I can only blame the nice weather. It makes going out so much easier, so much nicer. The humidity is bad for good hair days, but it doesn’t make me cranky. Thus, I’ve let myself get swept up in New York’s FOMO fried chicken sandwich moment. Last month, David Chang opened up Fuku, which sells his version of a hot fried chicken sandwich. Less than two weeks ago, Shake Shack debuted the ChickenShack at its Brooklyn locations. For no other reason than to try them because of the PR machine, I tried them. Mind you, early reviews were good.
Coming from a culture where, for the most part, fried chicken was only ever from the Colonel or in the form of boneless McDonald’s products, I’m very ignorant of the good stuff. Apparently, the sandwich from Chick-Fil-A is one to beat. My only thoughts are that it should be crispy and juicy. No flabbiness like I remember coming from KFC buckets or chewy, dry meat.
I had Fuku first. Potato bun with chicken, mayo, and pickles. I got the off-menu “Koreano” that added a daikon radish slaw. Crispy and juicy, yes, especially because chicken thigh is used. With the spillage that occurs, you get a good opportunity to taste the chicken only. It’s good, but not the least bit spicy as advertised. I preferred the bites with bun and slaw, the latter adding a great cool crunch. There is not enough mayo or heat, so I added the available Momofuku ssam sauce on the counter. Much better with it. I definitely want to eat this again.
A week later, I used a summer Friday afternoon to head to Brooklyn to try the ChickenShack—potato bun with chicken, buttermilk mayo, lettuce, and pickles. Totally beats Fuku in crispiness. The breading is thicker and when chunks fall off, you are rewarded with awesome salty nuggets. The breast meat is juicier than expected. I didn’t feel it needed anything more, even though Shake Shack now offers hot sauce at the condiment stand. The lettuce plays less of a textural element than it could, but the pickles make up for it. It does not surprise me that this was in development for two years. It was a very, very strong debut from a chain that the world is more aware of than ever.
It’s pointless for me to point out which one was better. They were both great. They are both worth trying if you like fried chicken sandwiches. But the thing is, I think on my next trip to Shake Shack, I’ll still choose a burger. So maybe the Momofuku empire ends up winning because I’ll be returning to Fuku? Regardless, they both underscore that New Yorkers are pretty spoiled. So. I win.