We stacked Shake Shack's new Chick-fil-A copycat against the real thing -- and the winner is clear

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  • Shake Shack‘s new grilled chicken club sandwich debuts nationally on January 26.
  • It’s similar to Chick-fil-A’s popular Deluxe Grilled Chicken Club – but it’s not as good.
  • The sandwich is a valiant effort, but the quality of the chicken just doesn’t stand a chance against Chick-fil-A’s.

Shake Shack – the famed burger and milkshake chain – has a new grilled chicken sandwich.

Available starting on January 26 for a limited time, the Griddled Chick’n Club is a starkly healthy addition to a menu studded with bacon cheese fries, hot dogs, and double cheeseburgers. In fact, it feels a little out of place – grilled chicken at Shake Shack?

Shake Shack’s delightfully successful and decidedly unhealthy fried chicken sandwich stole our hearts – and stomachs – when it debuted in early 2016. It was a warning shot across the bow of the most revered chicken chain out there: Chick-fil-A.

The fact that Shake Shack could do fried chicken so well should worry Chick-fil-A. While the Atlanta-based chain’s locations vastly outnumber Shake Shack, they’re roughly on the same level of national recognition.

But grilled chicken is another beast entirely. While fried chicken can be mediocre and still taste good, grilled chicken is all too easy to mess up. Everything must align perfectly: seasoning, quality, cooking, toppings. Chick-fil-A does this extremely well with nearly every sandwich on the menu, so the onus is on Shake Shack to meet or exceed expectations where it has never stepped foot before: the grilled chicken arena.

Can Shake Shack’s iteration compare to Chick-fil-A’s version, the Grilled Chicken Club?


These sandwiches are pretty similar on first glance — but there are some glaring differences.

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Let’s start with what we know: first, Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Chicken Club.

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It’s a beautiful sandwich: a plump, pillowy multigrain bun atop bacon strips, Colby Jack cheese, a grilled chicken breast, tomato, and lettuce.

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The chicken is gorgeously seared, and the smell is outrageously appetizing. It’s a thick breast filet, too.

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The toppings aren’t exciting — just lettuce and tomato. But for what it’s worth, both are vibrantly coloured and seem fresh and firm. No signs of wilting or subpar produce here.

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The applewood-smoked bacon is delicious and crispy — as any bacon is and should be, frankly. Hard to mess that up. And while there could be more bacon, it’s not a major quibble.

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In a word? Delicious. The chicken is juicy and tender and expertly seasoned, avoiding the blandness that so often accompanies fast-food grilled chicken. The cheese doesn’t factor into the taste much, but the bacon certainly makes itself known — if anything, it makes the sandwich a tad salty.

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Shake Shack’s new sandwich doesn’t have the pristine looks of Chick-fil-A’s, but we’re not judging this book by its cover just yet.

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The all-natural chicken breast is griddled, not grilled per se, so there are no visually seductive grill marks. But it’s lightly charred on the outside all the same, which is a good sign. The Maillard reaction is one of the keys of grilling, if not of all cooking itself.

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The tomatoes look gorgeous. They’re vibrant, firm, and look fresh. There’s lettuce, too, but it’s pretty negligible.

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The bacon is impressive. The slices are incredibly thick, and it’s perfectly cooked in that sweet spot between crispy and cartilaginous. For once, three slices of bacon doesn’t feel skimpy.

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Yet despite all of these impressive ingredients, the sandwich falls flat. The chicken tastes strange, and it has a slightly grainy mouthfeel. The seasoning is off — too salty, even without the bacon.

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The bacon seems to be the best part of it — ironic, considering the sandwich’s positioning as a healthy menu item. Ultimately, the whole does not equal the sum of its parts.

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Chick-fil-A’s chicken, even when grilled, is still safe on top for another day.

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