It’s not that Popeyes was innovative when they came up with their fried chicken sandwich. It’s not a new thing. It’s not as if every other fast food chain on Earth was only just now aware that frying a boneless chicken breast and putting it between bread was possible.
It’s because it was Popeyes. Popeyes, much as I love them, has always been an also-ran in the fast food game, at least in Oklahoma. So when people across the nation began lining up for a fried chicken sandwich—again, an item that has existed for quite a while—that everybody else started freaking out.
Does A&W have a fried chicken sandwich yet? Long John Silvers? I’m sure we’re literally seconds away from Taco Bell announcing their new Fried Chicken Chalupa. It’s all about money. Everybody is fighting for the same dollar.
Enter Jack in the Box, which is a fairly recent addition to Oklahoma’s fast food scene, and their new fried chicken sandwich, The Cluck.
As you might have read in previous Garbage Time editions, Becky and I (and sometimes Luscious Ben Luschen) have been eating these fried chicken sandwiches so that you, the consumer, know whether it’s worth eating. Here are a few links:
Popeyes vs. Chick-fil-a vs. Wendy’s
Whataburger’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich
KFC’s Cheetos Chicken Sandwich
And now, our reviews of:
Becky “I Actually Don’t Like Cars, Nor Am I A Man” Carman
I’ll start by saying that 1). I have always been afraid of jack-in-the-boxes thanks to an ill-advised anti-drug commercial that aired a lot when I was a child, and 2). I go to Jack in the Box maybe once every two years, just because I never think about it until I am driving by it, which is almost never. Are those things related? I don’t know. This is about chicken sandwiches.
I order the same thing every time: a junior bacon cheeseburger, one egg roll, and two tacos. My sister, whose usual-and-same-frequency order is identical, and I have affectionately dubbed it “The World Tour.” I’ve always thought of the chain as something of a lone wolf in the fast food game, which is why I’m not going to roast Jack for waiting this long to throw his little pointy hat into the novelty item de l'année chicken sandwich scuffle. (I think that’s like “du jour” but for a whole year. Probably.)
“The Cluck” is way cheap for a fast food chicken sandwich combo—$4.99! Cheaper than McDonald’s and cheaper than Whataburger’s flat little abomination, AND you can get curly fries. Jack, you old so-and-so.
Even after the drive home and with a substantial dousing of “mystery sauce,” the chicken stayed pretty crispy and had a golden, ragged-edged crust on it, closer to a KFC texture than to a chicken nugget. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but this chicken looks like it might have been at least glanced at by a human during production. Soft, shiny bun; tart pickles in the correct quantity and thickness; tangy, mayonnaise-y mystery sauce; crispy chicken...what’s not to like? It wasn’t especially spicy or unique, and while the chicken had a lovely ‘hey this is real meat’ texture, it didn’t taste like all that much on its own. But with fries and a drink? Sure as heck worth $5.
It’s also cute (see photo). I believe it to be a tiny bit smaller than similar sandwich offerings elsewhere, or I have gotten larger since we last spoke. Perhaps it is a bit of both. The possibly diminutive size and *special* sandwich packaging make it feel more like a novelty item and less like a drive-thru of shame, but it’s not so small you’ll be disappointed. This meal, in a size small, is probably closer to the volume of food one is actually supposed to eat during a single midday meal than, say, the amount of food I actually ate during this midday meal. Managed to squeak in a “plus two tacos!!” before pulling up to the window to pay. A North American Tour, as it were.
Tl;dr: Not bad.
Greg “I Also Don’t Like Cars, But That Joke Doesn’t Work With My Name Anyway” Elwell
I wasn’t going into The Cluck like I did “Avengers: Endgame” or anything, but I did have some hope that this would be better than Wendy’s awful chicken sandwich and the truly horrendous version peddled by Whataburger. They got even higher when Becky texted me that it was “not bad,” which is about as effusive as Becky’s praise gets.
Take a look at it and, yeah, this is about right. The breading isn’t as thin as Chick-fil-a’s or as voluminous as Popeyes, but it’s a good size, decent thickness, and it fits neatly on the bun without a bunch of sauce dripping out the edges. Open it up and there are a few pickles (probably not made in-house, lol) and some sauce, but, again, it’s a reasonable amount of sauce. Who is it that wants a messy sandwich, honestly?
Bun is nice and soft. Pickles have just a little acid to them. The chicken is pretty tender, pretty moist, and the breading tastes good and retains some crunch, even after a bit of a car ride. It tastes good. It’s not going to change the way you think about sandwiches or anything, but it’s a very tasty little fried chicken sandwich. Like, I think I will order this instead of a burger the next time I’m at Jack in the Box. Plus some tacos.
SPECIAL BONUS REVIEW:
The Cluck Deluxe
Is it time for a guacamole intervention? The Cluck Deluxe is basically exactly the same as The Cluck above except with more crud. Lettuce, tomato, way too much mayo, crispy bacon slivers, and guac. And it sucks.
The Cluck is great. I like it a lot. If I’m near a Jack in the Box and I’m hungry and I’m in a hurry, that’s what I’m getting. And some tacos. You have to get the tacos, I don’t make the rules.
Maybe “sucks” is too harsh, but it’s certainly a more expensive downgrade. Bacon adds almost nothing in either flavor or texture. The chicken is already crispy, so more crunch isn’t doing much. Plus, it’s glued to the chicken via guac, which de-crisps the chicken and the bacon anyway. Ugh. The user interface on here is ridiculous.
Lettuce and tomato are fine, I guess, but they really don’t bring much to the party, except for a place to smear on mayo. And I like mayo! But this is too much mayo. Especially when you’ve added guacamole. Like, how wet does this thing need to be?
That’s it. That’s the review. It’s a less-good version of the cheaper sandwich also sold at the same place. Do not get The Cluck Deluxe. Just get The Cluck. And tacos. You have to have tacos.