly as good cold, so I ate pretty much all of them right away.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way right up front: the fries are amazing.  Hot, crisp, and spicy, they had a wonderful outer crispness and soft mashed-potato-like inner texture which I knew would not be nearly as good cold, so I ate pretty much all of them right away.

They were delicious on their own, without dipping them in anything. In fact, ketchup would have ruined the salty, spicy flavor. In comparison, the reason I dip Chick-fil-A fries in ranch dressing is so they’ll taste like something.

They were delicious on their own, without dipping them in anything. In fact, ketchup would have ruined the salty, spicy flavor. In comparison, the reason I dip Chick-fil-A fries in ranch dressing is so they’ll taste like something.

The sandwich looks pretty good. My first observation is that it’s noticeably larger and more full-bodied than the Chick-fil-A version I’m used to eating. Thanks to a generously thick cut of bird, it has some heft.

The sandwich looks pretty good. My first observation is that it’s noticeably larger and more full-bodied than the Chick-fil-A version I’m used to eating. Thanks to a generously thick cut of bird, it has some heft.

Not only is there a nice, tangy mayo dressing on this sandwich, but it’s super crunchy. Not a half-hearted crunch, like it’s been slowly melding with the brioche bun into sogginess under a heat lamp for a while. Nope, this chicken commits to the crunch with each satisfying bite.

Not only is there a nice, tangy mayo dressing on this sandwich, but it’s super crunchy. Not a half-hearted crunch, like it’s been slowly melding with the brioche bun into sogginess under a heat lamp for a while. Nope, this chicken commits to the crunch with each satisfying bite.

It’s not just moist — it’s downright juicy. And spicy, too, with a kick that hits you from the very first bite. The overall flavor, juiciness, and crunch made this a better sandwich than I’ve ever had at Chick-fil-A. My favorite chicken sandwich ever? Yeah, probably.

It’s not just moist — it’s downright juicy. And spicy, too, with a kick that hits you from the very first bite.  The overall flavor, juiciness, and crunch made this a better sandwich than I’ve ever had at Chick-fil-A. My favorite chicken sandwich ever? Yeah, probably.

Something I appreciate about Popeyes: the soda dispenser is self-serve. Yes, that’s no doubt why the floor is so sticky, but at least you can get a refill in a hurry. At Chick-fil-A, getting a refill is free, but it’s only marginally less time-consuming than waiting in line at the DMV.

Something I appreciate about Popeyes: the soda dispenser is self-serve. Yes, that’s no doubt why the floor is so sticky, but at least you can get a refill in a hurry. At Chick-fil-A, getting a refill is free, but it’s only marginally less time-consuming than waiting in line at the DMV.

My bag featured three kinds of condiments: honey (probably best for the biscuit, which I didn’t order), hot sauce (which I didn’t need — this sandwich was satisfyingly spicy) and ketchup, which would be a travesty to apply to these awesome Cajun fries.

My bag featured three kinds of condiments: honey (probably best for the biscuit, which I didn’t order), hot sauce (which I didn’t need — this sandwich was satisfyingly spicy) and ketchup, which would be a travesty to apply to these awesome Cajun fries.

Reminiscent of a Burger King dessert, this pie is shaped like an old fashioned triangle of pie. It looks promising, with a thick filling and generous layer of pecans on top. But the single biggest sensation you get from this pie is “cold.”

Reminiscent of a Burger King dessert, this pie is shaped like an old fashioned triangle of pie. It looks promising, with a thick filling and generous layer of pecans on top. But the single biggest sensation you get from this pie is “cold.”

The filling was too sweet — to the point of being cloying — which meant I was unable to finish the entire slice. On the plus side, the crust was buttery and a little bit flakey, but that wasn’t enough to salvage what was a regrettable misfire.

The filling was too sweet — to the point of being cloying — which meant I was unable to finish the entire slice. On the plus side, the crust was buttery and a little bit flakey, but that wasn’t enough to salvage what was a regrettable misfire.

Popeyes is a bit of a mixed bag. My meal — at least, the sandwich and fries — was delicious and worth a return trip. It’s hard to overstate how refreshingly delicious the chicken sandwich turned out to be. But I missed the ambiance of Chick-fil-A, and the lack of flourishes like a rewards program was disappointing. I may return to Popeyes for some more chicken sandwich goodness, but I probably won’t make a regular habit out of eating there.

Popeyes is a bit of a mixed bag. My meal — at least, the sandwich and fries — was delicious and worth a return trip. It’s hard to overstate how refreshingly delicious the chicken sandwich turned out to be. But I missed the ambiance of Chick-fil-A, and the lack of flourishes like a rewards program was disappointing. I may return to Popeyes for some more chicken sandwich goodness, but I probably won’t make a regular habit out of eating there.
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