Buckling up for KFC's Double Down

I wanted to feel like a poor man’s Andrew Zimmern, a poorer man’s Anthony Bourdain, bravely about to embark on an edible adventure by eating KFC's bunless Double Down sandwich.

For some time now I had been planning this for fodder in a piece of stunt journalism. I mapped out my route to 14th Street between Second and Third Avenue, and much like I might for an interview with a celebrity, I brought my trusty Fisher Space Pen and black Moleskine flip notepad to document the experience. It was 12 April, opening day for the new KFC Double Down, and I was going to nom, nom, nom my way through pop-culture's newest, most-talked about fast food creation.

Instead of stringing you along for a few hundred words, I’ll admit straight away that it didn’t happen. Not really. I hit the KFC right at lunch time and even ordered the “sandwich”, but when I held it aloft for the first bite, I kind of punked out.

I wanted to feel like a poor man’s Andrew Zimmern, and a poorer man’s Anthony Bourdain, about to embark on an edible adventure. Yet as I eyed this bizarre food – a breadless contraption of two fried slabs of Original Recipe chicken holding together, barely, two slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese, bacon and a squirt of the mayo-esque “Colonel’s Sauce” – it felt somehow heavy in my hands.

What stared back at me was every one of the 540 calories and 32 grams of fat inside this frankenfood. Although Nadja Popovich of NPR’s Shots Health Blog astutely points out that the McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich actually has more calories in it, this, with a texture both somehow greasy yet absorbent, felt like it could be much worse for me.

My tongue shot out for a reptilian taste test and informed my brain of too much salt. I followed up with the teensiest of Smurf-like bites and swallowed my nibble. It wasn’t a good bite.

How many calories had I just eaten? This is the equivalent of how many meals? I’ve not really considered such caloric questions before but for rare times, when I’d wondered how much my lifespan was affected by street meats imbibed from within third world countries. Although I tried to wash out the taste of the Double Down with syrupy Diet Pepsi, and seriously considered following it up with a shot of Purell, it honestly wasn’t the worst thing I’d ever eaten.

In fact, the small bite of Double Down provided a modicum of enlightenment to my life. I learned, for instance, that I’m either not as adventurous as I previously thought, or I’ve simply grown old enough to care on some level about what I ingest.

Plus, it made me envision a world without bread where all sandwiches are encased in meat which holds more meat in between. I felt joy in knowing Web sites such as would have a long road ahead in chronicling the garbage shoved down our gullets. Finally, I experienced a series of deep thoughts about whether KFC was actively trying to provide comedian Patton Oswalt with material, and if he could define the Double Down with the same “failure pile in a sadness bowl” accuracy he applied to the Famous Bowls.

Above all else, however, my small bite of the Double Down instilled in me an enormous amount of respect for KFC. When every other fast food and restaurant chain fears the day when nutritional information and calorie counts must be listed on menus nationwide, KFC says, “Bring it on.”

Instead of rolling out healthier alternatives to fried food, it rebels like a rascally Kentucky colonel and practically flashes its chubby anti-balanced-diet buns at the American Heart Association, the American Diabitis Association, et. al, with this bunless sandwich. In a way, KFC wins big here --- even the American battle against obesity loses. Though satisfaction won’t come after eating these things, the chicken chain can be satisfied in knowing that the Double Down is a hit. While I set my chicken slabs down after the first bite, I witnessed order after order of the Double Down take place.

On Monday, 12 April 2010, the word “sandwich” became outdated and gave way to, what? The meatwich? A new era in eating has begun in America, and I for one am in awe -- and not a litle bit fearful -- of the next wave of Double Double Downs or Double Ups.






Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.


Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.


Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.


'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.


Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".


12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.


Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.


Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.


Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".


Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.