On Friday, here on the blog, I made known something personally risky, and I was holding my breath to see the fallout I would experience on social from admitting that “I like Olive Garden. Well, my friends, I was absolutely delighted to learn that in this, I am not alone.
As it turns out, I have many “OG Brothers” who love that mountain of breadsticks and gargantuan bowl of salad as much as I do and weren’t afraid to admit it. People from all over, from different walks of life, all coming together to say, “Yes, Scott, I like Olive Garden, too!”, and well, it still brings a tear to my eye.
Thank you for accepting me, and my “casual dining but I know it’s not ‘real’ Italian'” occasional food craving place where we get takeout and enough breadsticks to feed a Texas high school varsity squad.
Five “hot picks” for food you wouldn’t think of ordering at places you go to for something entirely different.
While we’re taking a brief respite from all this non-stop photography and Photoshop stuff, today I want to share five surprisingly awesome dishes you might not think to try, but if you do try them, you will thank me (and your Cardiologist will curse me). Here goes:
1. The hot dog at Steak n’ Shake
Nobody thinks to go to Steak n’ Shake for a hot dog, which is a shame because they’re shockingly yummy. In fact, they’re so good they’re not even called “hot dogs” at Steak n’ Shake. They’re called “Steak Franks” thank you very much, and each one is made with love (well, they taste like that anyway). You can get them with their famous chili on top, and/or cheese and onions, and getting a hot dog at a burger place like this will make you rethink everything and change your worldview forever. True story. Ask anybody.
2.The Double Cheeseburger at Dairy Queen
Nobody thinks to go to Dairy Queen for a cheeseburger, which is a shame because theirs is literally one of the best around. Way better than Wendys, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc., and you can get a Blizzard for dessert (try the Heath Bar Blizzard), which is just off-the-chain good. It comes with a set of defibrillators just in case, but you probably won’t have to use them, which is a good thing because that Blizzard tends to get a bit drippy by the time you’re done with that cheeseburger, and drippy ice cream and electricity don’t mix all that well. I’ve been told (I’m asking for a friend).
3.The Homemade Potato Chips at Zaxby’s
Nobody thinks to go to Zaxby’s for homemade potato chips, because you’re hopefully there for their new Signature Chicken Sandwich, which (and this has been confirmed in recent real-world tests), is right up there with Popeyes. In my eyes it has officially won the “chicken sandwich war of 2021” (or at the very least, they have signed a truce with Popeyes and are now against the Russians). They give you crinkly fries when you order it as a “meal,” but you can request the chips instead, and they’ll swap ’em out for you. It’ll take an extra minute or two because they have to make the chips up fresh, but you know what? That means they’re fresh! Get the Ranch or Teriyaki dipping sauce because it activates the chips.
4.The North Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich at Culver’s
Nobody thinks to go to Culver’s a fish sandwich. However, if you like fish sandwiches, and have endured either McDonalds or Wendy’s fish sandwich (I’m not entirely sure either is actually made from fish, and if proven to be somehow fish-based, it’s probably made of Nordik Angler, which tastes similar to a dirty sock you might find inside a discarded washing machine at a landfill), then you’re ready to step up to this sea swept beauty. It’s crunchy and yet very light. The breading is more like fish lovingly snuggled in tempura, lightly killed, and then gently laid upon some fresh bread from a French bakery, but the kind of French bakery that would actually be in the kitchen at a Culver’s which is probably not French at all. This, despite the fact Culver’s serves French fries, which I’m sure the French might have a word or two to say about that, but anyway, if fish is your dish, this one is probably the best around.
5. The Buffalo Chicken Wrap at Jersey Mikes
Well, probably somebody goes to Jersey Mikes for a wrap, but I have to wonder about that person (what I’m saying here is: I have to wonder about me because I go to Jersey Mikes just for this wrap). Now, I like their Italian sub a lot (I get it “Mike’s Way”), but once I tried their Buffalo Chicken Wrap, I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on that I-sub anymore. It’s big. It’s chickeny — it’s big and chickeny. Give this one a try, and you’ll be astonished and perhaps a bit frightened at how good it is. Heads up though: the whole time you’re eating it, you’ll be thinking, “Man, this would go perfect with some Olive Garden salad and breadsticks!” Well, that’s what I was thinking.
