Restaurant News & Reviews

Popeyes chicken sandwich that people are freaking out over can be hard to find in Wichita

Perhaps by now you have heard of the most hyped fast-food product of the century: The new chicken sandwich at the chicken chain Popeyes.

The sandwich is causing quite a stir and has been been written about and written about this week. So many people want to try it, restaurants across the country are experiencing shortages. Even in Wichita.

Popeyes didn’t have fried chicken sandwiches on the menu until Aug. 12, and now it has two — a classic sandwich with mayo and a spicy one with a Cajun spread. They’re buttermilk battered and served on a toasted brioche bun with pickles, and they’re $3.99 apiece.

After seeing an online review on Tuesday night from a Wichita chef I highly respect — “For fast food, I would say it’s the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had,” he wrote — I decided I’d better give it a try.

Photojournalist Jaime Green and I arrived at the Popeyes at Central and West shortly after noon on Wednesday and walked in to find a long line of people. The four guys standing closest to us looked disappointed and told me that there were no sandwiches at this restaurant. At noon!

They got in their car and we got in ours, and we practically raced to the next closest Popeyes, the one at Harry and South Seneca. (They won.)

This restaurant had sandwiches, but it was a small miracle, the worker there told us. Earlier in the day, they’d been out of the bread required to make the sandwiches, and they had to go raid the Rock Road store to get more. Their stock wasn’t back until 11 a.m. on Wednesday, she said, and the phone started ringing off the hook at 9 a.m. with people demanding to know if they had it.

We got in line behind the four guys we’d seen at the other store, who told us that they’d started as a group of 12 coworkers from Textron — engineers and tech guys — who had set out together determined to try the world’s most coveted sandwich.

Six of them, upon learning about the shortage at Central and West, decided it wasn’t worth a trip across town. The other six decided it was.

Popeyes regulars who wandered in seemed baffled by the crowd, and many of them didn’t seem to know about the life-changing sandwich that was causing such a clamor.

After a significant wait, we finally got to the front of the line and ordered one classic and one spicy sandwich. The guys got theirs first, so we got to observe them taking their initial bites.

Let me say that the new sandwiches are huge with a very substantial hunk of chicken. Talking about the sandwich became a community exercise at the restaurant, and some people who were sitting nearby and had already finished theirs offered a review. “That’s a dinner sandwich, not a lunch sandwich,” proclaimed one very full-looking woman, who had bagged up half of hers to go.

Ibraheem Shaker was the first of the Textron guys to get his sandwich, and he dug in with delight. He loved the spicy sauce, he said, but he wasn’t sure the sandwich was worth all the hype.

Still, it was good, he said.

“I’ll eat it again.”

When our sandwich arrived, and I had photographed it appropriately, I bit in. I love a good fried chicken sandwich, and this was one. The bun was sweet, the chicken was tender and the spicy sauce added to the experience immensely. I tend to agree with the Wichita chef’s review: best fast food chicken sandwich I’ve had in forever.

Let me know if you’ve tried it. And here’s a hot tip: Call your neighborhood Popeyes before you head out to make sure they have the sandwiches in stock.

They may or may not answer the phone, depending on the crowd.

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.