In contrast to most Dubliners, on the scale of meats, chicken is pretty low for me. Wings are grand (great, even) because they have very little actual meat on them (Read more: Blue Bar Review | Chicken Wings in Dublin), but breast meat is too easy to dry out due to its natural leanness. It’s tough to make not bland. There have been all too many situations in my life where I would have much preferred the processed not quite chicken meat that goes into nuggs to the actual chicken that still looks like meat sitting in front of me (I’m looking at your McDonald’s Chicken Selects which I will never order again).
If we compare the fried chicken sandwich to the burger, this gives us a useful reference point. Because burgers are made with mince (ground beef), you can tweak the fat levels (80:20 lean:fat is ideal) so that you have fat mixed in throughout (Read more: The Dublin Burger Scene). This makes the meat very forgiving. You could honestly cook it well done and it would still taste good. Not so with a chicken fillet. Not only are you dealing with a solid piece of lean meat that it would be difficult (maybe impossible) to incorporate extra fat into, but that meat needs to be cooked all the way through for food safety.
Done well, a fried chicken sandwich should have a crunchy crispy exterior coating a juicy evenly cut chicken fillet. Since this is easier said than done, I abstain from ordering chicken sandwiches unless in the hands of a specialist. Of course there are some exceptions to this, like the fantastic Buttermilk Bird at Pitt Bros (pictured below), but the chicken sandwich centric fast casual restaurant is where the void in Dublin’s chicken culture lies.
Using America to forecast our next wave food fad, chicken sandwiches are the future. The fast casual chicken joint will be our currency and if you don’t have one, well then, I guess you’re out of luck. For the past few years, celebrity chefs, from Mind of a Chef alums Ludo Lefebvre and David Chang to Top Chef All Stars’ Richard Blais, have been opening their own bespoke Chick-fil-a inspired restaurants in the US (my words). Interestingly, some have been met with less than stellar reviews, but I guess it just goes to show how tricky this seemingly humble dish can be to perfect.
This is why I was so excited when I heard about the somewhat confusingly named Mad Egg, which opened off Camden St at the end of March and has their menu firmly centred on chicken sandwiches. They do serve tenders as well, and a few sides, but I appreciate the simplicity of their offerings. The brevity of the menu instills confidence in their mastery of the product and is always a good sign in my book. The chicken is free range, tea brined, and buttermilk battered. They offer several flavour combinations for both sandwiches and tendies, which is fun, but not even really necessary in my opinion.
I’ve visited twice now and I’m excited to share my take!
The place is small with a trendy vibe, but take note: Mad Egg is a sit-down restaurant in contrast to the fast casual standard that one might expect, given the type of food. Being served is nice and all, but this may make it difficult to crunch into your lunch hour, especially if you have to wait for a table (this place is very popular at the moment). The lighting is as dim as possible despite the large windows at the front, and the music is loud (although they were cranking out solid party hits that someone like me who hasn’t listened to new music in 10 years would enjoy).
We were sure that these would be our favourite as they’re described as “dripping” cheese and liquid cheese one of my many weaknesses. But note: they serve the tenders pre-sauced by default, though you can ask for it on the side.
My friend Rory said that he likes it when a restaurant puts sauce directly on the food so that you don’t get to portion the sauce yourself, since you might actually use a different amount, if given the opportunity. He also confirmed that he wasn’t being sarcastic, in case that’s what you’re thinking.Loading ...
In addition to the cheeze, the Cheezy Tenders are smothered in their house hot sauce which is like a smoky chili based sauce. It was a bit bitter for my liking and didn’t really complement the cheeze. I also found that the pre-saucing detracted from some of the crunch, so if you want to get next level crunch, or if you’re not sure whether you’ll like the sauce, on the side is the way to go. Each order comes with 4 large tenders at €7.95.
Coated in buffalo and ranch, these won out over the Cheezy Tenders, although the pre-saucing still left them less crispy than I would have liked. On my second visit I ordered them with sauce on the side and you can see the crispy shell surrounding the juicy chicken breast beautifully.
Honey Butter Bird
Topped with candied bacon, cinnamon rock, honey butter, pickles, and lettuce, this sandwich offered a really unique and delicious flavor profile, if a bit difficult to hold together. The sandwich is sizable, so you do run into some issues with things sliding around and every single pickle falling off. These pain points could be resolved by sizing it down just a touch, cutting the pickles thinner, and using the honey butter to get them to adhere between chicken and the bun. Due to the size and quality, the €9.95 price point is feasible, but I’d prefer to pay a bit less for a smaller sandwich and get a side too.
Mac and Cheeze
Ultra creamy though not really that cheesy, this was a nice complement to the gently spiced chicken which did built up a bit of heat over time.
Chicken Salt Fries
Nice, hand cut chips. Not sure if the chicken salt aspect was particularly noticeable, but good if you like fries.
This place serves up some good chicken but because of the table service it didn’t quite live up to my expectation. I’d love to see the same food in a fast casual environment so that I can safely go there for lunch and not be late getting back to work. That said, if you like chicken and you’ve got the time, Mad Egg is worth a visit.
Thoughts on the chicken scene in Dublin? Let me know in the comments!