I tried the McDonald’s answer to Chick-fil-A next to the real thing, and the winner is obvious

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Whose fried-chicken sandwich will emerge as the chicken supreme?
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Hollis Johnson

In parts of the country, you can’t mention a chicken sandwich without invoking praise for Chick-fil-A.

Its sandwich has reigned supreme for a while, and McDonald’s is taking notice.

The iconic fast-food burger chain overhauled its chicken sandwich with a new buttermilk recipe that has received some positive feedback.

I grew up in New Hampshire and went to college in Boston – which has famously banned Chick-fil-A – so I’ve never truly tried a Chick-fil-A sandwich.

Luckily, the much-anticipated new location in New York City sent us a sample ahead of the opening on October 3, so I decided to put the two chicken-sandwich rivals to the ultimate test.


So here they are, safe, sound, and steaming hot in their respective packages.

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Hollis Johnson

McDonald’s clearly pushes the descriptions of the food a bit more, while Chick-fil-A relies simply on its name to get the idea of tender crispy chicken across.

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Hollis Johnson

Let the chicken championship commence!

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Hollis Johnson

The McDonald’s offering has cooled a bit in its cardboard box, while Chick-fil-A’s insulated baggie keeps the sandwich steaming hot, even after being delivered to our offices.

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Hollis Johnson

Out of the package, McDonald’s has an early advantage: The sandwich is prettier. Bright green lettuce and a substantial tomato slice peek out from under a fancy bun, while Chick-fil-A’s chicken sits humbly on a bed of tiny pickle slices between an average bun.

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Hollis Johnson

Buns off for a closer inspection. Chick-fil-A’s sandwich, on the left, is slightly smaller than the one from McDonald’s — and the chicken sure looks different.

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Hollis Johnson

Way different. Chick-fil-A’s breading looks more natural; McDonald’s almost looks as though it’s trying too hard to be fried chicken.

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Hollis Johnson

Chick-fil-A isn’t breaded all that much. It’s really just enough to get the idea of fried chicken across — nothing super crispy.

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Hollis Johnson

McDonald’s, on the other hand, is ultra-crispy-looking. It’s in the name, after all: Buttermilk Crispy Chicken. The breading is darker, more noticeably textured. Also, that piece of lettuce is huge, right?

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Hollis Johnson

Bun quality is key here. The McDonald’s bun looks amazing, but it’s easily smushed and tastes slightly sweet. There’s definitely a lot of sugar in that. Chick-fil-A’s bun is a modest, sturdy, Plain Jane bun — nothing more, nothing less.

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Hollis Johnson

I’ve done all the pre-taste inspections I can. They seem to be equals up to this point, although McDonald’s looks more appetizing.

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Hollis Johnson

I take a bite of McDonald’s, and I know what to expect. The chicken is adequately good, with decent seasoning and lots of crunch. It managed to do a good job with the chicken-recipe revamp …

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Hollis Johnson

… but almost always too much mayonnaise. Why must these sandwiches drown in gallons of mayo? The sweetish bun and the slightly tart buttermilk seasoning are a nice combo, but the overload of mayonnaise is a little gross. But we’re not talking gourmet here — we’re talking McDonald’s, right?

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Hollis Johnson

A bite into Chick-fil-A, and suddenly I see the light. This sandwich is completely deserving of the fervent praise it gets. The chicken is thick and juicy — compare this to the thickness of McDonald’s — and the pickles add a perfectly piquant hint of vinegar. Nothing but bun, chicken, and pickles here, and it’s glorious.

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Hollis Johnson

In my mind, the winner is clear. Chick-fil-A’s simple approach to the chicken sandwich eclipses the McDonald’s attempts to make its look nice. The simple taste and visible quality easily crown Chick-fil-A the champion of this chicken showdown.

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Hollis Johnson