In recent weeks I’ve sampled McDonald’s new Crispy Chicken Sandwiches and KFC’s effort – both looking to usurp the ruler of the roost, king of the chicken coop – Popeye’s. This week I was excited to finally see Zaxby’s effort launch across the nation – a sandwich that’s been hyped for some time; news first broke on this one as far back as October 2020, with lots of references to the chicken sandwich war.
Zaxby’s have clearly taken a note from Popeye’s playbook – both sandwiches come wrapped in a foil wrapper – both with a fancy design (see all the pictures below). Initial impressions are good. This continues once you greedily dive inside the wrapper. These are handsomely sized sandwiches, and from a first look and feel, the sandwich seems like a strong contender.
The first bite is good. The batter is in the style of Popeye’s classic approach and thankfully not in the mold of McDonald’s recently disappointing releases. It’s got those photo worthy crisp edges all over the place, and it doesn’t tear off to the touch (I’m looking at you again McDs). It’s savory, crunchy fun. But then the signature of this sandwich starts to creep up on the tastebuds.
The overriding assault is one of salt. Now don’t get me wrong, I love salt. I write about fast food professionally. I am no stranger to salt – in fact salt is my long time good buddy and we get along great. But wowwww, these sandwiches (and the sides we tried too I might add) were mouth puckeringly salty. Be sure to grab a large drink with these, maybe glance around for an AED defibrillator while you’re at it too.
The interior chicken is the arguable star of the show. It’s meaty, it’s chewy, it’s moreish stuff, and it tastes like actual damn chicken. The flavor and texture are both really great, but are sadly dragged down by a seriously salty profile. I wondered if I was going mad so I decided to check Zaxby’s nutritional page.
According to the brand, the regular Signature Sandwich with Zax Sauce clocks in at 2540mg of sodium while the spicy comes in at 2610mg. Both pass the 3K mark when ordered as a meal. Bear in mind the FDA recommends to shoot for less than 2300mg in a single day, the Zaxby’s Signature Sandwiches fail to achieve that in a single sandwich. It’s sobering stuff.
After the chicken itself the rest is kinda forgettable. The bun is a run of the mill brioche, that will neither delight nor disappoint. Zaxby’s have taken the same approach to the spicy sandwich as KFC and McDonald’s – they just use a slightly amped up version of regular Zax sauce (an orangy-link hued slightly tangy take on ketchup.). There’s some mild tingle, but it instantly dissipates.
This sandwich could be up there with the best. The batter is crisp and crunchy, the chicken texture is first rate, and tastes like actual chicken; for me though the salt bomb is a deal breaker which just eventually overwhelms. If you want to try them for yourself, both sandwiches are now on menus nationwide starting from $4.99. Here are some details photos of both sandwiches: