As a native of the Tampa Bay area, there are three main things I grew up on: strip clubs, Arena Football League championships (Go Tampa Bay Storm!), and the glorious, peanut oil-fried goodness that is Chick-fil-A.
Anybody who has been to the Tampa Bay area will tell you that it should not be described as the South; we Floridians, save the wannabe Alabaman/Georgians up in the panhandle and those citrus farming rubes in the middle of the state, embrace our “south of the South” description. It’s tough to really even describe the culture of a region like Tampa Bay, which is characterized by its distinct lack of culture. Tampa Bay is where you move to if you hate the culture of your (likely Northeastern) state and want to live somewhere where you can be a milquetoast, completely-devoid-of-culture human plain white tee in peace. If you put 100 random Tampans (yes, our demonym really is that close to “tampon”) into a room together, you’d be hard pressed to find much that they have in common outside of all of them telling people they’re a maximum of three degrees of separation away from Mike Alstott (closeness to His Majesty being considered a form of dominance in Central Florida).
There is one aspect of the Tampa Bay lifestyle, however, that does mimic the South. The only thing that’s truly Southern about Tampa Bay? We fucking love Chick-fil-A. We can’t get enough it. The lines at some of our local franchises sometimes even reach longer lengths than those at the methadone clinic — and that’s saying something.
The best restaurants are the ones that focus their efforts on doing one thing extremely well, and that’s what you have in Chick-fil-A. The creators of “the original chicken sandwich” have crafted a product so irresistible that not even COO (and founder’s son) Dan Cathy essentially saying “THE QUEERS JUST BOOKED AMERICA A 9 P.M. RAPTURE APPOINTMENT WITH DR. DEVIL BECAUSE THEY THINK THEY KNOW WHAT MARRIAGE IS BETTER THAN GOD DOES” (that’s paraphrased, but somehow still not that far off) didn’t put a lasting dent in Chick-fil-A’s profits. Compare that to the huge economic impact North Carolina is experiencing on account of their bathroom bill and it really says a lot about those two-pickle sandwiches.
Chick-fil-A recently made a few major changes to its menu that went largely unnoticed. Along with removing the popular spicy chicken biscuit to make way for some egg white garbage to feed people who mistake buzz words for health, America’s premier fast food chain also changed up the recipes to their BBQ, ranch, and buffalo sauces, along with adding a new asian-inspired sauce. As a connoisseur of Chick-fil-A, I took it upon myself to review these new sauces to determine both how they taste and how they compare to their predecessors.
At 1:05 p.m. yesterday, I left the office, hopped into my ’08 Nissan Sentra LS (zero to sixty in 29.8 seconds, get at me players), and headed over to my once-a-week lunchtime haunt, the Westlake Village Chick-fil-A. As it caters primarily to both local yuppies and the fit soccer moms of Westlake Hills, one of the most affluent suburbs of Austin, my doughy physique led to me standing out from the crowd. At one point I’m fairly certain an employee mistook me for one of the gigantic bags of milk product that they use to refill the Icedream machine. I eventually picked up my order, one that would certainly not be doing my aforementioned physique any favors — a 12-count nugget meal, large waffle fries, 1 Smokehouse BBQ sauce (new), 1 Garlic & Herb Ranch sauce (new), 1 Zesty Buffalo sauce (new), 1 Sweet and Spicy Sriracha sauce (new), 1 Chick-fil-a sauce, 1 Honey Mustard sauce, 1 Polynesian sauce, and a Coke Zero (I’m watching my figure).
After consuming somewhere in the realm of 400 calories of pure sauce, I have compiled below my notes on each one.
NEW Smokehouse BBQ Sauce
Simply by smelling it, you learn right off the bat that they’re not fooling around with the “smokehouse” name. When you put some into your mouth (instead of being a fucking weirdo like me and smelling it while sitting in my cubicle), you’ll notice that it’s much more complex than the classic Barbecue sauce. It’s less sweet, and the additional smoke and spices manifest into a peppery aftertaste you’ll feel in your throat and a little (enjoyable) sting you’ll feel on your tongue.
I actually had one of the classic Barbecue sauces at my desk already from a previous CFA meal (because I’m a verified fatass), so I did a little side-by-side taste test. I should start by saying that the classic Barbecue sauce was my go-to until Chick-fil-A sauce was introduced. It’s a solid sauce, but not so solid that I didn’t remorselessly ditch it once the clearly superior CFA sauce came along. The classic Barbecue is sweet all the way through, with more specific notes of honey. People who are truists of the classic Barbecue will VERY easily be able to tell the difference, and may be thrown off by the boldness of the Smokehouse BBQ if what they loved the most about the old sauce is the sweetness. Classic Barbecue has a good flavor, but it’s very one-dimensional. There’s just not too much there.
This new BBQ sauce, on the other hand, is exactly what you’d get at your standard, non-regional barbecue joint. Hell, if you live in Alabama, you’d probably even prefer it to that weird white sauce you put on your barbecue (not to be confused with that other weird white sauce you put on your cousin’s lower back). You may think I’m overstating the sauce’s authenticity, but I can assure you you’ll be surprised at how legit of a barbecue sauce this is. Put it against 5 actual restaurants’ sauces and I can guarantee you it doesn’t come in last.
