The store was packed cheek-to-jowl, the wait was over an hour for food, and stomachs—as well as patiences—were audibly growling. Oh yeah, and there was a singing chicken. This was the scene this morning at Cutty’s (read the Roadfood.com review) as people queued up for the only sandwich for sale: the Super Cluckin' Sunday Fried Chicken Sandwich. Now Cutty’s is well-known in Boston for their incredible gourmet sandwiches: Italian pork rabe, spuckies, egg salad, creative greens, and a roast beef sandwich that effortlessly defeats all North Shore roast beef contenders (and therefore should never be counted amongst the Kelly’s and the Nick’s legions, but that’s another article). They’ve offered this sandwich (or close facsimiles) a few times last year, but without a doubt the buzz for this event has been building all month on Cutty’s Facebook page.
Consider the evidence: a buttermilk-brined chicken breast, coated in a flour mixture of twelve herbs & spices—that's one extra herb and/or spice than the Colonel’s, mind you—packed into an Iggy’s grilled brioche bun with honey mustard, mayo, sweet onion, shredded lettuce, and Cabot sharp cheddar.
But the chaos that actually transpired in obtaining this sandwich should’ve been considered. First, there was an over-capacity crowd in the store—the type that makes one wonder if the fire code was being broken. Then there was the announcement of names whose orders were ready—would we even be able to hear ours over the din? “Phil” was called for ten minutes with no answer; the poor guy got tired of waiting and abandoned his spot. And the singing chicken…oh boy. Standing at the front of the crowd, a guy in a chicken suit played an acoustic guitar and sang very loudly, which turned our minds to this article on the volume problem in American restaurants. After my irritation over the wait turned to low-blood-sugar giddiness, I honestly felt like I was in a bad SNL skit.
Sarah, the smiling cashier who’s always working when we visit, is easily one of the kindest souls we’ve ever met. She’s the type of person that immediately calms you with her eternal grin as soon as you walk in. She warned us that the wait for our sandwiches would be 20-25 minutes, yet it was well over an hour before our name was called. She can’t be blamed, though, because clearly the kitchen was overwhelmed. And there’s nowhere to stand—the register line, the phone-orders line, you’re always in the way of folks trying to pass to check on their orders, throw away their trash, or use the restroom…and those in the latter category still must squeeze by the singing chicken.
Conversing with several people in line over the issues at hand, we brainstormed on how to make it better. If folks with call-in orders were able to get large numbers of sandwiches (6-12, say) at once—which would clearly back up all orders of those waiting in line, then Cutty’s should take no phone-in orders to be fair. We overheard more than a few folks complaining about the singing chicken (one person said frankly, “The singing chicken really stresses me out!”)—cute gimmick, but if he had sung people’s names when their orders were ready, it would’ve been much more tolerable. A number system, like at your grocer’s deli counter, would’ve been psychologically healthier so folks could see/hear where their numbers were in the line-up. And that huge sheet cake behind the counter? Brian O’Rourke, owner of O’Rourke’s Diner in Middletown, CT, comes outside with free wedges of coffee cake when the line snakes out the door in the winter. Couldn’t Cutty’s do the same? At $1.85/slice, they could take the loss and instead focus on their $11/sandwich earnings (plus we noticed that nobody was buying the cake!).
Finally after an hour-fifteen, our name was called! I dashed forth through the rabble and claimed the veritable golden bag o’ goodies: two sandwiches plus a bag of Cutty’s delicious homemade potato chips. The taste? Phenomenal, as one would expect from these hallowed sandwich architects. You’ve heard us say this a million times, but it really was the perfect mix of crunchy chicken, sweet lettuce, soft bread, and gooey condiments. The cheese was superfluous, but we admit to being befuddled over New England’s obsession with putting cheese on chicken, white American slices on hot roast beef, and—take a deep breath, y’all!—cheese on pulled pork. Despite that, it was the best chicken sandwich we’ve had above the Mason-Dixon line, maybe anywhere.
But was it worth the wait? Yes, but only because we are dyed-in-the-wool Cutty’s converts. Anyone else who just happened to stumble in on this day might not share our sentiments. Would we return for the sandwich? Probably not, unless they greatly improve the ordering process—though we surmise that their big cast-iron skillets can only cook so many chickens, and only so fast. And should they lose the singing chicken? By all means, yes! (Or just bring earplugs.) Cutty’s is located at 284 Washington Street in Brookline, MA.