Some things I understand. Other things make me wonder, such as why are people standing in line and sometimes fighting over a fried-chicken sandwich? I don't get it.
Here's the backstory. Popeye's Louisiana Chicken introduces its new fried-chicken sandwich back in August and then launches a Twitter war with Chick-fil-A over who has the best fried-chicken sandwich. Popeye's scores a home run when it sells out of its sandwiches. Those sandwiches returned last Sunday.
I decided to find out what all of the fuss was about with my own taste-test comparison. It's so easy to do in Joplin. Popeye's is located at 2130 S. Range Line Road and Chick-fil-A is across the street. So I went to Popeye's and ordered their classic chicken sandwich with mayo and pickles for $3.99. Popeye's has a spicy version of this sandwich. The difference is in the mayo.
There was a line to order this sandwich. I waited about 6 minutes to order and about 2 minutes to pick it up. The sandwich was wrapped in a heavy foil bag to keep it warm. You open the bag and find that your sandwich is wrapped in paper. That makes the sandwich easier to eat, especially if you are on the go. The chicken had a crisp, almost flaky crust. It was served on a toasted bun with mayo and lots of pickles.
I had half of the Popeye's sandwich, washed it down with some bottled water and then drove across the street where I ordered a chicken sandwich with pickles and mayo for $3.39 from Chic-fil-A. I placed my order and paid for it in about a minute. It was about a minute later that I picked up the sandwich. This Chick-fil-A is a model of efficiency.
The sandwich came in a foil bag. The chicken had a tasty and uniform crust. It was served with a couple of pickles on a lightly-toasted bun. You put the mayo on. The good thing about that is that you regulate how much you use.
It appeared to me that the Popeye's sandwich was slightly larger and had better pickles. But you have to balance that against price, speed of transaction and the fact that McDonald's, KFC, Burger King and Wendy's all have their versions of the fried-chicken sandwich. Chick-fil-A still leads the pack in my opinion, but Popeye's is a strong contender.
New grocery store
When a new grocery store opens in Joplin, it does not matter where it is located in relation to where I live. I'm going to check it out. I want to see if something new or different is being offered. I want to check out the brands and the prices. Does it have a deli?
When the Save-A-Lot grocery store recently closed at 811 W. Seventh St., there was some concern at the time about whether a new grocery store would be coming to the site. The permanent closure of the Price Cutter store on Maiden Lane — the last vestige of a full-service grocery store in Joplin — heightened that concern.
Enter G&W Foods. This company has taken an established grocery store and transformed it into a bright and clean neighborhood market with competitive prices. It's now a Cash Saver-Cost Plus Food Outlet. I visited the store last week and just about everybody inside was talking about how much nicer this store has become.
When I was a full-time writer at this newspaper, I would visit the Save-A-Lot store to pick up snacks for work, things such as cheese and crackers. The produce section now has small and large salads that you can grab and go. The produce section was very tempting. I picked up a cut watermelon and a container of pico de gallo. These were impulse buys because they looked so fresh. They were fresh and I'm glad I did not resist the impulse.
I bought some other things — orange juice, pickles and precooked egg noodles. At the checkout counter, I told the clerk how much I had enjoyed shopping in the new store. That prompted everyone around me to join in about how much nicer they thought the new store is. The clerk, who bagged my purchases, said, "Not only do we have a new store, but the G&W Foods people are great to work for.''
Wow. I can't remember the last time I heard someone speak favorably about the place where they work. That's a good sign. The online reviews of the new store indicate that shoppers like what they see and the service they are getting. The critical comments suggest an expansion might be in order to add a deli with fried chicken, which would make this store a small version of a full-service grocery store. Since we are unlikely to get a full-service grocery store anytime soon, G&W Foods should take this suggestion seriously because of its central location in Joplin. From my own experience, I can tell you that people from all over town drove to Price Cutter for its deli.
And let's don't forget the historical perspective. At one time, the only deli in Joplin was located where Crabby's is today.