Canada’s first Chick-fil-A, the number one chicken restaurant in the U.S., opened a block away from me in downtown Toronto a month ago. For the first week, there was chaos on the sidewalk outside because of protests by the LGBTQ community who believe Chick-fil-A’s founding family is homophobic. The rest of the world didn’t care. Whenever I happened to walk by, the lineup of slavering customers began inside, stretched outside across the front windows, wound around the corner of the shop and continued some distance down the side street.
After a week or so, the protesters disappeared but the lineups remained, so I patiently waited my best chance to eat chicken like it was for my first time. After all, Chick-fil-A, founded in 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia, now has more than 2,400 restaurants in forty-seven states – and one province. There are plans to open fifteen more outlets in Toronto over the next five years. They must be doing something right.
One day, with the lineup down to twenty people outside, I finally joined in. Ten minutes later I had a paper bag containing my first meal: the Chick-fil-A deluxe sandwich, waffle fries and a medium root beer, all for $12.42 including tax. The boneless chicken breast had been hand-breaded, cooked in peanut oil, and served on a butter bun with lettuce, tomato, and two of the smallest slices of dill pickle you ever saw. The latter is apparently a signature item.
I perched on a stool in the window to show the world my hard-fought purchase. Everything tasted pretty ordinary. The texture of the sandwich was smooshy. The waffle chips were a long way from frites. Only later when I checked Chick-fil-A’s website did I realize what I’d done to myself. Total calories in all my items were 1,220, about half my daily requirement. Total sodium was 2,135 mg. The American Heart Association urges no more than 2,000 mg a day and says 1,500 is better. Total fat was 57 g, mid-range on the 44-77 grams you should eat per day, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The only good news was 39 grams of protein of the 58 I need. Next time I walk by, I think I’ll start a new protest for a different cause: healthier food.