Nosh Box: A Game of Chicken Ruffles Feathers

Chicken takes over as the most popular meat, and here are a few spots worth investigating for tasty bites.


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Bakesale Betty's Fried Chicken Sandwich

Sonny Abesamis

Kick off the New Year by syncing your taste buds with the current national protein-eating trend. For nearly eons, beef was the most popular meat in American. Seems now our tastes align with other nations, making chicken the most popular meat in the world as well as at home.

This bloodless coup happened about seven years ago when the crossover occurred. Statistics showed domestic chicken consumption then at nearly 60 pounds per capita. By 2017 that figured had ballooned to about 108 pounds and continues growing.

Straight from the Chicken’s Beak – Several reasons drive chicken’s popularity. Whether called farming or ranching, compared to cattle or hogs, raising chickens is relatively low-cost and easy, requiring fewer resources, with a much lighter carbon footprint. And hens excel as egg-layers, providing a neatly packaged, relatively low-cost, additional source of protein.

Chickens have been assimilated in the cuisine and cultures worldwide. Their meat has been modified to accommodate regional tastes, from Asian Kung-Pao to Nashville-style hot chicken in the South.

But we deviate from the rest of the world on one important element: our most popular poultry part. For us it’s chicken breasts by a landslide, while the rest of the world prefers thighs.

This preference is not lost on a fast-food industry that offers chicken breast sandwiches to supplement burger sales. Nor is it lost on the international chicken trade, which exports — though some claim dumps — mega-tons of fryer-breasts to the USA. This maneuver helps to keep domestic prices low for supermarket loss leaders. And bountifully supplies the demand for fried chicken sandwiches in the dustup between two fast-food giants.

The Battle of the Breasts – The two top contenders are:

In This Corner: Ranked No. 1 nationally, and weighing in at $3.69, wearing a toasted buttered bun, the Chick-fil-A sandwich of boneless breast, “… seasoned to perfection, hand-breaded, pressure cooked in 100 percent refined peanut oil and served with dill pickle chips.”

In The Opposite Corner: The spunky newcomer from New Orleans, Louisiana, weighing in at $3.99 cents, wearing a toasted brioche bun, Popeyes crispy chicken sandwich, “… a buttermilk-battered and hand-breaded white meat fillet, topped with pickles and spicy Cajun spread …”

After a successful August introduction, Popeyes was forced to halt sales because supplies ran out. With a shrewd move in late October, Popeyes announced the return of its fried chicken sandwich would be Nov. 3 — a Sunday, when Chick-fil-A is closed because of conservative Christian convictions.

This action followed initial salvos, when the two sniped at each other in iterative Tweets, thereby stimulating consumer demand — primarily for Popeyes newly introduced product. Consumer demand quickly translated into block-long lines awaiting return of the spicy sandwich. Soon, in-line tempers flared. On Nov. 4, in Maryland, a squabble about line-cutting escalated into a stabbing that sadly took the life of a customer in the queue.

Think Globally – Munch Locally – With such strong emotional response, “ … whose cuisine reigns supreme?” The response is crickets, because only a personal taste can tell.
The answer perhaps lies outside the box: Look elsewhere and start locally. Nearby eateries that fill the bill range from informal to elaborate with the common thread of a boldly seasoned chicken breast sandwich — either as the sole attraction or buried within a copious menu.
Bid the franchise guys adieu. Check out the spots below to find your own local contender.

900 Grayson St., 900 Grayson St., Berkeley, 510-704-9900, 900Grayson.com. Burgers, breakfast, and comfort food in tiny, funky surroundings.

Bakesale Betty, 5098 Telegraph, Oakland. 510-985-1213, BakeSaleBetty.com. The only sandwich on this Chez Panisse alum’s menu.

Clove & Hoof, 4001 Broadway, Oakland, 510-547-1446, CloveAndHoofOakland.com. Condiments include caramelized fish sauce, pickled pineapple, herb salad, and curry mayo.

Hawking Bird, 4901 Telegraph, Oakland. 510-593-.2376, HawkingBird.com. Southeast Asian approach to chicken cookery.

Old Kan Beer & Co., 95 Linden St., Oakland, 510-338-3965, Old-Kan.com. Sandwiches with slaw and aioli on sesame buns.

Pinky and Red’s, 2495 Bancroft Way, ASUC, Berkeley, 510-255-1516, PinkyAndReds.com. In the UC Berkeley Student Union building.

Proposition Chicken, 3260 Lakeshore, Oakland, 510-808-5172, PropositionChicken.com. Offering chicken three ways: “… fried, flipper, and fake.”

Stella Nonna, 1407 San Pablo, Berkeley, 510-524-3400, StellaNonna.com. Food with a mid-west twist including a classic chicken sandwich tucked within their menu.

World Famous Hot Boys, 1601 San Pablo, Oakland, no phone, WorldFamousHotBoys.com. Nashville-style hot chicken in three heat levels.

 

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