First things first: No really, I'd never eaten at a Chick-fil-A until this week. It's not too big a surprise—they're few and far between up north, where I moved from a bit less than two years ago. And frankly, without the encouragement of my colleagues, why would I?
But I arrived at the Sawyer Heights location with three colleagues and an open mind. I was shocked to be directed around the parking lot by a policeman in full uniform. Apparently, Chick-fil-A now takes priority over hurricane recovery—surely a good sign for the state of the city, or at least its overwhelming appetite for fried chicken. And his presence (and that of the other cop on the other side of the building) was not in vain. There were enough cars even around 11:30 a.m. to necessitate someone directing traffic to parking spaces and around the drive-through windows.
The interior was decorated in construction paper representations of apples, text books and other primary color trappings of elementary school. Obviously, this was timed to coincide with the first day of school, but it felt somehow right at any time of year. Perhaps because it corresponded to the simplicity of the menu, especially other fast food spots that cram near infinite options onto the board. But at Chick-fil-A, you can pretty much choose a sandwich, nuggets or tenders. At the suggestion of my colleagues, I did the first of those.
But rather than sticking with the standard waffle fries, I wanted to pay homage to native Houstonian and State of Grace owner Ford Fry. He created the Superfood Side, which Chick-fil-A added to the menu in place of coleslaw early last year. It's a little black tub filled with chopped kale and broccoli rabe. There are sour cherries on top and a bag of roasted almonds, walnuts and pecans to add waiting on the side. Supposedly it's tossed in maple vinaigrette, but mine was plain. It would have been much appreciated in aid of covering the rabe's more... sulphuric attributes.
The sandwich? Utterly pleasant, except for some raw flour still adhering to the coating. Otherwise, I would categorize it below Burger King's meaty Crispy Chicken Sandwich, but just slightly above (and similar to, in both chicken and bun) Wendy's Homestyle Chicken Sandwich. A perfectly acceptable sandwich, but nothing that would seem to necessitate police escorts.
But Chick-fil-A isn't afraid of innovation, even if it doesn't work, like the space-age trash can above that never quite worked, at least while I was there. No one in my party had tried the Frosted Lemonade, but I decided to give it a whirl, imagining something like New England classic Del's Frozen Lemonade. What arrived at my table (I was disarmed by the fact that there was table service) was white. Very white. I took a sip and struggled to parse exactly what I was tasting. It was too creamy to be lemonade... After a few sips, it became clear, this was a vanilla milk shake with a little bit of lemonade in it. Which is an idea whose time has not come. If it does, I'll eat Werner Herzog's shoe.
So I've experienced Chick-fil-A and lived to tell about it. Will I return? Probably not. Though I do like that table service...