There you have it. Five “hot picks” for food you wouldn’t think of ordering at places you go to for something entirely different.
Here’s to a great week, and don’t forget, you could try one of these hot picks every day for lunch and then hit the OG on Friday night. Awwww, yeah. One more thing: remember, you after your order arrives you can stop for a sec and make some great food photos! Make sure you ask to sit outside (under an umbrella or overhang), or indoor by a window (actually, don’t sit indoors — COVID). See how I just neatly tied this all together and made it relevant to photography right at the very last second? It’s a gift. I’m blessed. ;-)
I realize that the first thing I’m about to reveal is controversial enough that I will probably lose readers. People will unsubscribe, and tell me how disappointed and disillusioned they are with me, but it’s something I came to terms with this last week and I feel like I need to just say, get it out there, and be done with it.
So, what is this revelation I had this week? Well, it’s more like an admission than a revelation, but since I just really came to grips with it this week, well, here we go:
There. I said it. “I like Olive Garden. ” I do
I really like their salad and their breadsticks (especially if you get a dipping sauce with them), and I like some of their entrees, like their “Tour of Italy” and their Lasagna, and I like their Chicken & Gnocchi Soup and their Zuppa Toscana soup, too.
Look, I’m not saying it’s my not favorite Italian restaurant, but I must admit, I do like it, and I’m looking forward to my next Olive Garden takeout. When you do their curbside takeout, for some reason they give you like 71 breadsticks for every dinner you order. So, if you’re a family of four you can expect around 284 breadsticks and at least two 55-gallon drums of salad, which will last you until summer. Well, it does me, anyway.
Then there’s my other revelation
I don’t know if you caught my post on Monday called “Don’t be that guy” but it got a LOT of reaction over on my Facebook page with over 150 comments. Most everyone pretty much felt the same way I did, which is just don’t be that guy when someone simply shares something nice that happened to them, but here’s my other revelation:
Human nature being what it is, it didn’t take long before, sure enough, a guy showed up and not only became “that guy,” but he became “Super that guy.” He wrote that he agreed with me and that everybody should use whatever tool works for them and you shouldn’t worry what other people use. But then (wait for it…wait for it…) he went into a whole thing about how PCs are better than Macs, and that they’re over priced and more stuff like that.
You realize, my buddy never mentioned PCs. He didn’t compare his new computer to anyone else’s. He didn’t say you should get one. He didn’t recommend them. He just said, “Can’t wait to get some native apps and start playing,” but this guy couldn’t leave it alone.
Of course, people starting calling him out on it, saying, “Dude! You’re being “That guy” and even I commented, “Do you not realize what you just did?” but that did not deter him. What’s “That guy” do when people point out he’s being “That guy?” Why of course, he doubles down on being that guy. Then he triples down. He just could not see, no matter how many people pointed it out, and tried to help him understand what he was doing with his whole PCs are better line of attack. He’s so “That guy” that even “those guys” where like “Dude, back off. You’re giving other “That Guys'” a bad name.”
Well, it just got uglier from there, because “say it with me” – “That guy” never realizes he’s “That Guy” no matter how obvious it is to everyone else. Ugh.
You know I bet would help “That Guy?” Some nice salad and breadsticks. Just ‘sayin’. ;-)
While today’s post is not necessarily about photography, there are many, many photographers that enjoy a really incredible chicken sandwich; this is a well-known fact (you can Google it). It’s on this very thin premise that today I bring you “The Ultimate and Definitive Chicken Sandwich Wars taste test” to end all chicken war taste-tests.
You may not know this about me, but I consider myself to be somewhat of a “Chickenado,” and so I personally visited all the fast-food locations that claimed to be in the current “chicken sandwich war” to taste-test their latest entries (sometimes twice, sometimes three times just to be sure). I took this seriously and wanted to be certain of the results because…ya know…this stuff is important to photographers (and other humans).
Now, it’s time to share my carefully researched findings, so let us don our ceremonial robes, light the candles, repeat the sacred chant, and begin:
Popeyes is the target
Their amazing chicken sandwich and its off-the-chart runaway success is why we have a “Chicken Sandwich War” in the first place. Their sandwich is what every chain is aiming to at least meet or, better yet, beat.
