There was no wait on a cold November Tuesday at Double Chicken Please, a days-old Taiwanese cocktail bar and chicken sandwich spot on the Lower East Side. One could simply walk up, purchase a slab of crispy, craggy thigh meat slathered in hot honey, and be on their merry way, with a takeout negroni in tote. And so 15 minutes after putting in my order, I was happily feasting on very good sandwiches while shivering in a chilly Manhattan playground; seating at the venue itself is indoor-only.
Such expeditiousness signals a departure from our fowl-addled Before Times. Over the past half-decade, a good or even passable chicken sandwich served as a surefire way to provoke a mild degree of social mayhem, or at least draw an oppressive lunchtime crowd.
Serious waits accompanied Chick-fil-A’s New York debut in 2015, with daytime lines continuing for years to come. David Chang’s Fuku attracted legions in its earliest days, while the national debut of the Popeyes chicken sandwich last year prompted a think piece from the New Yorker, customer pandemonium, questions over treatment of fast food workers, and at least one fatal stabbing. To be clear: The daily queues at most of those venues had largely subsided long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 and its tragic, human toll has a way of putting the low-key excesses of yesteryear — and capricious consumer tastes — into stark perspective.
I was one of just two patrons inside GN Chan and Faye Chen’s Double Chicken Please (herein: DCP) during my late afternoon visit this week. I ordered my meal at the smooth brass counter and explained to a disappointed counter worker that 3 p.m. was too early for takeout cocktails.
A word of warning: These aren’t your run-of-the-mill, salt-and-pepper, pickles-on-the-bottom, “we want to show off the flavor of the chicken” sandwiches. Rather, they are highly manipulated, cheffy creations that highlight the flavor of the sauces and toppings. They also come packaged with the care of, like, an Apple Watch.
Each sandwich currently has three layers of protection: A tan, McDonald’s style clamshell box for transporting (which will soon be replaced by a custom movie theater tray), a black paper holder inside (to let the sandwich stand upright and peek out for iPhone photography), and finally, as one gets closer to the center of this matryoshka doll, a more practical wax paper wrapper for holding and eating.
Here’s the lowdown on how they all taste. They don’t have formal names, so I gave them some.
The sweet sandwich ($12): Fried chicken in hot honey on a pretzel roll. Can you taste the nuances of the firm thigh meat? Not really, and that’s not a problem, because you’re here for the dense, mahogany-hued crust — almost as crackly as a thin lollipop — and the fragrant Thai basil sauce that smells of anise. The neutral fowl and hearty roll tame the sweet glaze, allowing you to keep eating without overwhelming the palate. Yes, there are pickles, but there’s not a whole lot of acid balance here; the title of this book is Sugar, Fat, Starch, Protein.
The shrimpy sandwich ($12): Fried chicken on a brioche roll with a dried shrimp and duck egg yolk puree. DCP uses a softer, squishier bun than in the regular chicken sandwich, and the fry is lighter here too. The overall flavor recalls those tiny shrimp you get in a Guangdong-style cheung fun rice roll, except their intensity is multiplied by a factor of 10 here. This sandwich might be made of chicken, but it tastes like a concentrated, funky, high-tide hit of Atlantic Ocean. What’s even better is that the sauce boasts a wonderfully coarse texture, evoking a slurry of delicious, edible sand.
The plant sandwich ($11): Fried tofu on a sesame bun with peanut-sesame sauce and crispy shallots. It seems simple enough until you take a bite; the creation packs a hearty crunch, a serious hint of nut butter, and meaty tofu that tastes like…a pickle? That’s right; the cooks brine the soybean curd in dill pickle juice. There are also fresh slices of pickle in there for a bit of balance. The end result is essentially an haute analogue to the Depression-era pickle and peanut butter sandwich.
So you know what the deal is: I’m calling all of these fine sandwiches a BUY. And since many folks are smartly avoiding indoor dining these days — a style of service that will likely end across the city within the coming week or two — I’ll add that the sandwiches maintained their warmth and structural integrity during a short bike ride to Sara D. Roosevelt Park. In fact the hot honey and tofu variants were still quite delicious hours later. I’ll be back soon to try the cocktail program for takeout, or for sit-down service sometime later next year when indoor dining comes back in a bigger way.
Buy, Sell, Hold is a column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a dish or item and decides whether you should you buy it, sell it (just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying).