Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Food: Crawdaddy's Good; Spicy Chick-fil-A Not

If first impressions are lasting or at the very least have an impact on future relations and return visits, the new Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Chick-fil-A is low on my list for repeat performances but a visit to Crawdaddy’s West Side Grill in Cookeville TN will be a must the next time through there for a night or maybe an hour or so for lunch.

Yesterday, as I started one of my distance-extended-in-a-short-time business travels, I sampled fare from both and came away with thoughts about each that will impact the economy of each one. While I’m not a professional food critic, a job that would have a huge detriment on any effort to keep my weight in check, I know what I like and desire more of and dislike and will tread lightly for return tastes.

Though the Chick-fil-A visit came several hours before the Crawdaddy’s experience, here’s a little about the latter before I get into the former, which is probably of a bit more interest to most of my readers than a restaurant in downtown Cookeville TN, a small town about 80 miles east of Nashville, about the same west of Knoxville and the home of Tennessee Tech University.

It was the hotel desk clerk who suggested Crawdaddy’s among others. Just about a mile and a half from the interstate-located Fairfield Inn & Suites, all possibilities were near the Courthouse square. Driving past three possibilities before rolling a few blocks to the west, Crawdaddy’s, from the outside, had somewhat of a casual New Orleans appeal. There was lower level outdoor patio seating for about 80 patrons and upstairs, just outside the happening bar, was deck seating, overlooking the patio, for 40. Inside was interesting as well but this summer evening was not so muggy and hot so I chose upstairs and was escorted there by the owner whose name I quickly forgot but who remembered my first name. He offered menu suggestions and checked back with me regularly but not overly to make sure the food and the experience was up to his standards.

When I selected the Frenched Cut Pork Chop (not to be confused with a French Cut of the same), the waitress, Chelsea, gave the obligatory “nice choice” but soon admitted she had never tried it. “Pork chops are not my thing, but a lot of customers get it and love it,” she said. Adding the roasted potatoes and a side of asparagus along with a Fat Tire draft (on special Tuesday night for $1.50 for a 12 ouncer), dinner was set.

And, it was delicious. The owner had also suggested my selection along with three other popular items which included a beef, a chicken and a seafood offering or each. I think that anything on the menu would have been scrumptious. The pork chop was a little crunchy outside and juicy inside and spiced just right, not hot by any means, just tasty. The potatoes were hot and seasoned as should be; the asparagus were grilled and a little over done, not as crunchy as some may prefer.

The experience and food at Crawdaddy’s West Side Grille make it worth a return visit. On the other hand, the jury is quickly out on the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Chick-fil-A is a new item on the Atlanta-based “fast-food” restaurant chain’s menu as it battles for a spot in the growing zesty food desire spreading across the land if not around the world. In these (my) parts, the Bojangles’ Cajun Fillet Biscuit is the standard for succulent success when it comes to a snack with a little nasal clearing kick.

It was at the just-off-Interstate 40 Chick-fil-A in Statesville NC that I tried the new selection, new since about a week ago. It was about 12 noon straight up and the drive through was busy so I went inside. Busy there as well. Lots of the new sandwiches were coming off the assembly line, and, in due time, I had my bag of food (got the meal with waffle fries and a sweet tea), and headed out the door, to the car and back to the road, eating as I drove, probably worse than texting and emailing with one hand on the steering wheel and one eye on the highway.

First impression: the sandwich was over-cooked, much tougher than the standard, soft and succulent Chick-fil-A sandwich. It had a lot of crunch due to the extra coating of whatever-that-is (some sort of breaded substance) required in this particular situation to keep the spicy taste on the meat. If the weight of the meat in this sandwich is the same as the regular selection, then there’s less meat and more breaded coating.

Maybe if this were a grilled selection, there would just be spicy spices sprinkled on the chicken and not the substance that is required for frying. The soft bun was usual. The pickles were the same but as usual not enough. I forgot to ask for more but wanted to give the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Chick-fil-A a proper and fair review. Right now, it’s a thumbs down but I’ll probably give it another try at another location.

Along the same thought line, there are times when I either want to return my Cajun Chicken Biscuit at Bojangles or at the very least complain. No doubt, I enjoy the Bojangles taste over the Chick-fil-A newbie, but on closer inspection, many times, there’s little or no chicken inside that tasty biscuit. Lots of crunch but no substance. On the other hand, I’ve had plenty of the Cajun-style with substantial meat and less crunch. This has less to do with Bojangles and more to do with the supplier cutting corners, I’m sure, but those with the power should keep the standards high.

For those who eat either or both of these chicken filled offerings, here’s a look at some of the nutritional stats, as shown on each website. Click the links for your closer look:

Bojangles’ Cajun Filet Biscuit:
Calories 454; Carbs (gm) 46; Protein 20; Total Fat 21; Saturated Fat 6; Cholesterol (mg) 41; Sodium (mg) 949; Dietary Fiber 1.

Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich:
Calories 490; Carbs (gm) 46; Protein 31; Total Fat 20; Saturated Fat 4; Cholesterol (mg) 60; Sodium (mg) 1730; Dietary Fiber 4.

For my health, maybe I should be more concerned with these numbers statistics instead of first impressions and taste. Too much of either will result in body stats that would cause me greater problems.

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