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While fans fight a Chick-fil-A versus Popeyes chicken war online, Canada chews on its options | The Star

There’s a food fight online, and it’s ruffling feathers everywhere.

Whether the cause was an act of fowl play, or a sincere form of flattery, Twitter is chirping and the internet is breaking, with two names tagged on a torrent of tangy tweets flowing from fingertips: Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.

To hear The Associated Press tell it, a tweet last week kicked off the kerfuffle when fast-food chain Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen announced a new crispy chicken sandwich.

A week later, Chick-fil-A, which holds that while it didn’t invent the chicken, “just the chicken sandwich,” moved to curry favour with fans as the creator of the “original” meat and bun meal.

Egged on, the internet erupted and all heck broke loose in a war that might just be as useless as lips on a bird — especially in Canada, were Popeyes’ sandwich isn’t even offered, and Chick-fil-A has yet to really scratch its way into the market.

While Chick-fil-A has designs to expand north, by way of Toronto, some hangry Canucks are pleading for Popeyes to import its latest creation here.

On the other side of the fence, Chick-fil-A has sparked tempers, rather than appetites, for its history of supporting groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

While the world waits for the internet to come home to roost on which chain has a better sandwich, and whether or not it should have a home in Canada, Star reporters from east to west sampled some homegrown options that deserve a footing in this best cluckin’ battle.

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HALIFAX

In Halifax, you’ll often find people flocking to the iconic Chickenburger restaurant in the suburb of Bedford when they’re feeling peckish for a chicken sandwich.

The Chickenburger dishes up food with a side of nostalgia. The restaurant opened its doors in 1940. Customers enjoy its 1950s atmosphere, which includes a working jukebox. According to its website, the venue is reputedly the oldest drive-in restaurant in Canada.

The Chickenburger restaurant in Halifax in 1964. The Chickenburger could very well be the only restaurant in Atlantic Canada where you'll be asked ? in the dead of winter ? whether you'd like to enjoy your order in the parking lot.

“Here our chicken sandwich is basically just cut up chicken and it’s kept in an au jus. Then it goes on a steamed bun. That’s it. Very basic. That’s the way they did it since they opened here 79 years ago,” explained supervisor Claudia Porter in an interview. “Now, we do have options. People can add onion, mayonnaise, cranberries. Some people go ketchup, mustard and relish. And cheese and bacon seems to be popular as of late.”

Porter believes the restaurant is always hopping because of its family feel and its namesake chickenburger.

“It is the number 1 seller on a daily basis. No doubt about that,” she said.

TORONTO

There’s no shortage of excellent chicken sandwich joints in Ontario’s capital to satisfy even the most discerning of foodies.

At Churrasco St. Lawrence, a modest booth in the St. Lawrence Market, owner Eugene Antunes serves up a generous portion of Portuguese-style barbecued chicken smothered in a slightly spicy piri piri-based sauce. Antunes stressed that he aims to make the homemade sauce, which is not sugar-based, “a bit spicy, but not too much.”

Eugene Antunes is the owner of the popular Churrasco St. Lawrence in the St. Lawrence Market. In October, the grilled chicken eatery in Toronto will be celebrating its 30th anniversary at the location.

If longevity is a sign of success, then Antunes is triumphant: the eatery will celebrate its 30th year at the market in October.

On the other side of town, Toronto actress Amanda Cordner raved about her buttermilk fried chicken caesar sandwich at Porchetta & Co., at 545 King St. W., one of four locations the restaurant has in the city.

“It was very tasty and the chicken was tender and juicy. The caesar sauce was rolling down my wrists,” Cordner said with dramatic flair, noting Friday was her first time visiting the establishment. “I loved the combination of bacon and fried chicken. Indulgent. How can you ever go wrong?”

Asked if she would return, Cordner responded: “Hell, yeah.”

A recent favourite of Torontonians is P.G Clucks, a takeout fried chicken establishment with two locations in the city — one on College St., and one on Bloor in the Annex. P.G Clucks’ chicken is brined for 24 hours in a lemon and herb brine and six hours in buttermilk, according to its website, before being dredged twice and dropped in the deep fryer.

At P.G Clucks’ Annex location, loyal customer Krystina Roman says she keeps coming back for the reliable ratio of crispiness, spice, and juiciness. On Friday, Roman opted to go with the jalapeno and honey sandwich — featuring honey-dipped chicken, sweet pickled jalapenos and fermented jalapeno sauce — instead of her usual choice of the classic chicken sandwich.

“It’s nice when the chicken is moist,” she said, adding the portions are always generous and the temperature of the sandwiches are always perfect, even when she orders from Uber Eats. “It’s everything you want from a chicken sandwich.”

Toronto resident Krystina Roman with her jalepeno and honey chicken sandwich at P.G Clucks on Bloor St., in the Annex. Roman says she loves the sandwiches because the portions are always generous and the meat is always juicy.

CALGARY

The Cluck N Cleaver on 14 St. S.W. is one of Calgary’s top local fried chicken joints.

The restaurant has stolen the hearts — and stomachs — of Calgarians since it opened in 2016. And with good reason.