If you haven’t tried one of Popeye’s chicken sandwiches yet (available in regular or spicy) — it’s pretty incredible. Life-changing. It makes you rethink the entire trajectory of your life and why we’re all here in the first place. You will come to a place where you realize that you would crawl across 3-miles of fishing hooks and rose thorns just to lick the discarded wrapper from the last person that ate one. Yes, they are that good. It turned the entire fast food industry upside down with people waiting literally in mile-long lines just to get one of these magical chickeny beauties.
So, Popeyes (for the sake of our test) is ranked a “10 out of 10.” It’s generally accepted (by photographers and other people who move infrequently) to be the best fast-food chicken sandwich of all time. So, all my rankings will be based on a scale where Popeye’s is a 10 (10 being best), and one being the worst, (probably the chicken sandwich at Checkers), but I digress. Let the rankin’ get to crankin’ (note: should be on a t-shirt).
McDonalds Crispy Chicken Sandwich | 5/10
The new McDonalds Crispy Chicken Sandwich (available in spicy and regular, and deluxe with added lettuce and tomato) I believe is the best chicken sandwich McDonalds has ever made. Way better than the McChicken sandwich we’ve been saddled with all these years, so it’s a step in the right direction, but Popeyes has nothing to worry about whatsoever from this entry. It’s fairly small size wise, and it’s not anywhere near the crispy crunchiness of the Popeyes sandwich — it’s not even close. So, good on McDonald’s for making their chicken sandwich better, but they’re on the outside looking in. In the context of the Chicken Sandwich War, they’re a 5 out of 10. Maybe a 5-1/2 on a good day. Before we move on, take a look at that image of it above again (also note the dry-looking bun). Now move to the next one, and compare it.
Burger King’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich | 9/10
I need to say this upfront — I am not a Burger King fan. Never have been, and if I go there, it’s probably to get my wife their plant-based Impossible Burger, which she loves, but as I said — not a fan. Which is why I guess I was so surprised at how great their new chicken sandwich is. It’s like they sat in a conference room, gave everyone a Popeye’s chicken sandwich, and said, “We need to make our version of this. It has to be at least as good if not better” and it shows. It’s really, really good! Great, in fact. Blows away McDonald’s by a mile. Just look at it — it even looks like the Popeye’s sandwich (and comparing this image with the one of McDonald’s chicken sandwich — that tells a lot of the story right there). Then bun is excellent (it’s not one of Burger King’s usual sesame seed buns); the chicken is big and crispy and juicy, and folks as much as I hate to admit it (as a non-Burger fan), maybe now I’m a fan. They’ve got a real winner with this one, and if I passed a Burger King on my way to a Popeyes a couple miles down the road, I’d probably just stop at Burger King — it is that good.
Wendy’s New Classic Chicken Sandwich | 4/10
I need to say this upfront. I love Wendy’s. I’ve been a fan forever, and I love their burgers and their salads, and I love their baked potatoes, and frosty’s and well…pretty much everything. But their new Classic Chicken Sandwich is pretty awful. Awful! It is just about tasteless. I actually went back to a different location to try one again to make sure I didn’t order the wrong one, or I got their old chicken sandwich, or something went wrong in the kitchen, or there was somehow a mix-up. Nope. Still bad.
The folks at Wendy’s apparently skipped that meeting the folks at Burger King had about making something to compete with Popeyes. Part of the reason may be there is not a Popeye’s in Dublin, Ohio (where Wendy’s is headquartered), so maybe they weren’t able to get a fresh Popeye’s sandwich to compare it to, so they just made their new chicken sandwich anecdotally — on hearsay, not actually tasting or even looking at a Popeyes sandwich. It’s like someone in a Wendy’s meeting said, “Hey, Earl in shipping went to a Popeye’s in Columbus, and he said their chicken sandwich is much better than ours. So, let’s tweak ours a little,” and they did. But even Earl would have to admit, Wendy’s missed the mark by 10 miles. It’s bland, lifeless, dry, and just so totally “meh” of a chicken sandwich that I’m surprised Wendy’s can sell this into the chicken sandwich war with a straight face. In fact, I would have to say Wendy’s has withdrawn from the Chicken Sandwich war altogether. They lost the battle. They have surrendered. They may as well sign just the truce and get back to making great burgers.
