By Hayden Kulick and Peter Gibbs
What do Popeyes, Chick-fil-A and KFC all have in common? They each sell a chicken sandwich that people crave.
The Crack Shack, based in San Diego and expanding east as far as Salt Lake City, should be on everyone’s list of places to try.
When you walk into the San Diego location, the vibe is calm and welcoming. The decor is designed like a chicken coop but with a modern twist and a bar for the older crowd.
There are multiple versions of a typical chicken sandwich with the most popular sandwich being the Firebird.
This sandwich tastes just as it sounds: a spicier piece of chicken similar to Dave’s Hot Chicken, but elevated. The cool ranch countered well with the spice, crispy onions and pickles sandwiched on a potato bun. The first bite is met with a juicy piece of chicken and crunchy onions that blend perfectly.
If you’re looking for something with bacon and eggs, the Señor Croque which is combined with fried Jidori chicken is perfect any time of day. The sandwich consists of a fried egg with a strip of bacon and a thick piece of chicken. Each flavor is accentuated by a miso-maple butter that brings the whole dish together. Topped off with a brioche bun, this sandwich is definitely a go-to.
A sandwich with an intriguing twist is the Cali Drip. It looks like a panini but is served on a torta with pollo asado, fries and melted oaxaca cheese. The fries inside the sandwich are not as noticeable as you would hope but the flavor altogether makes for an excellent dish.
The Cali Drip also came with a chipotle-bacon mayo that was a bit overpowered by the cheese.
However, the Crack Shack offers a few special dipping sauces. They have their traditional ranch that each restaurant tries to perfect. It is a good ranch, but the other sauces are better. The 1,000 island Sriracha is superb. While the sauce is a little thick and heavy, the sweet spiciness that it brings to the plate overrules that.
The pineapple mustard is flawless. This sauce stole the show. Its very similar to a honey mustard, but sweet with a hint of tangy. The flavor is addicting, making you want to leave your seat to get more every time the cup is empty.
Paired with a good sauce is a good fry and that is exactly what this restaurant offers.
Packed with a complex seasoning mixture, the schmaltz fries are worth getting by themselves. They’re cooked to a perfect dark brown with a coarse texture on the outside and a white fluffy inside. The seasoning that’s added tastes almost sweet but is immediately combated by the saltiness that every fry needs.
The Shack also offers seasonal milkshakes. The salted caramel oreo is in season now and it is a top tier drink. It’s not too thick but not runny either with a blend of salted caramel and chocolate that makes you want to drink the whole thing at once.
Another innovative idea is that the eatery provides a wide straw so you don’t have to worry about chunks of oreo or graham crackers getting stuck in the straw. However, one knock on the drink are chunks leftover at the bottom that you have to tip the cup to get to.
While the original is in San Diego, another closer location is in Costa Mesa. No matter which location you travel to, your tastebuds will thank you.