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12 Chain Restaurant Chicken Salad Ranked From Worst To Best, According To Customers

Chicken salad sandwich lettuce
Chicken salad sandwich lettuce - Charles Brutlag/Shutterstock

For a lakeside trip or scenic stroll on the beach (can you tell summer is on our minds?), portable foods that you can stow away in a cooler are ideal. Arguably one of the tastiest to have in your picnic basket is chicken salad, an American staple that's as humble and nourishing as it is variable. Traditionally made with a mayonnaise dressing, the tender chicken can be diced, chopped, or shredded, with mix-ins that compliment just about any bed of greens or toasted bread in existence. Between grapes and minced almonds, garden herbs and celery, the seemingly endless possibilities allow culinary experimentation to flourish.

Craving the creamy dish but not the cleanup in the kitchen? You'll be able to order it lickety-split from many a restaurant chain, and it turns out that the options are generous. To that end, we sought to settle on which franchises make the best chicken salad — and which ones make the sort of chicken salad you may want to avoid. Your Aunt Rhoda may or may not corner the competition no matter how good number one is, but this guide will surely come in handy when a quick fix is in order. So, we took a look at 12 readily available chain restaurant takes on chicken salad and, based on the opinions of paying customers, ranked them in order from worst to first.

Read more: The Healthiest Fast Food Chains In The U.S.

12. Which Wich

Chicken salad hoagie sandwich
Chicken salad hoagie sandwich - Which Wich / Facebook

Diners can usually count on Which Wich for decent lunches. The sub shop supplies dozens of choices for cold cuts, cheeses, and condiments, making it feel like there's no limit to the hoagies that can be built. Yet someone's got to wear the dunce cap in this lineup. Customers just couldn't stomach this chain's version of chicken salad, whether it was because it tasted like nothing or worse, looked nightmarishly slimy. Looking at the bevy of disappointed reviews, there was no debate about it landing in last place.

Chicken salad arguably needs some minced veggies to lend texture and color and to one diner, the overwhelmingly white appearance of Which Wich's chicken salad was nauseating. Which Wich also serves its sandwich hot, which is a strange decision for a dish traditionally stored in the fridge.

Others note that the tangy flavor that makes chilled chicken and mayo so refreshing turns weirdly sour here. Some folks were so revolted by the flavor that they chucked it into the trash rather than suffer through eating it. "I took two bites and threw it away," revealed one patron, which mirrored another individual who "threw it out because it was beyond effing disgusting."

11. Arby's

Arby's chicken salad sandwich halves
Arby's chicken salad sandwich halves - Sue Gibbs Rakes / Facebook

Typically, Arby's releases its Pecan Chicken Salad Sandwich when summer is around the corner. We conducted a 2021 survey of Arby's sandwiches in which 37% of respondents thought it the worst sandwich of the pack, and while ranking it low here might hint at a bias, this spot is backed up by plenty of frustrated customers. One letdown patron referred to it as a "HUGE disappointment," saying that "The chicken salad [was] mostly made up of grapes and apples, hardly any pecans and chicken at all."

Judging by the slew of complaints over the skimpy portions at Arby's, it's safe to say that the roast beef purveyor is mostly giving bread with a touch of chilled salad. Customers have also voiced disappointment regarding the salad's low-quality ingredients claiming that the drive-thru chain mixes in the stalest bits it can get its hands on. Should we pass on this one? That depends -- how much mediocrity can you handle? Maybe Arby's should just stick to its more famous roast beef instead.

10. Lenwich

Chicken salad sandwich in half
Chicken salad sandwich in half - Lenwich / Instagram

Not only has Lenwich sprouted all over the Big Apple, but the deli emporium has since arrived in South Korea. Now, more people than ever before can sample its lineup of Italian and Jewish-inspired staples, including a chicken salad called the Farmhouse. The Farmhouse features a cranberry-studded mix nestled between lettuce, tomato, and red cabbage, spread on one's choice of roll. 

Unfortunately, artisanal trimmings fail to help Lenwich rise above the shortcomings that were brought to our attention by customers. Various reviews attested to a seriously divergent level of quality. For some, the wet salad soaked through the bread like a sponge, while others documented the opposite, complaining of parched fillings that were devoid of any silky-smoothness.

