Hold on. Everybody take a deep breath. Tranquilo.
After a heated national debate as to whether Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich is better than Chick-fil-A’s, Seattleites (and lots of other people everywhere, let’s be honest) rolled out to their local Popeyes franchise over the weekend to check it out.
But these same Seattleites worked themselves into a tizzy over the weekend when the Popeyes franchise in White Center posted that it had sold out of that much-hyped fast food until Sept. 1.
Seattle foodies and the fast-food obsessed just about lost it. Fans headed south to Popeyes in Renton, Federal Way and Kent, where numerous reports have surfaced that those branches also sold out as early as Friday afternoon. (We don’t know yet when the Popeyes franchises in Federal Way, Renton and Kent will be replenishing their stocks of the famed fried chicken sandwich. An employee at the Kent franchise said she was unsure when the chicken sandwich would be restocked, and The Seattle Times was unable to get anyone on the phone at the Federal Way and Renton branches. An email inquiry directed at the chain’s national office was not immediately returned.)
Since the sandwich debuted on Aug. 12 to much hype, everyone has been out to make a buck. In Dallas, a strip club offered a free Popeyes chicken sandwich if you checked out its dancers.
Suddenly, a fried chicken breast with pickles and mayo, served on a brioche has become as hot as the latest Air Jordans.
All this absurdity started after the Louisiana fast-food chain got into the Twitter equivalent of a rap feud with Chick-fil-A over who made the better sandwich. People took sides. Words were exchanged. Feelings got hurt.
Decades from now, when advertising gurus and cultural anthropologists may study how big this buzz got, they can point to the Emerald City and say, it was even big in Seattle!
That’s because here more than any other city I’ve seen, we really don’t care about Popeyes. During the summer of 2017, when Popeyes opened off the main drag of White Center, its debut didn’t get the hype on the scale of Shake Shack’s or Bonchon’s arrivals.
I love Popeyes. But I wasn’t going to wait an hour in line for it. And I’ve eaten at more than 70 different Popeyes branches in 11 different states. The White Center Popeyes is the one location where I pretty much have the place to myself. The restaurant sat half-empty the handful of times I’ve been there, including last month. But by Sunday morning, Popeyes in White Center had become the most talked-about restaurant in the Seattle area.
In many metropolitan areas, the current wait time to get a Popeyes chicken sandwich ranges from an hour to 90 minutes. So, of course the backlash has begun, with many saying it’s not worth the hype.
Some social commentators blame this irrational behavior on food critics with their rave reviews. But some context got lost here. Of the dozen reviews that I read, none anointed this the country’s best chicken sandwich nor said that it is worth lining up for. The critics said this is a good sandwich in the context of fast food. It’s good for something that is so cheap, fast and convenient. All those selling points are negated if you wait an hour in line to buy one.
One of those critics, Justin Peters of Slate, put it best in his review:
This spicy chicken sandwich was worth exactly the price I paid for it — $4.33, tax included — and no more. Within five minutes of eating it I had forgotten that it had ever been in my mouth. My life had not been substantially changed. It was nothing worth posting about online about, let alone waiting in line for. It was fine!
Update Tuesday, Aug. 27: According to the Popeyes official Twitter account, the chicken sandwich appeared to have sold out nation-wide.