Cars started lining up at the Popeyes in Post Falls during breakfast time to get first dibs on the fast-food chain’s popular chicken sandwich that returned to the menu permanently Sunday morning.
The Post Falls location dished out about 2,700 of the sandwiches, which come classic or spicy, over three days in late August before the chain ran out of supplies nationwide.
Shanae Higdon of Spokane left her home at 8:30 a.m. to arrive at Popeyes by 9 and be the first at the restaurant for the reintroduction of the popular menu item on National Sandwich Day.
“Everyone’s made a big deal about it, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about,” said Higdon, who was picking up sandwiches for her and her boyfriend.
Higdon said she has never had a sandwich from Popeyes rival Chick-fil-A, but her boyfriend was eager to compare the two restaurants’ offerings.
By 10:15, 15 minutes before the restaurant opened, seven other cars were waiting in the drive-thru line. A couple of cars spilled out onto Highway 41 just as the restaurant opened. Each car was limited to five sandwiches per order.
Popeyes employee Cloe Dixon was driving by the restaurant after she had her car’s oil changed. She stopped when she saw the line growing at about 10:15.
“I worked when we had them (the sandwiches) the first three days. It was nuts,” said Dixon, who was set to start working during Sunday’s lunch rush through dinner time. “I was not expecting a line” this early, she said, but thought police might need to direct traffic around the drive-thru line later in the day.
In August, some customers waited up to two hours to try the sandwich.
“We got through it,” Dixon said. “We’re a good team.”
Matt Leroy of Post Falls said he got used to seeing long lines for fast food chicken growing up in South Carolina, where many towns had two or three Chick-fil-As. His closest Chick-fil-A is in Moscow now, but his No. 1 favorite chain is Zaxby’s, the nearest of which is in Utah.
At other Popeyes around the country, people reportedly threatened employees over the sandwich. And people took sides on social media about which restaurant had the best sandwich.
The debate about the best fast-food chicken is somewhat tame in the Inland Northwest without the array of chains like in states in the Southeast, Leroy said.
“They’re all about their chicken” in the South, he said. “I’m hoping it (the Popeyes sandwich) is worth all the hoopla.”
Alton Beecher of Spokane Valley decided to skip the drive-thru line because he wanted to be among the first few people to eat his sandwich inside. He arrived at the store just after 10 a.m., beating the rush.
“It’s been two months since they ran out,” Beecher said. “I’ve been waiting.”
The size, crispiness and spice put Popeyes above Chick-fil-A in Beecher’s book, he said after eating it.
“I’ll be back,” he said.
Joseph Northcutt of Spokane, close behind Beecher in line, had tried the sandwich in August. He was with his friend James Anderson, who hadn’t had it before.
“Chick-fil-A is the Jesus standard of chicken,” said Northcutt, who couldn’t say which sandwich was the best. “But if you want to let the devil in a little bit, that’s Popeyes.”
Close to 30 people were waiting for sandwiches inside the restaurant at 11 as those who ordered before them started filling up the tables.
“It’s worth the wait,” said Anderson. “It’s good.”