Fast Food Review: New! Parmesan Chicken Sandwich from Carl’s Jr.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get too wrapped up in the burger wars. It’s not that I don’t like hamburgers, it’s just that I’ve always been more of a chicken kinda guy. Even when I was younger, I almost exclusively ordered chicken nuggets/fingers while eating at fast food places, much to the amazement of my good friend Luke, who always got a cheeseburger.
With that kind of allegiance to our fowl-feathered friends, you can imagine my excitement when Ryan introduced us to the new Carl’s Jr. Parmesan Chicken Sandwich in a food news post last week. As a bigtime fan of Italian food in addition to chicken fingers, this seemed like a must try item for me, especially considering that after years of living on the East Coast, I finally lived close enough to a Carl’s Jr. to try one.
The Parmesan Chicken Sandwich features a breaded chicken fillet topped with melted cheese, smothered in authentic marinara sauce, on top of a sesame seed bun.
Before I get too far into the review, I want to mention the EXTREME HARDSHIP which I went through in procuring this item. My University is about two miles from the local Carl’s Jr, and when I went to check it out last week, the restaurant was being renovated. I tried again on Tuesday, trudging the two miles in a freezing Utah morning in which a snow/hail/sleet mixture pelted me relentlessly. Thank God for the sandwich’s 570 calories and 20 grams of fat, because quite frankly I think I would have frozen to death on my walk back had this been one of those “healthy” menu items.
While the sandwich come standard with a sesame seed bun, I actually ordered it on wheat, mostly on account of my “go for whole grains” mentality. Looking back, this may have been a mistake, as the chicken to bun to sauce ratio more or less pointed in the direction of epic fail for the bun. To the sandwich’s credit, they don’t skimp on marinara sauce, with both the bottom and top of the bun getting a generous portion. The sauce itself is dominated by a sweet flavor — perhaps a little too sweet to be ‘authentic’ — but it does have flavorful seasoning and a nice Italian herb mixture mixed in. I thought it was the dominant taste in the sandwich, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As for the chicken, it started out as a nice and crispy patty. I really liked the breading and the strong flavor of black pepper. The problem was that as the sandwich sat on my plate, the patty got progressively soggier. Still, the flavor remained strong, and it served as a fine compliment to the sweet sauce.
Now, onto the third component of the chicken parmesan; the cheese. Too be frank, I’m not sure what kind of cheese it is exactly. Obviously I wasn’t expecting fresh buffalo mozzarella or shaved Parmesan, but the cheese came across as only average. It did have a slight flavor (it actually tasted like processed American cheese more than anything else) and didn’t detract from the sandwich, but at the same time I felt like it didn’t add anything, which kind of defeats the purpose of chicken parmesan. It also took a long time to melt on top of my warm sandwich, an annoyance for me because of how freaking starving I was by the time I finally ordered.
I got my sandwich for $2.99 as a single because of a coupon, but if you ask me it may be a little pricey for the $3.99 regular billing, especially considering the only moderate size. I think Carl’s Jr. is onto something here though, and wish more fast food restaurants would try to incorporate Italian flavor into their menu items. The meat is well seasoned and flavorful, and it works great with the sweet marinara sauce. The problems, however, are there. A more “artisan” type bun (like a Ciabatta) could really make the sandwich something special, while a higher and more authentic standard of cheese would really make this a “can’t miss” menu item. For now, I’ll consider the tasty sanwich a good start and a work in progress, but I would like to see Carl’s Jr. address some of these textural and quality issues in the near future.
Pros: Large, flavorful chicken patty with crisp exterior and moist interior. Does well to compliment sweet basil and tomato flavor of marinara sauce, which is plentiful. Can't really knock a classic combination of Italian food in a fast food form. Enough energy to keep me alive in this frigid Utah fall winter.
Cons: Patty and sauce combination overwhelms helpless bun. Very messy. Needs a fancy Italian bun, like Ciabatta. Cheese could be more authentic. Need to synthesize timing of melted cheese to non-soggy chickeness.
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.25/10
Overall GrubGrade: 7.75/10
More Info: CarlsJr.com
Serving Size: 262 g
Calories from Fat: 180
Total Fat: 20 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 50 mg
Sodium: 1810 mg
Carbs: 63 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sugars: 9 g
Protein: 34 g