Eater.com doesn’t know Monterrey Jack from a bunny hole, when it comes to Chick-fil-A.
Ryan Sutton, their chief reviewer, penned a cultural coup de poignard against one of the most beloved, tasty, and inexpensive food chains in America. But as usual, it wasn’t because of the food.
I’ve lived in the South for 25 years. For the first 10 of them, I didn’t ever eat at a Chick-fil-A. Not once. I know, it’s a terrible admission. (I honestly didn’t even know how to pronounce it. I said “chick-fill-uh” until I heard someone say “chick filet.” Duh.)
In fact, Sutton ate at the chain before I did–having graduated George Washington University in 2001, he wrote “I used to visit the Chick-fil-A during my D.C. college days, circa 2000, as a cheap and reasonably tasty source of protein after a workout.”
I don’t know what his qualifications to be a food critic are, but degrees in international affairs, Russian literature and international relations somehow led him to become Bloomberg’s restaurant reviewer. Hey, it’s a job, like serving up chicken sandwiches.
Getting to Sutton’s review, titled “You Probably Shouldn’t Eat at Chick-fil-A.” He starts with two paragraphs framing the debate over the company’s Biblical beliefs and politics. The food was somewhere in there too.
This is all to say, reckoning with Chick-fil-A is complicated. There’s the social question, which is how a Biblically grounded institution — whose $8 billion in sales dwarf KFC’s domestic operations — will fare as it expands outside of regions where it’s perceived as a beloved community cornerstone, rather than a venue whose mere presence evokes the type of anger normally directed at unqualified politicians.
What’s obvious here is that Sutton isn’t a fan of Biblical-anything. He used scare-quotes around the words “glorify God,” which is the stated corporate purpose of the Cathy family’s food chain. Sutton quoted Dan Cathy’s remarks to a Baptist publication–for a Baptist audience–about traditional marriage. All this has been litigated years ago, but apparently is still fresh in many peoples’ minds.
Biblically-based companies are to be avoided, regardless of their products, is the message. I suppose Eater’s audience likely doesn’t read Baptist publications.
Sutton suggests we look at Shake Shack or some New York-only chain called Fuku. Let’s compare.
A spicy fried chicken sandwich at Fuku will run you $8. Fries are $3. Granted, that’s in New York City, so let’s compare Chick-fil-A’s New York location–a spicy chicken sandwich combo (including waffle fries and a drink) is $6.19. Now if you want to pay 78 percent more for your fast food, I won’t argue, but if you’re paying because Fuku offers better LGBT benefits, that’s not a topic for a food review.
Shake Shack in Buckhead (Atlanta) will sell you a chicken sandwich for $6.49. Fries are $2.99 extra. But you don’t go to Shake Shack for the chicken (duh!). The only unique part of Shake Shack’s menu is the Pooch-ini® “Shackburger dog biscuit, peanut butter sauce, vanilla custard” for $3.99. Yes, you can feed your four-legged best friend at Shake Shack while you sip a $7.99 glass of Frog’s Leap white wine.
Listen, Gospodin Sutton, you admitted Chick-fil-A’s food is “cheap and reasonably tasty.” Apples to apples, it’s a pretty darn good chicken sandwich for a fast food joint. In fact, it’s delicious. My kids love it, and compared to Wendy’s (which also makes a decent chicken sandwich) or McDonald’s (where I refuse to set foot other than to use the bathroom), it’s really good.
As for world view, I’ll take LA-based In-N-Out Burger for being Biblical. They actually print scripture on their cups and fries containers. Owner Lynsi Torres is a God-glorifying, humble woman, who wrote me one of the kindest letters I’ve ever gotten on corporate letterhead.
I suppose Sutton will now have to get out his blood-red pen and trash In-N-Out too.
Bottom line: unless you want to pay a bunch of money for “progressive” food, that’s just as loaded with calories, fat, salt and sugar as any fast food outlet, you should positively, definitely, eat at Chick-fil-A.