Plaguing this protein further is a frequent issue with under-seasoning. A Yelp review assigned the experience two stars, concluding that the sandwich was not worth the money: "The chicken salad lacked any sort of flavor and the tomatoes were very pink and flavorless." Another patron likewise pointed to a disappointing lack of flavor, claiming that the sandwich tanked on account of largely filler ingredients. Bougie establishments like Lenwich might be able to justify charging more for truly exceptional fare, but $13.99 for a whole sandwich is hard to swallow compared to these reviews.

9. The Cheesecake Factory

Sliced chicken salad sandwich
Sliced chicken salad sandwich - The Cheesecake Factory / Facebook

At The Cheesecake Factory, restaurant-goers perusing the chain's hefty menu can order sandwiches like the Chicken Almond Salad in either whole or half servings. The chain empire goes for a griddled brioche to cradle its nut-centric spread, embracing textural flair by garnishing it with crisp lettuce, tomato, and for extra richness, a slather of mayo.

Yet public consensus seems to vacillate between confident recommendations and cautious warnings. Proponents enjoyed the hearty crunch of the almonds and gave praise of the exceptionally large portions. However, numerous patrons at best found the chicken salad sandwich to be simply okay. And at worst? It inspired scathing indictments.

To a diner in the latter camp, even the Arby's chicken salad was superior to The Cheesecake Factory's version: "I love chicken salad, when it's good," they wrote. "This was not good at all. There was not one positive thing about it actually." And serving size notwithstanding, $16.95 for a whole sandwich seems absurd when nothing about it is very artisanal or complex.

The polarizing feedback leads us to believe that, despite some perks, there'll be heartbreak among diehard foodies expecting more.

8. Honey Baked Ham Company

Chicken salad croissant sandwich
Chicken salad croissant sandwich - Honey Baked Ham / Instagram

Honey Baked Ham Company, which probably saves more holidays on record than any red-nosed reindeer, offers a lot more than Easter feasts. On top of selling those gigantic hams, the direct-to-consumer brand acts as a sit-down establishment. The theme of the menu is picnic-esque, and although dishes inevitably cater to the pork protein, there are also options like turkey clubs and tomato cheddar melts for consideration.

From the feedback we surveyed, the chicken salad sandwich, to customers, wasn't anything to lose one's marbles over. To be fair, plenty did find it satisfying. One Yelp commenter lauded the croissant that held everything together, and another thought it did a good job ticking the boxes for a light lunch. "I am not usually a fan of craisins (or raisins) in chicken salad," they remarked, "but this sandwich was not bad."

On the flip side, well ... you know those grab-and-go packs stocked by supermarkets and gas stations? In the opinion of one diner, the sandwich possessed a similar unfortunate aura. "The meal tasted okay but definitely like it was pre-prepared and sitting there!" Flavor-wise, it's just your standard deli chicken salad -- cold, tangy, and just mayonnaise-y enough to hold all of the ingredients together. It's an acceptable possibility, but far from the tippy-top of delicious chicken salad perfection.

7. Panera Bread

Panera Bread chicken salad sandwich
Panera Bread chicken salad sandwich - Gian Basi / Facebook

Clocking in more than 2,000 cafes in the U.S., the deli-adjacent Panera Bread is an unsurprising addition to this list. Its Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich, a silky collage of minced celery, grapes, and almonds, is nestled with chicken salad between slabs of Country Rustic Sourdough. Excellent bread already puts the bakery chain at an advantage, but as the menu demonstrates, the sandwich gets an added boost thanks to preservative-free white meat.

Satisfying those sweeter notes is something a fruit-forward chicken salad can do well. Yet this might be an issue where Panera's take is concerned. Red grapes happen to already be quite juicy, but according to customers, the chain's dressing leads to a downright cloying flavor profile. Others noted that sandwiches were prepared inconsistently. As one diner shared, "The amount of chicken salad in these sandwiches was pathetic," expressing disbelief at how much lettuce -- and how little protein -- they received.

Of course, only you can decide for yourself whether Panera's is nauseatingly saccharine. Give it a shot if you enjoy fruitier chicken salads. Ultimately, the ingredients rise above the fast-casual norm, but we think other chains pull off this sweeter style better.