Among its menu options are the Lil’ Clucker and the Mother Clucker.

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Star Calgary tried the Lil’ Clucker, which is the joint’s version of a classic fried chicken sandwich.

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It boasts iceberg lettuce, mayo, and crispy (and juicy) southern fried chicken. Its batter is mixed with Cluck N Cleaver’s own secret spice, while the bun it’s served on comes from Glamorgan Bakery in the city’s southwest.

Meanwhile, the Mother Clucker has a spicy twist — with its chicken slathered in a chipotle honey sauce and topped with a blue cheese mayo, pickles, and coleslaw.

Both sandwiches have a full quarter-pound worth of chicken.

The Cluck N Cleaver on 14 St. S.W. is one of Calgary's top local fried chicken joints. Feast your eyes on its classic fried chicken sandwich called the "Lil' Clucker."

The chef behind the mouthwatering bites is Top Chef Canada star Nicole Gomes, who owns the restaurant with her sister Francine, a poultry expert.

Francine said the fast-food joint sells about 400 of each sandwich a month.

“People love them,” Francine said.

EDMONTON

For Leduc Nguyen, the food blogger behind Let’s Eat YEG, chain chicken is for the birds.

“At a fast-food restaurant, it’s kind of made the same way every single time,” he said. “Most have to cater to the masses.”

Rather, he noted, the feather in Edmonton’s cap is the sandwich at Northern Chicken, a couple clucks northwest of the core, perched on the corner of 124 St. and 107 Ave.

The fried chicken sandwich at Northern Chicken in Edmonton lays a golden brown bird on a nest of bread and butter pickles, coleslaw and crushed dill pickle potato chips, all between between two thick slices of Texas toast slathered with mayo.

Pillowed between two thick slices of Texas toast slathered with mayo, the bird — fried golden brown — rests on a nest of bread and butter pickles (preserved in-house), complementing coleslaw, and crushed dill pickle potato chips.

“Everything works together,” Nguyen said. “And you can ask for it to be extra spicy.”

The graduated spice scheme starts at “Og,” before escalating to “Nashville Hot,” “Nashville Xtra Hot,” and “Nashville WNFA” (We’re Not F—ing Around).

There’s also a mustard variety.

Given the heated beaking that has defined the chicken sandwich war online, Star Edmonton decided not to wing it, and opted for the milder, “Og” option.

The sandwich was crunchy and crispy, tangy and sweet, leaving a peppery aftertaste that lingered well after flying the coop.

VANCOUVER

British Columbia takes its chicken sandwiches seriously, and it doesn’t even have to come from a real chicken to satisfy.

The fried sandwich at MeeT in Gastown, Vancouver’s vegan junk food institution, crunches like chicken, and pairs with rich and salty fries. But don’t mistake it for real fowl — the “chikkin” burger is, like all its menu items, entirely plant-based.

The vegan Chikkin Burger from MeeT restaurant in Vancouver's Gastown crunches like chicken, and pairs with rich and salty fries.

Which is not to say cravings for the real deal can’t be satisfied in Rain City.

Au contraire. There’s a bird sandwich for every mood in town.

The latest sensation is the Downlow (“DL”) Chicken Shack on Commercial Dr. in East Vancouver, which opened about a year ago. On the original “sando,” the shack’s satisfyingly juicy chicken is surrounded by a generous fried batter, and topped with slaw and special sauce (from mild to spicy).

The Original Sando with medium hot sauce and slaw from the Downlow Chicken Shack on Vancouver's Commercial Dr.

On Friday at lunchtime, casually dressed staff members chant out orders and sing along to the radio while whipping up dozens of orders that keep pouring in.

Manager Carly Tennant said the original sando is the most popular order at the shack, and probably partly responsible for the restaurant’s dedicated fan base (her favourite is the secret menu Downlow fries, which feature cheese, sandwich toppings, and a chicken thigh).

But the food isn’t the only draw, Tennant said. “It’s also our vibe,” with staff making their hard work look fun and inviting. Patrons regularly chat across the bar with the prep workers, creating a social, partylike atmosphere.

The Fried Chicken Sandwich from Juke restaurant in Vancouver's Chinatown is wallet-friendly at under $10.

Juke Fried Chicken has established itself as a lunch staple in Vancouver’s hip Chinatown. With padded seats and individually set tables, it’s stylish enough for a date or professional lunch, but the fried chicken sandwich is still wallet-friendly at under $10.

Both Juke and Meat & Bread, a Vancouver sandwich favourite, source their chicken from Rossdown Farms in Abbotsford, about an hour outside Vancouver.

Meat & Bread, which has opened three Vancouver locations, as well as one in Calgary and one in Seattle, since its inception in 2010, serves up well-dressed sandwiches of a civilized size. In the original Gastown location, most people order lunch to stay and find a spot at a long table in the centre of the restaurant, with exposed brick and pipes all around.

With files from Alex McKeen, Amy Tucker, Hamdi Issawi, Kenyon Wallace, Yvette d’Entremont, and The Associated Press

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