Few things compare to the happiness that is a plate of fried chicken. Though not a super health conscious choice (Dubu Downer!), there are certain fast food institutions (In-N-Out, Subway and of course, Chick-fil-A) I try and frequent, in order to do my part to stimulate the economy. The recent heralded opening of Chick-fil-A in Hollywood was (to me) a slightly momentous event, as Chick-fil-A was previously a rare treat I associated only with driving far distances around Southern California (like the Inland Empire and Orange County). I don’t count the one on the USC campus since I’ve yet to convince myself that sitting in 110 traffic both ways for fried chicken is reasonable and justified. As mentioned in my last poultry-ccentric post, (Post-Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Fowl Mood), I was feeling especially remorseful for the yearly binge of turkey-ing, so away the Husband and I went to get our chicken on at the Chick-fil-A in Hollywood (he didn’t need much convincing). And Colonel Sanders was right — it was finger-lickin’ good.
I knew a few things about Chick-fil-A‘s back story. I knew they had deep Christian roots only because I tried to go once on a Sunday and they were closed (later I found out it was every Sunday and why). I knew that this was originally a Southern fast food chain and that it had originated in mall food courts there. I did not know however that it was now in 39 states, DC and starting to slowly infiltrate Southern California. I also did not know that you can order online or have it delivered from the Chick-fil-A website. Um, really? Fried chicken delivered? This could be a serious problem for me. On closer inspection however, I found out there is a $300 minimum for delivery and $50 minimum for pickup. Phew, crisis alerted. I don’t have to live in stretchy pants my entire life.
I also did not know that for a fried chicken fast food company, Chick-fil-A took great strides in attempting to give people healthy eating and lifestyle options. Surprisingly, the Chick-Fil-A website has an entire section devoted to tips on healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle through exercise and portion control. Not something I want to be thinking about as I chow down on fried chicken tenders, but kudos to a major fast food company for caring (or pretending to care) about the public’s well-being. Everything is cooked in peanut oil (nut allergy people beware), and their chicken has no additives, hormones and claims to be whole breast meat. The site also suggests healthy menu alternatives to their deliciously delicious waffle cut french fries such as a carrot and raisin salad or a fruit cup. Healthy alternatives to their deliciously delicious fried chicken sandwiches (my favorite being the Spicy Chicken Sando, by the way) are also offered such as grilled chicken anything (salad, sandwich, wrap, etc.).
Truthfully however, I cannot bring myself to go to a Chick-fil-A and order a carrot and raisin salad or a grilled chicken wrap. Instead I will cave in to my baser instincts and order the Spicy Chicken Sandwich, waffle fries and then split a milkshake with the Husband. And may I just interject and mention that the milkshakes are really quite tasty. Do not look at the caloric intake as you may stop breathing for a second because it’s a really high number for just a beverage, but you will understand what I am talking about when you try this milky, creamy, deliciously delicious beverage.
As I pulled into the medium-sized parking lot, I recalled that this Chick-fil-A location was a hop, skip and a jump from my other fast food kryptonite –In-N-Out. This will inevitably lead to some future late night fast food hemming and hawing as I try and decide whether to satiate my fast food fix immediately east or west of Highland and Sunset. Oh well. I also immediately realized that this Chick-fil-A location was in fact distinctively different from the other Chick-fil-A’s of my past. There was no inside dining room! Instead, customers queued outside in one of those lines you see at movie theater box offices or at Immigration at LAX to order their meal at a walk-up window. I was also dismayed to see a lack of the usual panoply of beautiful and varied dipping sauces laid out that Chick-fil-A is known for. Instead the cashier asks which sauces you want and then hands them to you through the window, perhaps a lesson in humility and restraint and to remind us that no one needs to be dipping in eight different sauces at every Chick-fil-A meal (as I am prone to do).
There were a smattering of tables in front, but they really seemed to cater towards to-go orders in cars, as there was not one, but two drive-thru lanes (only in LA!). This begged the question of what fried chicken lovers in LA who didn’t own cars would do in the event of rain? But then I remembered that 1) it rarely rains in LA and 2) a larger than average number of people have cars (or at least access to a car) living in LA, so obviously Chick-fil-A was not deterred by any of this when planning their dining room-less structure. While waiting for my#3 combo meal, I was slightly envious of the comforts of a warm automobile and the hard plastic of the bench I was sitting on felt even harder underneath me. I wished for a split second to be in the safe haven of my car as well, but then saw that the two lanes actually eventually merged into a single slower lane at the pick-up window — a reminder that you can’t really escape traffic in LA. Boo.
Once I recovered from the fleeting panic from the lack of a conventional dining room, I looked around and started to enjoy myself. I glanced around the parking lot and saw an influx of cars with out-of-state license plates. I noticed the table next to me was simply going to town with their chicken tenders and nuggets, with the foresight to bring their own TUB (not packets) of wet naps. Simply genius. I took out my own travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer as I prepared to feast. Content, my fried chicken neighbors and I exchanged smiles. Sigh. Chick-fil-A. Bringing the nation together. One nugget at a time.