The Chicken War is on as Bob Basham, founder of Outback Steakhouse and partner Nick Reader are rolling out their answer to Chick-Fil-A in the form of PDQ Restaurants. PDQ opened Sunday in Fort Lauderdale in that strip of land between Solid Gold and Pure Platinum.
We attended a preview, and got a pretty good idea of what PDQ is all about. The first thing they emphasize is personal service; which some may like more than others. There's no plastic clown with a speaker in the drive-thru; you'll give your order to a live person.
On this day one of those South Florida storms was blowing through; and PDQ employees in rain gear with umbrellas were in the parking lot walking customers from and to their cars. It's a bit strange, but it was nice not to have to lug my umbrella into the restaurant also.jump-->
PDQ is to chicken as BurgerFi is to burgers; it's less plasticky than most fast food restaurants, and they're very proud that the stores have no freezers. The angle is fresh food and personal service.
PDQ Fort Lauaderdale Interior
Loud music plays and your name is called out by a guy with a microphone like the DJ at Pure Platinum calls out the next dancer. It's kind of different, and it worked well with the VIP crowd. They had swarms of employees working; I'd guess there would be 1/3 of this normally, so service likely can't be interpolated fairly.
They have a little counter and a big open kitchen. It's a pretty cool design.
PDQ Counter and Kitchen
>They have 2 of the Freestyle beverage vending machines, 3 freshly brewed Iced Teas, fresh lemons and Splenda; I built a nice iced green tea for the ride home. The ketchup is pre measured into cups so you don't have to risk it squirting and ruining your tie or jeans.
PDQ Condiments and Beverages
I'd ordered a crispy chicken sandwich, fries and a water; a "meal", which would have been $7.29 if I were paying. Then I remembered that they had "hand-spun" shakes, so I asked for one of those.
The sandwich was a chicken sandwich; nothing remarkable about it; not as heavily battered or deep fried as Chick-Fil-A. I liked their pickles.
PDQ Crispy Chicken and Fries
The fries were fries; I don't usually eat fries and I didn't particularly think that there were any different than any other. They have a bunch of unique dipping sauces (think McDonalds and the McNuggets); I tried the creamy garlic.
PDQ Creamy Garlic Sauce
Putting some of this on the sandwich gave it a zing that elevated it substantially. Get this stuff with your tenders-only order and it's better than anything with those plastic-packet sauces at McDonald's. i might even throw this on my chicken salad.
The shake comes with a monster straw, which means that the people who run this place have actually tried and failed to drink a thick shake through a regular sized straw.>
PDQ Chocolate Shake
I got a chocolate shake; you can upgrade it to a "malt" or "heath" shake. I thought that the shake was more fast-food than ice cream parlor; closer to a McDonald's shake than something you'd get at Baskin Robbins. A good deal at $3 nonetheless.
A manager tried to sell me on the apples and toffee, but they're really not my thing; I'm not sure I've ever had dessert at a fast food place. I reluctantly agreed to take some home to try.
Trying an apple slice; it was certainly fresh, but I don't usually eat green apples. The toffee was really good; very sweet with a buttery crunch (like in butter crunch ice cream).
PDQ Toffee Dip
I didn't realize it at first, but the toffee is meant as a "dip" for the apples. Say what? Ok, so I gave it a try. Believe it or not, it works. It seems to me that dipping apples in toffee defeats the purpose of eating apples, but if you get the apples give the toffee dip a try.
I stopped in a few weeks after opening to grab a snack and the weakness of the menu struck me. Three, four or five tenders, limited sides or salads. With or without a bun. I just got three tenders and got the buffalo blue sauce.
PDQ Chicken Tenders
I didn't like the buffalo blue dip at all. It gave me an opportunity to eat the chicken tenders without any sauce; they're not all that tasty. The chicken itself is better than usual fast food chicken in that it is fresher and more tender, but the breading isn't that good; nothing close to Kentucky Fried. They also weren't crispy. At least they weren't crispy anymore by the time I got home. Better than Popeyes. Not as good as Chick-Fil-A.
Disclosure: Food for this preview was provided at no charge by PDQ