I can’t figure Mendocino Farms out. The bánh mì I had some time ago was less than satisfying, but they seemed worthy of a second visit. After all, it’s clear they’re putting a lot of thought into their sandwiches. Sadly, I can’t quite figure out what they’re thinking.
The “Not So Fried” chicken sandwich is sliced chicken breast, said to be rolled in something called “Krispies” and accompanied with herb aioli, mustard pickle slaw, tomatoes, and pickled red onions on toasted ciabatta. There’s a side of barbeque sauce, labeled as chipotle but running with a more generic smoke flavor than the particulars of chipotle peppers. Again, there’s ample evidence of a lot of time and effort, but in all of the consideration given this sandwich it seemed no one stopped and asked “Is sliced chicken breast and breadcrumbs a good combination?” Had they done so, they would have realized no. No it is not. The ‘krispies’ included on the sandwich are large and especially crunchy, but they end up scattered all over and not particularly pleasant. The crust-meat effect they are meant to mimic is largely absent, and the sandwich overall lacks harmony and cohesiveness.
I recognize that this is not a fried chicken sandwich, but if you’re going to offer a substitute, the implication is that you’re doing so because you’ve made some sort of upgrade. “I know a fried chicken sandwich sounds good,” you’re saying, “but wait until you try this.” That’s a perfectly fair proposition, but given that the this in question is sliced chicken breast and overdone breadcrumbs, it was hard not to get stuck on the fact that I could have been eating a fried chicken sandwich. The flavor profile was on-point, the mustard pickle slaw was delicious, but overall any sandwich that does nothing but remind you of what you could be eating can’t be considered a success. This likely won’t be the last time I eat at Mendocino Farms, but I’ll certainly cast a more jaundiced eye on their menu going forward.