The Guilty Pleasures: Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club and Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich
Where to Get Them: Jack in the Box and McDonald’s (respectively)
What They Really Cost: The last few cool points that fancy (brioche, pretzel, etc.) buns had going for them.
Unless you’ve been living under a fast food rock for the last few months, you’re probably aware that just about every major fast food chain has put out a new “deluxe” chicken sandwich recently.
You know the drill: add bacon, some kind of semi-secret version of mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato, then throw it all on a bun made of something classier than standard white bread.
Since we’ve already written about one of Burger King’s variations, we decided it was time to compare one of the originals (McDonald’s version) with one of the highly regarded newer renditions (Jack in the Box).
Let’s get to it, shall we?
As far as similarities go, the quality on both sandwiches is actually a pleasant surprise. The relatively new movement of upscale fast food items has brought dishes to chains that would’ve only been found in sit-down restaurants in the past. Regardless of who does what better, everything from the chicken to the toppings (particularly the bacon) to the bun is a big step up from what you’d expect at one of the national chains (or even a place like Chick-Fil-A). It might not be “gourmet” just yet, but considering that you can get at least a handful of respectable dishes through the drive-through window can only be viewed as a good thing.
Additionally, all that quality comes with a higher price tag on both sandwiches. We wouldn’t be surprised if spending up to $5 for just the chicken sandwich alone turned away some customers, but there are still the $1-2 poultry options at both locations for those who want their fast food fowl on a budget.
Arguably the highlight of each sandwich is the bun. While Jack in the Box uses the same delightfully fluffy bread used on their Buttery Jack burger, McDonald’s counters with an “artisan bun” whose shininess is only outweighed by its density. They both add a nice taste to their respective sandwiches, but the texture of each is a drastic difference and ultimately comes down to a matter of preference. Personally, we prefer the rich chewiness of McDonald’s bun over the airiness of Jack’s.
The toppings are a different story, as it seemed like McDonald’s was trying to do too much with theirs. The Big Mac sauce is awesome, but there was far too much lettuce and onion versus the one tiny piece of tomato. Also, Jack in the Box’s bacon had a stronger flavor, better chewy (but not tough) texture, and was just generally a more satisfying experience.
With the battle of the buns going to McDonald’s and toppings going to Jack in the Box, the deciding factor in the sandwiches came down to the chicken. To be honest, either fried chicken breast patty would be perfectly acceptable in a wonderfully cheap diner (probably covered in gravy or something) and really seemed like a step up compared to the usual chicken thrown between buns in a drive-through. While neither piece of meat was a disappointment, Jack’s was fried in what seemed like a more traditional breading, while McDonald’s had a flakier shell-like crust that added an extra level to the sandwich. It might not be the best breading ever, but certainly good enough to pick the pieces up out of your lap when they flake off in your hands.
By a narrow margin, we preferred McDonald’s Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich over Jack in the Box’s Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club. Really though, you should try both and decide for yourself. Either is better than you’d expect out of a fast food joint.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.