Wednesday, May 18, 2011

French Fry Diary 225: Chick-Fil-A

The claim to fame of Chick-fil-A is their sandwich. The Chick-Fil-A Sandwich was originally created by S. Truett Cathy at the Dwarf Grill in 1946. The chicken is pressure cooked in a deep fryer, the buns rolled in butter, with the trademark pickles of course. The pickles were originally intended as a surprise for the customers. Wow, what a surprise! And while the sandwich, sans pickles of course for the catastrophically picky eaters among us, is darned good, that's not what we're about here. We're here for the favorite fried food.

When I first encountered Chick-fil-A, it was an overlooked little diamond in the rough at the lonely end of the Echelon Mall back in the 1970s. Nobody but a select few knew about it, but those lucky few loved it. Among them were my fry-enabling older sister and brother - thank you, Bobbie and Warren. I still love Chick-fil-A, and them, to this day.

While today Chick-fil-A is world renowned for their amazing Waffle Potato Fries, that's not how they started. Their original fries were shoestrings, similar to Burger King's fries of the time (the good ones, although maybe a bit limp and greasy, but in a good way) and came in single orders in paper sleeves the size of a BK or Mickey D's small fry. A large order however, was a long sleeve, about eight to ten inches long that three of the small orders could be put into one on top of another. Yep, you got it. One large order of the old Chick-fil-A fries was actually three small fries. As always, they were innovative and ahead of its time.

After a while Chick-fil-A caught on and malls everywhere had their own stores and soon, Chick-fil-A began to open their own free standing restaurants outside of malls, hell, sometimes nowhere near malls. In that space of time, specifically 1985, they changed their fries. I'm not sure it was for the better, but it was for the different, and a good kind of different, as Chick-fil-A Waffle Potato Fries are among the best in the fast food world.

The waffle fry is a complex beast, and a combination of several potato-cutting styles. They appear to be discs that are natural cuts in a criss-cross pattern that allows for more even cooking when deep-fried. Chick-fil-A fries are always hot and perfect for munching in the car ride home, so getting two orders on a drive thru run is always necessary. They're addictive.

The waffle fries themselves are huge, sometimes requiring three or four bites. This is truly a prime potato product for the favorite fried food. Now I'm not a fan of potato skins so the tops and bottoms don't thrill me much, but for those that do dig them, those are treasures. And also the tiny bits at the bottom of the bag are very yummy.

Part of the original charm of the Chick-fil-A franchise was that you could take the Chick-fil-As, the boneless white chicken 'patty' (for lack of a better word), and re-heat it when you got home, sometimes days later. They would come six to a box, shaped like a barn (it may have even been called a barn, I don't recall). You could even buy your own Wonder Bread hamburger rolls, butter them, heat them and make your own sandwiches. When the Chick-fil-A sandwich became more popular, they kinda stopped selling the chicken patties unfortunately.

Reheating their food at home still works for any of their chicken products, and also their fries - whether you're using the microwave or the conventional oven. That's really something. But remember if doing a sandwich in the microwave, take it out of the bag. There's foil inside, and if you forget, there be fireworks and eventually fire. Soooo not fun.

I love these fries, they rock. Many try to recreate the magic of the Chick-fil-A Waffle Potato Fry, but nobody comes close. Highly recommended.

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Unknown said...

I like that you mentioned free standing Chick-Fil-A's because there's one down in Lakewood NJ I believe and it's a nice one. When I first saw it I was in disbelief because I don't think I ever saw one that wasn't in a mall or part of a strip of stores. I too love their fries, and unlike you I am hardcore into fries with the skins on them. That's my favorite part!

Adam from GrubGrade said...

Honestly, I hate these fries. Ok, hate is a strong word, but I dislike them, and as a winner of the First 100, I waste an order each time I get the Classic #1. They are always limp for me. I find them undersalted, and they're too big - not good for snackability. BTW, your site is freaking amazing.

Unknown said...

First off, Adam, thank you for the kind words on the site.

Consistency is a major part of any fries from any restaurant. I too have gotten those soggy unsalted fries from Chick-fil-A, but honestly not often. Maybe you should try a different Chick-fil-A?

Seriously, any fry depends on who's doing the cooking. We always hope for the best. :-)

Adam from GrubGrade said...

Agreed Glenn. My personal philosophy is that with small orders of shoestring fries (McDonald's, In-N-Out, the like) there should be maybe 5% "bad" fries per order, and the ability to stay consistant is key. Still, maybe it goes back to the awkwardness and size for me. I am still old school. I will go to a FF place, order a value fry, and take 10 minutes to savor each fry, dipped in ketchup. CFA's fries, to me, offer neither value nor that kind of snackability, and I have been to countless FSU and mall CFA's in my life. But we agree on one thing - we love fries.

I'd be honored if you'd check out some of the fry reviews I've done for GrubGrade.

Unknown said...

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