There's a new brand of southern-style chicken in town and you won't find it in a drive-thru.
Big-box store Sam's Club began selling southern-style chicken bites in their frozen section in August 2018, and the image on the packaging looked so much like Chick-fil-A's chicken nuggets that my kids begged my husband and I to buy them on our weekend shopping trip. The verdict from my 11- and 9-year-old kids was that they tasted exactly like Chick-fil-A's, especially when dipped in the chicken dipping sauce that's now being sold at Walmart.
And other families must have agreed: In August 2019, Sam's Club rolled out two new southern style items — a chicken sandwich and waffle fries that, again, are dead ringers for their Chick-fil-A counterparts.
My kids are big fans of Chick-fil-A and chicken nuggets, so I asked them to try out the entire line of southern-style items available at Sam's Club and give their honest opinions. Because nothing comes in small packaging at the warehouse store, we picked up two 4-pound bags of waffle fries, a three-pound bag of chicken bites and a bag of 10 chicken sandwiches, then invited some friends over for a southern-style feast.
The chicken sandwiches are packaged in individual bags and are best cooked in the microwave, following the cooking instructions on the wrapper. (We found they needed a bit of extra cooking time to avoid a chilled center.)
The verdict? Once heated through, the sandwiches taste pretty darn close to the ones available at Chick-fil-A. Kids and adults alike noted that the buttery bun of a Chick-fil-A sandwich was missing and the chicken wasn't as "greasy" as the real thing. Also worth noting is the need to add your own pickles — the packaging even warns "pickles not included."
Both the waffle fries and chicken bites are best cooked in an air fryer, according to the packaging, but can also be heated in a conventional oven. We used an air fryer and found both items to be super close to the originals, again only lacking that greasy, fast-food texture you get when dining at Chick-fil-A (which, if you're looking for a healthier version of a fast-food favorite, may not be a bad thing).
A spokesperson for Sam's Club told TODAY Food the inspiration behind the products, all of which are sold under Sam's Club's Member's Mark private label, came from following food trends closely.
"We know many of our members enjoy southern-style foods but are also busy families so we wanted to offer solutions that taste great, provide value and are quick and easy to serve up for their families," said the spokesperson.
As a busy mom-of-two, I'd say these products fit that bill perfectly: Everything was simple to prepare, tasted great and cost between $15 and $5. (The cost for a serving of the waffle fries and one chicken sandwich is less than $2.)
And, if Sam's Club members want to try a few items before they buy, the chicken bites are available for purchase in club food courts. This convenience is also a good thing because the southern-style products in the freezer section tend to sell out quickly.
“Our members have responded to these new items even better than we expected and they’re flying off the shelves," said Chase Ketron, a senior merchant at Sam’s Club. "We’re working quickly to keep clubs in stock so our members can get their hands on these tasty items.”
So, just how tasty are they?
Kids are brutally honest, and when I asked them if the products were as good as Chick-fil-A's, I received a reply that the adults thought summed the products up perfectly.
"They're really good, but I'd rather have the real thing," said my son's 11-year-old friend. "But if it was Sunday and I couldn't go to Chick-fil-A, I would be really happy with these."