WHERE TO EAT CHICKEN NOW

6 Houston fried chicken sandwiches better than Popeyes or Chick-fil-A

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Chick-fil-A versus Popeyes has become a national obsession. The king of chicken sandwiches faces a vigorous challenge from fast food's premier purveyor of bone-in fried chicken.

Popeyes has been so overwhelmed by the demand that locations have been selling out. For an informal taste test at the CultureMap office, entertainment writer Craig Lindsey had to visit three stores to find it!

Briefly, the Popeyes sandwich has a larger piece of chicken with a thicker, more crispy crust. At first bite, it's clearly the more flavorful sandwich; however, the comparison between the two is a little bit reminiscent of the Pepsi Challenge. Just as people prefer one sip of Pepsi in a blind taste test but prefer to drink a whole can (bottle, etc) of Coke, the Popeyes sandwich may be better on first bite, but the Chick-fil-A sandwich is easier to finish.

Like most fast food, they're both "fine" — more convenient than delicious. Of course, Houston restaurants turn out far better chicken sandwiches than either Popeyes or Chick-fil-A. Rather than sit in a drive-thru for an hour, consider these options instead.

Relish Restaurant & Bar

This River Oaks restaurant has a strong claim to the title of Houston's best chicken sandwich. Instead of a bland breast, Relish makes its signature sandwich with more flavorful chicken thigh meat. Topped with cheddar cheese, tarragon ranch dressing, and housemade pickles, it's worth every penny of the $15 (includes choice of side) that chef Dustin Teague charges.

FM Kitchen & Bar

Not only does this comfort food spot turn out a better version of a Shake Shack-style burger than the restaurant from New York, it also turns out a damn fine chicken sandwich. Available in both mild — topped with coleslaw and pickles — or spicy — topped with American cheese, pickled jalapeños, and spicy aioli — the crispy chicken and solid toppings deliver more flavor than anything found in a drive-thru.

Mico’s

Located in a food truck park on Chimney Rock, this trailer only serves one thing: Nashville-style hot chicken. The pieces are so huge they extend well beyond the bun, and the heat level (available as mild, medium, hot, and X-tra hot) will make even the most devoted chilihead sweat. The coleslaw on top provides a little crunch, but it does almost nothing to abate the spicy tingle.

Continue reading on CultureMap to see the rest of the tasty list.

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The Astros still have plenty of work to do. Composite image by Jack Brame.

As the Houston Astros continue to battle with the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets for the best record in the league overall, it's no question they deserve their spot in the top five of MLB's power rankings. They continue to maintain a double-digit lead over the Mariners in the AL West, with a strong chance that they'll lock up the division with plenty of time to spare in the regular season.

At 71-40, they only need to win 29 of the remaining 51 games to reach 100 wins, making it the fourth time in the last five full seasons to accomplish that feat. According to Fangraphs, they have a 100% chance to make the playoffs, a 34.6% chance to make it to the World Series, and a 15.7% chance (third-highest odds behind the Dodgers and Mets) to win it. Yet, even still, some of the team's recent losses are a reminder that there is no room to relax, or worse, slump, down the final stretch.

Don't let the schedule fool you

When looking at the schedule and mapping out how the Astros could get those 29 wins to reach triple digits, there are a lot of soft spots where the team should be able to string together plenty of wins. They have a combined 20 games remaining against the Rangers, A's, and Angels, whom they have gone a combined 24-13 against so far in 2022.

That didn't stop a surprising three-game sweep by Oakland against these Astros at the end of July, dropping those three, which paved the way towards a 7-8 record in their last fifteen games. When not facing division foes, the Astros have several series against teams that will be fighting for Wild Card Spots like the White Sox, Braves, Phillies, and surprisingly, the Orioles.

So while the overall strength of the schedule might not be that daunting, the last thing the Astros need heading into the playoffs, where momentum is paramount, is to have had the chance to power into October with over 100 wins but instead struggle to stay dominant.

Getting the batting order back in order

What has been interesting in the recent stretch of games is that the offense has mostly told the story of their games. On the pitching side, in the current 7-8 game stretch, Houston's pitching staff averaged 3.9 runs per game in losses and an even 2.0 runs in wins. The offense, meanwhile, has a much wider variance, with 2.25 runs scored on average in defeats and 6.57 runs in victories.

They lost by a combined 13 runs in the eight losses, with several one-run losses in that mix. In terms of run differential, in losses, they averaged losing by just 1.63 runs while winning by an average of 4.57 runs. What does all this mean? It means that when they've won, it's been on big nights by the offense, and when they've lost, it's been in games they could've won with a few more clutch hits.

Losing Michael Brantley to the IL since June 26th has undoubtedly hurt the lineup, no question. Still, after the trade deadline acquisitions of Trey Mancini and Christian Vazquez, you would hope the Astros will find ways to get back to a more consistent dominance at the plate than they have shown in the last couple of weeks.

Keep the arms fresh and in the zone

Speaking of the deals the Astros made at the deadline, one move that will probably prove influential as the playoffs near is their trade which sent Jake Odorizzi to Atlanta with lefty reliever Will Smith coming back. Once you get into the playoffs, you certainly don't need a plethora of starters, but having depth at the position in the grueling parts of the season has its perks.

Now, they will form a typical five-man rotation with Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Cristian Javier, and Jose Urquidy slotting in every five days, give or take with off days. The change may not be an issue as long as they can continue at their impressive pace, especially if they choose to bring Lance McCullers Jr. back into a starting role once he's ready to rejoin the team. But, they now find themselves with a small margin of safety should a starter miss any time.

That being said, with Verlander at the top of this rotation building his case for another Cy Young and Framber Valdez's league-leading 19 quality starts in 2022 behind him, it feels as though you are nearly guaranteed a strong start two of every five days. It also means you have a pretty potent 1-2 punch for the first two games of a postseason series, which has helped the Astros go deep into October in these recent years.

It's not even the middle of August, which, in all honesty, should make it too soon to be talking about the playoffs. However, with the Astros' dominant start and middle of the year, it remains essential that they don't let things spiral to the point of needing a reset button come October.

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