TSDs Lee Eric Smith took a "sandwich selfie" before sampling the Spicy Chicken Sandwich from Popeyes. (Photo by: Lee Eric Smith)

After five hunting excursions, TSD staffer finds “rare bird” at Popeyes on Union Ave.

By Lee Eric Smith

Earlier this week, I wrote about the mass extinction of the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich— story is on newsstands and was published here at TSDMemphis.com yesterday.

The latest twist on this phenomenon involves a Chattanooga man who is suing Popeyes for $5,000 for running out of the sandwiches.

“I can’t get happy; I have this sandwich on my mind. I can’t think straight,” he told the Times Free Press on Thursday. “It just consumes you.”

He complained of being scammed by a guy on Craigslist, of car damage from his rolling hunt for the sandwich. He says he was ridiculed by his friends for driving around looking for a darn sandwich. Having hit Popeyes on three separate occasions, I was in no place to judge.

So I was shocked – SHOCKED, I TELL YOU – when I learned that a buddy of mine had tried one for the first time the same day – from the Popeyes on Union Avenue. After all, Popeyes had gone to the trouble of putting together a Twitter highlight reel and announcing the sandwich had sold through a supply meant to last through September.

HOW IN THE HELL DID MY BUDDY GET ONE? Well, in his case, his wife picked him up one on the way home, that’s how. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. It was the old double-clutch anti-reverse fakeout.

By announcing that the sandwich had sold out, people stopped lining up at Popeyes to get them — and with fewer people in line demanding the sandwich . . . surprise! You might actually luck out and get one! (Or, in my case, TWO — more on that in a moment).

Just for kicks last night, I swung by the Popeyes on Union on my way home from his place. Who knows, right? I pulled up to see two staffers outside, and I sheepishly asked them the question they’ve come to dread. Worked out, because they gave me the answer I’d come to dread: “We out of chicken sandwiches.”

As I slowly pulled away, I heard one of the workers save the day, though: “We’ll have some more tomorrow,” she said, almost apologetically.

As I pulled away, I wondered if it was true, or if it was just something Popeyes told their employees to say. There was only one way to find out.

I figured that if there was a chance to get one of the sandwiches, it would need to be fairly early in the day. And going by the Popeyes on Union isn’t exactly out of the way on my way to work. I decided to make my fifth attempt at trying this sandwich phenomenon. I’mma even sit down in the restaurant to do it!

The line inside the restaurant was full, but not unwieldy — the kind of busy you might see on any other Friday lunch crunch. People were politely ordering, and my eyes locked on the stainless steel countertop where they stuff bags: “Those sure look like sandwich envelopes bag thingys,” I said to myself.

Even as a few people ahead of me were all ordering the sandwich, I was skeptical. I’ve had enough Charlie Brown experiences to know that just like Lucy snatches the football away from my beleaguered hero, I could conceivably get to the counter and learn they’re out again.

“Welcome to Popeyes, may I take your order?” she said.

“Let me get a Spicy Chicken Sandwich,” I said, fingers crossed.

“Do you want the combo?” she asked. Inside I jumped. That’s what servers say when there’s no doubt about completing the order! I said yes, and she asked if that was all. it wasn’t.

“Let me get a Classic Chicken Sandwich too,” I said. I talked myself into it because, hey, they’re about to run out and I need to sample one for this story, right?

See, time was I wouldn’t flinch at eating two chicken sandwiches, but I’m doing much better lately. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have ordered the second one, but since they’re going to be running out, and I wanted (needed) to sample both — you know, for this story — I doubled up.

And the verdict?

I started with the spicy, because . . . well, spicy. It is an EXCELLENT sandwich, mostly because it delivers on what you would hope for in a chicken sandwich. It’s a large breast fillet for starters, with a twist on that Popeyes seasoning that you already know. It’s also crunchy, and the spicy mayo and pickle provide the additional kick and bite that takes the sandwich over the top. I absolutely didn’t need to eat the second sandwich.

So how was the second sandwich, the “Classic?” Just as delicious in a very different way. The fillet also had that distinctive Popeyes flavor, but with regular mayo instead to go with the pickle slice. I almost always default to a spicy version of anything if it’s available, but I could see myself ordering one of these depending on the mood. It’s also a winner.

As a man of a certain age, I can’t see myself waiting in a wrapped-around-the-building line for a chicken sandwich, period. I mean hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts, that’s something else. But a chicken sandwich from fast food joint?

That said, if you WERE going to wait in line for a chicken sandwich, you’d want it to be worth the wait. And BOTH Popeyes Chicken Sandwiches check that box many times.

That’s in case you decide to take your chances and see if you can get one before they’re gone — again.

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

COMMENTARY: So I finally got ahold of a Popeyes Chicken Sandwich . . .

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