6. Chicken Salad Chick

Chicken salad on lettuce greens
Chicken salad on lettuce greens - Chicken Salad Chick / Facebook

Whether they want something plain, nutty, or tongue-scorchingly hot, those who embrace variety will have a field day at Chicken Salad Chick. The Alabama-based eatery uses the chilled salad as a canvas for over a dozen variations, which we've ranked before, and assembles its product on-site with all-white tenderloin. Regardless of the flavorings, this is a finely shredded style fit for smearing on toast or plopping onto mixed greens for a carb-free nosh.

Among specialties cheerfully labeled Kickin' Kay Lynne and Lauryn's Lemon Basil, the chain's Classic Carol is the standard rendition that your grandma has likely made a million times. Therein lies the problem. Minus the house-made seasoning, this flavor is composed of just chicken and minced celery. Is it true to the name? Sure. But it's still plain, even if the top-tier ingredients give it some leverage in our ranking.

By and large, critics deride the dull presentation. "Both items were basic, and something I can make at home," remarked one Yelp reviewer. "To be honest, my mother's chicken salad is one hundred times better." Complimentary views of the dish were also within reach, with descriptions raving over the abundantly tender poultry. Since this appears to be a truly subjective matter, we suggest readers put their tastebuds to the test.

5. Forty Carrots

Sliced chicken salad sandwich
Sliced chicken salad sandwich - Douglass Webb / Facebook

Bloomingdale's has been around since the mid-19th century, but it wasn't until 1974 that the luxury department store debuted a now-beloved ritual by opening its in-store Forty Carrots cafe meant to satiate shoppers after spending sprees. The signature draw is frozen yogurt, but there's also deli fare that's lean and wholesome, ranging from turkey sandwiches to refrigerated picnic salads.

The Sonoma Chicken Salad, showcased on sandwiches as well as the Flagship Trio Platter, is on the sweet-ish end, flavor-wise. There's a mosaic of dried fruits not counting the cranberry bread (raisins and grapes), but savory palates should be receptive to the chopped celery, chives, and cashews. Most of all, folks were in agreement that the salad increasingly displayed a vivacious freshness. Mayonnaise is used sparingly in this recipe per the menu, and this seems to reflect a springier feel that differs from the stodgy, nursing home quality of lower-ranked cold salads. Reported one positive comment, "The chicken salad sandwich and salmon burger are solid," whereas another patron hyped up the poultry as "very good and fresh."

Yet, the numbers on the menu may give you pause, even knowing that this is attached to the spendy Bloomingdale's. That's because some Forty Carrots locations charge $14 to $15 for the chicken salad sandwich. In our opinion, that's a tad high next to other contenders with equally strong offerings, so you may only want to seek this out if splurging is on the table.

4. Newk's Eatery

Half chicken salad sandwich
Half chicken salad sandwich - Newk's Eatery / Facebook

Two decades after its launch, Newk's Eatery is still tricky to pin down. Is it a pizza counter? A bakery? A cafe? Whatever it is, being able to juggle so many dishes well is a logical explanation for its success. The chain lets us in on a couple of details about its chicken salad, which is that it's made in-house and contains crunchy mix-ins like red onions, grapes, and pecans. Additionally, the mixture is served two ways -- between bread or tumbled into a salad with greens and cherry tomatoes.

With sandwiches being the primary vehicle for chicken salad, it's not surprising most opinions are focused on this format. The general verdict points to a promising pick, with reviewers noting a pleasing ratio of mayonnaise to meat, that produces a good consistency. Speaking of the meat, the poultry is also nothing but excellent. Rather than blending in gummy prepackaged poultry, Newk's utilizes protein that certainly tastes fresher.  "The chicken salad was made with quality chicken breast," a happy customer asserted, and this parroted another glowing review that cheered on the abundant filling, saying "they do not skimp on the chicken." That being said, we did dock the score for inconsistently assembled fillings, as one Yelp reviewer recounted a stark lack of fruit in their order that diners may consider essential to the chicken salad experience.

3. Potbelly

Sliced chicken salad sandwich sub
Sliced chicken salad sandwich sub - Jason Atwood / Facebook

In our ranking of Potbelly sandwiches, Chicken Saladlanded at number eight out of 17 total, beating popular picks like the Avo Turkey and A Wreck. Though it didn't bring the A-game of, say, the Roast Beef and Grilled Chicken, we're stacking it against other restaurant chains and more importantly, other chicken salads. From the internet's perspective, Potbelly is a solid choice for your lunchtime rotation.

The sandwich chain's recipe rejects the often-funereal appearance of the chilled staple, proffering loads of chunky chicken and a zippy flavor to show for it. The sauces and toppings are up to customer discretion, like most sub shops, but adding provolone cheese for a bit of richness kicks things up. One Yelp review applauded how nicely seasoned the meat mixture was, confirming it "had more pepper than any chicken salad I've had on the West Coast (win!)." Another commenter wasn't expecting much beyond convenience when deciding to purchase the sandwich. To say they were beyond satisfied might be an understatement. As they exclaimed, "I was pleasantly surprised how good my sandwich was!" Perhaps not the sort of rave review that will land a place in the top spot, but still respectable.

Diners can get their sandwich on a white or whole-wheat hoagie (or flatbread) and either way you slice it, it'll be toasty on the outside and creamy on the inside. What's more, the portions were reasonably priced for the quality, too.

2. Jason's Deli

Croissant chicken salad sandwich lunch
Croissant chicken salad sandwich lunch - Jason's Deli / Facebook

As good as traditional chicken salad is, restaurants come out swinging with combinations that can sometimes stupefy our tastebuds into submission. So, as we approach the finish line of this ranking, we believe that it's crucial to green-light spots that are doing things a bit differently, like Jason's Deli. Its take on a chicken salad sandwich, deemed Shelley's Deli Chick is our pick for second place, not only because it comes highly recommended, but because the recipe hails from the heart of the chain's founding Tortorice family.

Professional photos spotlight what looks like a regular chicken-on-croissant deal, down to the obligatory romaine and tomato slices. But take a closer look, and you'll see that the sumptuous filling is flecked with slivers of almond and pineapple. Unlike the usual red grapes or cubed-up Granny Smiths, this tropical spin is a little out of the ordinary yet remains right at home with the rest of the ingredients.

Replying on a company post, Facebook users prove that this sandwich is popular for good reason. "I get it almost every day," said one commenter, with others chiming in with their flattering contributions. We also found glowing feedback regarding the size of the sandwich, which for the budget-friendly cost (currently $6.59 for a whole) is beyond commendable for takeout. Be warned: once you give it a chance, you might find it hard to go back to homemade.

1. Lenny's Grill & Subs

Chicken salad sub sandwich
Chicken salad sub sandwich - Lenny's Grill & Subs / Twitter

Whether scooped into a roll or served as is, chicken salad needs to be creamy and chock-full of chunky bliss. This is especially crucial when it comes to awarding a restaurant chain for its salad-making prowess, which Lenny's Grill & Subs achieved without a hitch. The micro-chain, mostly concentrated in the Southeastern region (63 locations in a dozen states, to be exact), hawks a drool-worthy chicken salad that customers routinely laud any chance they get. The spread is delightfully silky, and one way you can tell --besides trying it, that is -- has to do with the restaurant creating it from scratch, and only with the most premium chicken.

To be honest, tracking down unflattering impressions was much more challenging, since the verdict, as expressed by reviews, largely fell in favor of this sandwich. Scores of folks raving over the chicken salad's homemade feel, while the provolone, added by default, lends a mildness that's perfect for bouncing off the tangy dressing. But the nice thing about Lenny's is that, cheese aside, the diner is given license to toss on whatever garnishes they like. No wonder it's so popular. As one delighted patron told it, "I'm a fan of chicken salad and they have some of the best around."

Our Methodology

Sliced chicken salad sandwich
Sliced chicken salad sandwich - RFondren Photography/Shutterstock

To conduct our ranking, we took relatively mainstream restaurant chains and judged their takes on chicken salad by scouring customer reviews on sites that include Yelp, TripAdvisor, and YouTube. We factored in their overall satisfaction with the salads at hand, with attention also paid to quality of ingredients and affordability when doing so proved relevant. Homespun essence is key to this American staple, too, so we made sure to showcase recipes as down-home as any passed down by your Southern granny.

Read the original article on Mashed.