While it does have much more character than the old sauce, is that really what you want in your Chick-fil-A dipping sauce? In the end, this battle of new vs. old will definitely come down to preference. Which is a better barbecue sauce? The new one, hands down. Which is a better Chick-fil-A dip? That one’s on you to decide.
NEW Garlic and Herb Ranch
Chick-fil-A’s new Garlic and Herb Ranch sauce suffers from the same downfall that its predecessor did: it’s a non-refrigerated ranch sauce. When you sacrifice flavor for preservatives, you’re gonna have a bad time. Chick-fil-A’s classic Ranch sauce was my least favorite sauce they had, and this second incarnation, while an improvement, did not do enough to keep Chick-fil-A’s ranch from being the worst option available. All you really get when you dip your Chick-fil-A into either of their ranch sauces is a mouth full of slightly-flavored cream — something you can easily get without having to pay for Chick-fil-A if you intern here at TFM 😉 The congealed creaminess of non-refrigerated ranch sauces leads to an awkward mouthfeel that leaves you wishing you’d gone with another option.
I will say this about the Garlic and Herb Ranch — it does have more flavor than the classic Ranch. Because I’m a fatass, like I said earlier, I had an old Chick-fil-A ranch pod at my desk from a past CFA visit. Both sauces have the same creaminess, but the new one has a little more flavor.
All in all, Garlic and Herb Ranch is a very marginal improvement on a very lackluster sauce. Any bottled ranch is superior.
NEW Zesty Buffalo
So when I first looked at my cup of Zesty Buffalo sauce, I was pretty confused by its viscosity and general appearance. It was VERY runny and appeared to be somewhat separated. I actually am not sure if I even got a good one; it may have been contaminated in some way.
That doesn’t look right… right? For all I knew, I’d die if I dipped just one waffle fry into the strange liquid. I did it anyways, though, because I love you all and respect the sanctity of this review.
And boy, am I glad I risked my life to try this buffalo sauce. Zesty Buffalo is a DEFINITE improvement over Chick-fil-A’s classic Buffalo sauce. This stuff tastes restaurant quality. I might go stockpile a bunch of these, buy some bone-in wings and toss them in this delicious, vinegary, not-too-spicy, not-too-mild mixture.
The classic Buffalo sauce (which I did not already have at my desk, sadly) was very thick, and didn’t afford you that liquidy buffalo experience that you think when you think “buffalo” (or post-buffalo diarrhea). The best way to put it is, while the last one was a buffalo dip, this is a buffalo sauce. They really hit the nail on the head here.
NEW Sweet and Spicy Sriracha
They didn’t just hit this one out of the park here, they hit a home run so monstrously long that it changed the game forever. The best way to explain the flavor of this delicious Asian-inspired sauce is that it’s your standard Thai sweet chili sauce with a little bit of sriracha added to it. You will feel something that resembles a burn regardless of your spice tolerance, but it shouldn’t be anything that wimps freak out about or Blazin’ Wing Challenge winners complain about (though it’s definitely best suited for those of us who prefer medium heat). It’s sweet without tasting sugary, spicy without being painful, and very easy to eat. A+++
I’ve always thought that an Asian sauce that wasn’t just sugar and food coloring (Polynesian) would really work at Chick-fil-A, and the flavor engineers really smashed this one out of the park. I’d kiss Dan Cathy, except, well, you know.
The standard by which all other fast food sauces compare themselves. Sweet, tangy, delicious. Can be eaten on anything for any reason. Put it on a communion wafer to honor Truett’s memory.
Never have liked it, never will — and I usually love honey mustard. Chick-fil-A’s, though, is too thick, and has too much of a mustard flavor to it. It’s a shade of deep gold (I prefer light yellow), and is so sweet and thick that it gives off the impression that it’s gritty (luckily without the accompanying mouthfeel). It suffers from the same fault that the classic Barbecue did, except its monogustatic flavor isn’t as good, giving it almost no redeeming characteristics. It ranks above both ranches, however, solely because warm cream on chicken isn’t as bad as poorly-made honey mustard on chicken.
The thickest, most viscous sauce that Chick-fil-A offers, it suffers from a real identity crisis. What the fuck is it? I’d liken it to the sweet and sour sauce you dunk batter-fried chicken into at Chinese buffets. Where does Polynesia come into play? It ranks above some of the others, but if this had been my go-to sauce all along, I’d have developed diabetes years ago.
Here is my official ranking of Chick-fil-A’s sauces.
(Note: this is a ranking of the individual sauces according to their flavors. I’d rather have ranch and buffalo together than Polynesian or honey mustard by themselves, but that’s not what this ranking is meant to measure.)
1. Chick-fil-A sauce
2. NEW Sweet and Spicy Sriracha sauce
3. NEW Zesty Buffalo sauce
4. NEW Smokehouse BBQ sauce
5. CLASSIC Barbecue sauce
6. CLASSIC Buffalo sauce
7. Honey Mustard sauce
8. Polynesian sauce
9. NEW Garlic & Herb Ranch sauce
10. CLASSIC Ranch sauce
And before anybody says anything, I can’t recognize Honey Roasted Barbecue, despite its deliciousness, until they put it in a dipping container. Fuck outta here with that hoe-ass “tear here” bullshit..