I grew up in a small Rust Belt town where, aside from bowling and narrowly avoiding arrest, weekend fun meant hanging out at one of the nine fast food restaurants conveniently located on the same strip. We’d spend hours at Taco Bell, scamming free pop, leaving a disaster zone in our wake, and just generally destroying the souls of the people who were working there at 1am on a Saturday morning. When we got sick of that we’d slide down to McDonald’s and scrounge up enough change to get four McDoubles and a Coke.
Fast food was a way of life, even outside my social circle. Family dinners frequently consisted of drive-thrus and trans fats. When some families would discuss what to have for dinner, it meant a discussion on what should be cooked or what type of cuisine: For us, it meant where should we go?
As I’ve transitioned into the “Hangovers Last Three Days” portion of my 20’s, and moved to a socially conscious, Liberal city, I’ve cut out just about every greasy fast food establishment that I once relied on for cheap sustenance. My girlfriend and I frequent farmers’ markets, I generally eat at local restaurants with some sort of healthy spin, and I haven’t gone through a non-coffee drive-thru in recent memory.
That is, of course, with one exception.
Chick-fil-A is a fucking revelation. It’s as if God herself granted the Cathy family everything that is right about the world in the form of fried food, in exchange for a never-ending recognition of the Sabbath. Most fast food places have a chicken sandwich, and most fast food places manage to screw it up. Chick-fil-A said, “Alright, gimme a soft bun, a hunk of fried bird and three pickles”, wrapped it in a modified pizza delivery bag, and unleashed their black magic on the world.
“IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WILL COME”
I am opposed to just about everything that Chick-fil-A is. I’m a health-conscious millennial with a general distaste for the South, and yet no experience uplifts me quite like walking into a Chick-fil-A for lunch. They’ve mastered everything about the dining-in experience that fast food joints have been botching for years.
- You’re greeted as soon as you walk in, but not in a forced, “Welcome to Chick-fil-A” way
- They’re always slightly over-staffed, meaning things move quickly but not at the expense of the experience
- They’ve streamlined their order protocols, so the cashiers know exactly which questions to ask and how to do it
- Your food comes out fast and hot
- They’ve got kind old ladies who come around and ask you about refills, your meal, and how your day is (Hint, it’s great, I’m at Chick-fil-A)
And that’s not even mentioning one of the most innovative features I’ve ever seen from a company – At one location I frequent, they have multiple outdoor workers taking drive-thru orders and payments to streamline the process, so when you pull up to the window, you get your bag and go. Wut?!
I’ve long been a believer that Southern Hospitality is bullshit. I’ll admit that this viewpoint is tinted by a few lenses, most notably that my only southern experiences have been in Florida, which I’m aware is its own entity. But everything positive I’ve ever heard about SEC country is 100% true at Chick-fil-A. The people there genuinely give a damn about their patrons and it is spectacular. Obviously there is the issue of marriage equality and the Cathy family’s strong opposition to it that is based on ideas that aren’t real, but I’m not going to let social injustice get in the way of me eating myself into an early grave filled with fried chicken.
OOOOOHHHH, THE CHICKEN.
We’ve gone 650 words on a fried chicken joint without even mentioning their sweet, sweet chicken. When I’m really bringing my Douche Game at full throttle, I like to tell people I don’t really eat meat, and if I do it’s responsibly raised poultry. Aside from being something I would cringe at myself if somebody told me, that’s also not entirely true. I eat the fuck out of some Chick-fil-A bird, and do so frequently.
Up until a month ago, when one of these mouth-brothels opened a block-and-a-half away from our office, I had only ever had their nuggets and waffle fries. Obviously this was totally satisfactory and gave me no pause about eating the same thing at one restaurant for years. But then one day I thought, “This location just opened yesterday – Am I going to do what I’ve always done, play it safe, and leave knowing I just had a damned good meal? Or am I going to follow the likes of Neil Armstrong, Chuck Berry, and Serena Williams, and try something new?”
On that day, I ordered my usual order – two twelve count nuggets – but I also added a little something extra – THE BEST CHICKEN SANDWICH IN THIS OR ANY OTHER UNIVERSE. My god that sandwich was breath-taking. I couldn’t believe that something so simple could have such a culinary impact. It’s the fast food equivalent of some 3-Michelin Star chef bringing out a single piece of gnocchi, me thinking, “One piece of gnocchi? Please”, and then never wanting to eat anything else for the rest of my now-meaningless life.
Chick-fil-A is Our Last Hope
Chick-fil-A has mastered the game. McDonald’s can keep coming with all-day breakfast items, but until any of their employees look even slightly more interested than a pre-teen in court-mandated therapy, they don’t stand a chance. Even the novelty factor of more exotic cuisines like Taco Bell or Fazoli’s don’t stack up to an American classic like the Chick-fil-A sandwich. They have managed to undo years of liberal propaganda from my psyche and once again convince me that, “A little hydrogenated oil isn’t bad.” As the human race becomes more polarized, a restaurant that doesn’t believe two people should be married because of some 2000 year-old book, may be our best chance at unity. Chick-fil-A has convinced me that Fast Food Ideals are America’s Ideals.
Eat mor chikin.
Also published on Medium.