The New Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich | 9.8/10
Zaxby’s wasn’t even on my Chicken Sandwich Wars list, but just by chance, I was driving by the Zaxby’s near our office, and I look over to see a banner across the front of their restaurant that read, “The Chicken Sandwich WAR ain’t over yet!” so I turned around to give it a try. Now, I’ve been a Zaxby’s fan for years (I love their chicken, but their homemade potato chips and dipping sauce is legendary). I would get their chicken tenders on my way to shoot Bucs games (I pass one on my way to the stadium), but I didn’t realize they had “entered the war” until that moment. I went through, ordered both the regular and the spicy — tried both and was BLOWN A-WAY!!! They nailed it. NAILED IT!!! Fantastic, soft, fresh bun — great sauce (and enough of it); perfect pickles, crispy super-yummy chicken, and the spicy version is spicy enough without being too hot — really just about as great of a Popeye’s competitor as you could come up with. So much so, if they were across the street from each other, I’d just go to the one with a shorter line at the drive-thru. Yes, it is that good! I did not see that one coming.
NOTE: Because Zaxby’s homemade potato chips are so much better than any side item you’d get with a Popeye’s combo meal, this just might tilt the overall “combo meal experience” to Zaxbys. That’s sayin’ something. A big High-five to the Zaxby’s folks for not only making a sandwich that looks and tastes about as good as Popeye’s, but to their marketing folks for hoisting that banner on the front of the building. They are right — they war ain’t over yet, and they are massing their troops on the border!
KFC New Chicken Sandwich | 9.8/10
I knew that being a chicken chain and having great crispy chicken tenders already, this was not going to be a big stretch for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I was expected a lot, especially after seeing their TV ads this past week about their entry into the war, and they did not disappoint. They totally rocked their chicken sandwich. Rocked it! They clearly were going after Popeye’s, and the look, feel, taste, and texture is spot-on!!! Seriously, just amazing, and I’m so glad there’s not a KFC anywhere near me (the closest one is about a 20-minute drive), because I would soon wind up in a circus sideshow as the world’s largest human. Plus, their sides (like their Mashed potatoes with gravy, Mac & Cheese and their delicious biscuits) might put them over the top if both were across the street from each other and I could only pick one, even if the line were a bit longer at Popeye’s, I’ll still probably still head to KFC. I wasn’t a big KFC fan before, but I surely am now.
So why not 10/10 for Zaxby’s and KFC?
It’s Popeye’s bun. I think it’s their secret weapon. There is something magical about their bun (my buddy Terry tried just their bun alone as part of his own chicken wars research and he feels there’s something sweet-tasting about their bun, and I have to agree with him). Zaxby’s and KFC nailed the rest (the chicken, the crispiness, the juiciness, the sauce, the wedged pickle chips — all of it). Still, there’s something about that Popeye’s bun that gives it that 2/10 of 1% edge over the rest, but it’s so close that honestly, any one of these three is a truly great warrior in this Chicken Sandwich War of 2021 (and honestly, Burger King is pretty much right there with them — it’s all so close).
What about Chick-fil-A?
They never really entered the Chicken Sandwich Wars. They serve the same chicken sandwich they always have, and they have a huge dedicated fan base for theirs, so they’re not going to mess with it. To me, their chicken sandwich is “OK,” but if you took a real Chick-fil-a fan and did a blind taste test with it against any of these mentioned above (except for Wendy’s, which is trash), I’ll bet Chick-fil-a would lose a lot of long-time fans, or at the very least Popeye’s, KFC, Zaxby’s and Burger King would gain a lot more (though you still cannot beat the service at Chick-fil-a which is second-to-none, and I love their chicken minis for breakfast. Ask them to add American Cheese on top. It activates the chicken).
Honorable Mention to a Neutral Country Goes To…
PDQ, particularly their Baby Bleu sandwich, which up until the Chicken Sandwich Wars, made the best fast-food chicken sandwich anywhere, and it’s still incredibly good. It’s like a gourmet chicken sandwich and everybody I’ve turned on to it has fallen in love with it. One more worth mentioning, but it’s not fast-food, so it’s not in the war, but Chili’s Buffalo Chicken Ranch sandwich is very, very good, and they’ll even bring it out to your car for curbside delivery. Thought they deserved a shout-out.
