These were the two words that fired through my mind as I bit into KFC’s new Double Down “sandwich.” I use quotes here because there isn’t anything sandwich-like about the Double Down, a menu item advertised as being “so meaty there’s no need for a bun.”
True to the slogan, there is no bun included with the pair of boneless, breaded fried chicken pieces encasing a dollop of a mayonnaise-based sauce, a slab of crisp bacon and two hearty slices of pepper jack cheese. But the near-absence of carbs — there is a paltry 11 grams tucked in the chicken’s breading — is more than compensated for by the presence of grease.
Even the scant tomato slice and garnish of shredded lettuce offered
on most fast food sandwiches are missing from the Double Down. This is a sandwich made for the quintessential carnivore — one with a ravenous appetite and arteries that can withstand an infusion of cholesterol.
Along these lines, the Double Down’s 145 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,300 milligrams of sodium equal roughly half the recommended daily intake for adults. Of its purported 540 calories, more than half are resulting from fat.
My fingers glistened with a greasy sheen, which quickly saturated the thin wax paper sheath covering the Double Down. The two paper napkins stuffed in the bag with it didn’t stand a chance.
The cheese melded with the peculiarly orange sauce and the residual grease from the twin fried chicken breasts, creating a distinct KFC flavor that made the addition of fatty bacon seem superfluous. The crisp strips seemed to succumb to the flood of oil cascading through nearly every corner of the 241-gram Double Down, the newest and largest sandwich on KFC’s menu.
The concoction prompted nearly instant rumbles from my stomach, a cast-iron cauldron accustomed to frequent abuse. The tingling sensation of bubbling stomach acid forming in the base of my throat suggested it was probably a wise idea to forgo the soft drink and fried potato wedges that, for another dollar and change, were offered with the $6.47 Double Down.
The Colonel’s image smiled back at me from the lid of the Double Down’s box. I envisioned him somewhere on a distant Kentucky plantation, enjoying a good chortle with each Double Down thrust into the hands of intrepid KFC customers.
Still, I didn’t find that the Double Down had a bad flavor, nor was it the day-ending meal I suspected it to be, even though I blame the chart-topping sodium for a few hot flashes later at the office. All in all — and excluding the obvious health drawbacks — the Double Down wasn’t that bad.
worth the hype
But was it worth the hype that started when KFC began test-marketing the item in Providence, R.I., and Omaha, Neb., last summer, or after KFC’s ads began inundating the Capital Region this month?
Certainly so, according to Rick Maynard, a spokesman for the Kentucky-based chain. In fact, the Double Down has caused more buzz across the globe than KFC has ever witnessed before.
“I can tell you we’ve never had a product that has generated this much buzz,” he said Thursday, about a week after the sandwich hit stores nationwide. “It’s being very well received by the public.”
Locally, sales of the Double Down have basically trumped all other menu items at KFC. Wasif Khan, the general manager of the Upper State Street KFC, said the new item is keeping his registers ringing throughout the day.
“It’s crazy,” he said Thursday afternoon. “It’s driving sales.”
The apparent popularity of the item comes as a bit of a surprise to skeptics, some of whom pegged the Double Down as a fast-food item too over-the-top for increasingly diet-conscious Americans. But there is some sound reasoning in KFC’s new offering, even if some find it utterly lacking in the social responsibility department.
Sanjay Putravu, chairman of the University at Albany’s marketing department, said KFC appears to be tapping its key demographic, which happens to include fast food eaters who aren’t worrying about fat calories or cholesterol when they order. He said eliminating the bun and offering a prodigious amount of meat seems to fit nicely with a company that offers large buckets of fried chicken as its staple item.
“Sometimes, even bad ideas are very successful because they find a target market,” he said.
In this case, KFC’s target is men with an appetite, Maynard conceded, more specifically, young men who are undeterred by the prospect of eating a quarter of their daily recommended caloric intake in one sitting.
“If you’re a college guy, you’re probably more likely to be interested in this product,” he said.
But if you’re planning to take up a Double Down at lunch, don’t expect to do it with any frequency, according to several local dietitians. The level of cholesterol and fat calories in one sandwich can be limiting for anyone looking to maintain a healthy diet, explained Lisa Finkenbinder, a dietitian at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.
“It’s really going to limit your choices for the rest of the day,” she said of the sandwich.
And that’s if the dietary information included with the sandwich is accurate. Jennifer Ballentine, a dietitian at the Albany Medical Center Hospital, doubted the accuracy of KFC’s 540-calorie claim, as well as several other items in the nutrition guide.
“Looking at it just briefly, it seems on the lower side,” she said. “I question how accurate it is.”
Even so, most KFC customers don’t seem to care. Digna Medina, a worker at the Upper State Street KFC, said she’s heard some people ask for seconds after downing a Double Down.
“There was a guy who came in saying it wasn’t enough,” she said.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: