The Fried Chicken Sandwich Column


Drew Calamaro ‘21
Chicken Reviewer

              John F. Kennedy once said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” My fellow fried chicken sandwich eaters, this column is doing that other thing. I will fulfill Kennedy’s mandate, complete his vision, and find the best fried chicken sandwich in his brother’s alma mater’s city, just as he wanted us to.

              The question that any self-respecting future lawyer will ask, however, is “What is a chicken sandwich?” It is therefore my charge to find the outer bounds of what defines a chicken sandwich in this column as well. Important questions like, “Does a chicken tender hoagie count?” and “Do I include buffalo chicken sandwiches?” will be explored, as well as the finer points of mayo. There will even be an ode to iceberg lettuce (the polyester of lettuces).

This chiken does not yet know its fate. With your contribution, it may, soon. Photo sourced from almanac.com

This chiken does not yet know its fate. With your contribution, it may, soon. Photo sourced from almanac.com

              How does one rate fried poultry? What are the criteria? Well, seeing as beauty is in the eye of the cluckholder, I will rate it according to a rigid system that I develop for each specific sandwich that is liable to change sporadically. That is the only fair way to do it, and is what our founding farmers would have wanted.

              Of course, as a responsible journalist, I will relate each and every chicken sandwich to the Trump era, and ask if it is problematic to eat it while Trump is in office. Why? Because the media doesn’t do this enough, and now that I am a member of it, I am going to ask it even more. Questions like, “Is it problematic that I eat the sandwich while scrolling past an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet without reading it?” or “Should I care about Trump’s restructuring of the military funds to build the wall without declaring a national emergency while biting into a gorgeously breaded piece of white meat?” are the ones the people want to hear the answers to.

              Join me, and together, we will finish what Kennedy started. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard to eat so much fried chicken in so little time; hard to say no to a non-conforming sandwich; and hard to find the holy grail—the perfect, juiciest, and crispiest chicken sandwich.

Michael’s Bistro and Tap House – 1427 University Ave., Charlottesville Va

              Is the name too long? Perhaps. Does it seem like this “Michael,” whoever he is, didn’t know whether he wanted to open up a bohemian bistro near the sea or a dark and smoky tap house full of bar fights and broken dreams? Absolutely. But in the end, I refuse to go to michaelsbistro.com/history to find out why he couldn’t decide between the two. Facts are dead.

              Getting to Michael’s was tough enough—they only have two signs with giant arrows pointing to where the door is. Yet it’s easy to trip over one of them and keep on walking, all while avoiding eye contact with everyone around you. Luckily, I did not do that and nimbly ran up the stairs.

              But it’s time to talk turkey. What we got here is a true heavyweight—a “fried chicken thigh with pickled jalapeno Oaxaca queso and housemade slaw on an ABC butter roll.” All for $9.50. When I saw that description, was it problematic that I stopped thinking about the corporate greed that went into the making of that chicken, the thousands of chickens who laid eggs and died in the past so that this one chicken could get fried up in the crispiest batter and smothered in queso that I know does not come from Oaxaca? As a media member, I will gladly keep asking these questions without taking any personal responsibility myself.

This chicken does know its fate. Fate was not very kind to this chicken, but fate bestowed a delicious gift upon someone else. Photo from cookscountry.com.

This chicken does know its fate. Fate was not very kind to this chicken, but fate bestowed a delicious gift upon someone else. Photo from cookscountry.com.

              I was going to rate this according to how much debt I felt like I had accumulated since I started writing this, but I’ll save that for another time. Instead, I’ll give this sandwich a solid 177 on the LSAT. When rated using the problematicness scale, however, I’ll give it an average GPA of 3.54. What tipped it past a 3.5 mark was the ABC bun. As an anti-number guy myself, I am all for naming buns after letters of the alphabet. However, this could quickly turn exclusionary with the finance-law crowd, resulting in a competing 123 bun that could do some damage.

*BONUS REVIEW*

Cook Out – 1254 Emmet St N, Charlottesville, Va

              This place is best enjoyed on a Friday night when you have to Uber there. Welcome to the south baby. I rate this sandwich a solid 163 on the LSAT—price point is fantastic.  Is it problematic if I give this sandwich a 1.0 GPA, meaning it’s nearly not problematic at all? Tune in next week to find out!