OK, but if I had to pick just one…
I would choose Zaxby’s, even over Popeyes, but certainly over the rest. It was shockingly good and their sides put it over the top.
We’ve got so many great choices for chicken sandwiches now, to which we owe a big thank you to Popeye’s. They elevated everyone’s game, which should be used in schools as another example of how competition drives the creation of better products for everyone.
Thanks for taking the time to read this deviation from the regular photography, Lightroom and Photoshop stuff I usually post here. If you miss that stuff today, pop on over to LightroomKillerTips.com where I rarely talk about chicken sandwiches, which quite frankly is a shame. ;-)
Have a crispy, crunchy, juicy, saucy, week everybody!
…and I answered a whole bunch of them! The folks from B&H Photo (the single greatest camera store on the entire planet, and possibly the universe), sat down with me for a quick interview on all sorts of topics. I hope you’ll give it a quick watch (you can let it run in the background while you’re retouching. The dulcet tone of my voice with soothe you into a semi-coma-like state and make you “one” with the image). 😂
Here’s the Official Trailer For The Wildlife Photography Conference
I just got the trailer last night and wanted to share it with you here today because it really captures the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish with this upcoming conference. Can you give it a quick look if you’re got a sec? I think you’ll dig it (and the conference). Here’s where to sign up to attend the online conference.
It’s “Photo Tip Friday!” – How to Scout Landscape Locations Online
Our friend and KelbyOne instructor, Ramtin “Rammy” Kazemi has a great photo tip on how he uses to use Google Maps for scout landscape shooting . It’s really short (just one minute), and you’ll dig it.
Plus, there’s Rammy’s new course on “Enhancing Landscape Images in Photoshop”
Here’s wishing you a fantastic, safe, happy, healthy weekend. Don’t forget to catch up on WandaVision on Disney+ and I think the new Walking Dead season kicks off again Sunday night after a long, long, long, winter break. It’s going to be a great weekend! :)
You know it’s a holiday, when I’m posting on a Monday at 10:50 am. As you might have guessed from the headline, I’m taking this week and next week off to enjoy some time with my family, watch lots of football, play Call of Duty Warzone and record some songs in the studio. Might even take a picture or two. :)
Here’s wishing you and your family, all the joys of the season — I hope you got lots of awesome Christmas Presents (and that there’s a mirrorless under the tree or a really great lens), and here’s wishing you a far better 2021 than we shared in 2020.
Brighter days are ahead, and I hope you enjoy great health, prosperity, and happiness in the New Year. It’s going to be a great one!
If there’s a Sony Shooter on your Holiday Gift List, take a look at this: this company (called CamSkins) creates perfect fit cover skins for Sony camera bodies of all kinds, and they look really slick (that’s the red body skin shown above).
They’ve got different colors (the white skin looks really cool) and they fit various Sony models, and…I just wish they made them for Canon bodies. They’re around $54, and they would make a really cool, colorful, and practical gift. Here’s the link.
If They Shoot With a Flash, This Is For Them
The Crown Prince of Flash, the Duke of Diffusion, the wizard of wireless, Joe McNally, has his own signature line of really smartly designed flash modifiers and accessories made by the folks at Lastolite, and the flash user on your holiday list would be thrilled to get any of these. Really fantastic stuff (I have their pop-up softbox myself)! Here’s the link.
A fantastic book from Photographer Rick Sammon
Here’s how Rick describes it: “In today’s crazy times, photography is providing a much-needed outlet/release for our feelings – and a way to creatively express those feelings. It’s also a private escape into a world in which we can create our own reality (in camera and with Photoshop/Lightroom/plug-ins) – privately and publicly.
It’s such a great book (and Rick is such a great writer and photographer), and thought there’s not a single photo inside the book, they will love this book from cover to cover. Here’s the link (in print and for Kindle).
Happy Shopping Everybody!
P.S.You know what would make a freakin’ amazing Christmas gift for the photographer on your Holiday Gift List? A KelbyOne Pro Membership. They would flippin’ lose their minds! They would learn so much! Here’s the link, ya know, just in case. :)