A diner called out the shady practice on Yelp.
It’s probably safe to say that Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen has some of the best fast food you can buy today. It’s simple, it’s satisfying, and with a side of mashed potatoes and a biscuit, it could easily be called delicious. That doesn’t mean, however, that other restaurants should be serving it on their own menus. These places have their own dishes, their own chefs, their own areas of expertise. Unfortunately, Sweet Dixie Kitchen, in Long Beach, California decided to take advantage of the almost universally acknowledged goodness that is Popeyes—by smuggling it into its kitchen and serving the reheated food to guests in dishes like a chicken sandwich.
In a post on Yelp all the way at the beginning of the month, a user named Tyler H. gave the restaurant a one-star review, warning future diners that his waiter admitted, after he saw two boxes of Popeyes being taken to the kitchen, that the restaurant does indeed serve chicken from the fast food restaurant on some of their dishes. Their chicken and biscuits cost $13, by the way. Tyler H. and his party asked for a refund, which they were granted.
Yesterday, the restaurant decided to respond to the allegations from the Yelp review in a lengthy Facebook post, defending the choice to use fried chicken they don’t prepare in-house.
“We use a ready-made chicken—and always have—even before we decided to go with a certain chain as opposed to a food distributor brand fried chicken,” the Facebook post reads. “Integrity—despite this wave of 'Popeyegate', is what my food is about.”
Why doesn’t the restaurant opt for transparency and post on its menu or website that its chicken comes from a fast food restaurant? There’s an explanation for that, too.
“We don't list the ready-made Kielbasa or hot links or puff pastry or pie shells or baguette…because we bring the items in—ready-made—and then use them as ingredients in a dish—like the chicken,” the post continues.
The restaurant (it’s unclear who wrote the post, as it’s unsigned) says that it will continue to conduct business without changing its model, and goes on to explain some of the menu items that are made from scratch, like wasabi cole slaw, tomato jam, and its biscuits.
If the staff hadn’t been caught red-handed, the restaurant’s strategy might have been clever. And in its defense, food served at fast-casual restaurants (although from its website this one looks to be more upscale) probably does come to the kitchen pre-made or frozen. But that's still a long way off from having your kitchen staff make a run to Popeyes during the lunch rush, and then passing off the resulting dish as your own. Diners deserve to know where their food comes from. Besides, part of the fun of going out to eat is trying original dishes, prepared by visionary chefs who are excited by food, not reheating it and then hiking up the price.
The whole saga does give me an idea though: For your next brunch party, why not order Popeyes, then break out the waffle iron and whip up your own budget version of chicken and waffles, instead of going out to a fancy brunch spot. Your guests may not know the difference.