July 4, 2005

The (All-American) Spicy Chicken Sandwich

The great holiday of Independence Day brings many great thoughts into the minds of the eating public. Grilled hot dogs, charcoal-scorched hamburgers, potato salad, and patriotic Jell-o seem to jump into the front of one’s mind when he or she thinks of the fourth of July. A great spirit of picnicking seizes me on this national holiday. However, Fourth of July picnics have food that is priceless, so I was forced to review another American tradition over my fireworks filled patriotically inspired four-day weekend. I turned to Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich, a concoction that is as basic to Wendy’s survival as the 1812 Overture is to A Capitol Fourth.

The Spicy Chicken Sandwich is, of course, the food that sets Wendy’s apart from other fast-food restaurants. Though square hamburgers and the famous Frosty are unique traits of the house that Dave Thomas built, the Spicy Chicken Sandwich is Wendy’s proverbial “bread and butter”. Although I was tempted to review a cheeseburger in the American spirit, I can seldom resist the calling of a crisp, spicy chicken fillet when inside the hallowed doors of Wendy’s.

Eating the sandwich is not an inexpensive proposition, as is eating almost anything at Wendy’s. The Spicy Chicken meal is $4.99, and buying the sandwich alone saves little more than a few Roosevelts. However, if one is in the mood to splurge on his or her fast food, he or she can do little better than Dave’s flagship sandwich. I have always admired the spicy chicken for its delicious flavor and crispy outside. The chicken itself is a substantial piece of meat; it is not thin or floppy like a McChicken Sandwich and is not ground and grainy like Burger King’s feather-brained offerings. It is a true piece of chicken, complete with firm tasty white meat and dashed with a delicious amount of spice. A few years ago, Wendy’s made the chicken patty even crispier, a move that delighted my taste buds. The old sandwich was sufficiently crispy, but the new patty truly crunches upon the impact of one’s incisors, and leaves the eater feeling excited and rewarded. Additionally, Wendy’s sandwiches the tasty patty between a high-quality buns. I have never seen such a doughy, delicious wonder in any fast food offerings outside of Wendy’s chicken sandwich family, but the competition should take some notes. The bun very nearly makes the sandwich.

However, when many Americans think of a Spicy Chicken Sandwich, they do not think of the bun, the breading, or even the chicken of the sandwich. The word “spicy” hangs like a storm cloud over many individual’s impressions of a meal. Some do not like hot foods. Others have not tried them but avoid them at all costs. Personally, I believe that everyone should try spicy food once. It should be noted, though, that I am an advocate of spicy food. Wings cannot be too hot for me, and I love a good dash of hot sauce on nearly any meal. Having said this, I would rate the spicy chicken’s level of hot as “zingy”. One can definitely sense the spiciness, but it wears off after a drink of lemonade or spoonful of Frosty. It is, however, a pleasant and flavorful addition to an often-dull selection of fast food sandwiches that confronts our nation’s workers when they decide which restaurant to frequent for lunch.

I understand that many do not think of “chicken” when they think of America and the Fourth of July. However, in the same way that Uncle Sam championed Liberty Bonds, the late Dave Thomas used to feature his Spicy Chicken Sandwich. Though it is a definite stretch, I feel vindicated in reviewing the Spicy Chicken Sandwich on America’s Birthday. However, though the parallels between the spicy chicken and the Fourth of July are somewhat dubious, I have no doubt in giving the Spicy Chicken Sandwich four and a half (red white and blue) sporks out of a possible five. A high price keeps this otherwise-perfect sandwich from receiving a perfect rating. However, Wendy’s deserves commendation for this excellent, if not patriotic, effort. Happy clucking, Wendy’s, and happy birthday, America.

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