McDonald's Southern-style chicken sandwich: At least the price is right

As you may have heard, McDonald's is giving away free Southern-style chicken sandwiches today, with the purchase of a medium or large drink.

The verdict is in and it's neither Southern-style, nor particularly chicken-like.

We'll give Eat Out editor Heather Shouse the first word:

"First, this is not a real chicken breast. If it is, the chicken has been amped up like some Anna Nicole Smith Butterball. It tastes like stringy white meat formed with some gristle for "juice." Beyond that, the bun is sugary and there's no mayo. Fact: If you serve a chicken-fried-anything south of the Mason Dixon with no mayo, you will be shot on sight. Overall, I really can't see much difference (aside from having only a lone pickle slice for toppings) between this and their Spicy Chicken sandwich (which, yes, I have tried). Chik-Fil-A is safe, even if their crazy Southern religious ways mean that I am denied their pickle juice–marinated goodness on Sundays."

And lest you think that we're expecting too much from a lowly McDonald's sandwich, those of us with less-learned palates didn't much care for it either:

Scott Smith, Web editor: First of all, the packaging says "Savour your Southern Style Chicken sandwich." I don't care for being bossed around by my food, for one thing. And for a second, what's with the British spelling? As Heather points out, there's no mayo, nor did McD's offer little packets of it (it appears they melted some butter on the bun though). Also, the bread totally overpowers the sandwich due, in part, to the complete lack of spice in the breading. Chik-Fil-A sandwiches usually leave me with a warm glow. The McD's sandwich left me feeling the way I do when I walk into a room and forget why I came in there. ("Did I just eat something? Was there food in my mouth just now? Where did I put my keys?")

John Dugan, Clubs editor: They've managed to engineer a nice crunch to moistness contrast into the texture of this mass-produced sandwich. But seeing as I hardly ever go to McDonald's, I doubt I'll be eating one of these again. Also, three bucks?

Ruth Welte, associate features editor: It doesn't taste like anything but fried. I'm not saying I didn't eat the whole thing - I did, because I'd eat a fried sock. Halfway through, though, I got desperate and tried adding A-1 steak sauce on a couple bites, which was totally overpowering. Next, I splashed some hot sauce on there, and that did the trick. No point in ordering a chicken sandwich that is bad for you and needs to doctored to be lunchworthy, though.

Steve Heisler, Comedy and Time In editor: It's a hefty hunk of chicken, but everything else--smooshed bun, paltry pickles--is pretty sad. As for taste, "hot" is the only flavor trait that comes to mind. And I'm talking temperature here. I guess if you simply need to "refuel," it does the job. And it squashed my hangover, so that's something.

Brent DiCrescenzo, Music editor: My tongue is numb, hopefully as a reaction to the scalding chicken juices and not some mysterious petrochemical or hormone. Growing up in Atlanta, Chik-Fil-A remains the measuring stick for over-the-counter fried poultry sandwiches, and McDonald's does a respectable job of approximating the breast meat (though I suspect it was an odd, stringy faux-crab-like lab protein) but fails with its soft, gooey bun and greasy batter exoskeleton. The bun begs to be toasted. Also, every pickle had an odd triangular hole punched in the middle like an exotic Chinese coin. But gross. The big question for me, however, is who will become the mascot of the sandwich? Grimace has shakes; Fry Guys have fries. I suggest a bullfrog with a southern drawl named Greasy.

Kris Vire, Theater writer: As an actual Southerner who makes a point of getting a juicy, delicious Chick-Fil-A sandwich on every visit home, I can say that Mickey D's version is a poor imitation. The chicken seems dehydrated and the breading is flavorless (Hi, McDonald's? Allow me to introduce you to spices, since you clearly haven't met). So bland I can barely remember eating it.

Matthew Lurie, Music writer: It's a spartan recipe McD's has cooked up, in dire need of hot sauce. A good, sizable piece of meat, two pickles and a few crumbs of onion. Not to get all white-guy, but I would have appreciated some mayo. Although I NEVER eat at McDonald's, if I went back, I would strongly consider eating it.

The not-quite-free sandwiches are available until 7pm tonight. After that, it's back to the regular price.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)