It was 7:20 p.m. on a Thursday. I’d finished a long day of work and a rare trip to the gym and had just turned right from Hitchcock onto State Street when the car in front of me slammed on its brakes. I jammed mine too, wincing as I watched the SUV behind me get bigger in the rearview mirror. It stopped just in time. Horns blared. We were caught in one of Santa Barbara’s dumbest and most dangerous dilemmas ― the regular uptown traffic jam caused by Chick-fil-A’s drive-through line spilling into the street, sometimes a dozen cars deep.
First, I kept calm. Then, I saw red. It wasn’t my only close call there. I jumped into the left lane and (I’m not proud of this) leaned on my horn as I drove down the line. Some customers honked back. I felt crummy about it and a little crazy, but then again, the situation is absolutely crazy-making.
A few blocks and deep breaths later, I regained my composure. And I decided that, rather than stay mad at the Chick-fil-A superfans ― who’ve been the cause of three accidents in the past year alone ― I would use my reporting skills to discover why this particular fast food craving overrides all sense of safety and decency. What makes it so irresistible? What’s in that famous Chick-fil-A sauce? (Turns out it’s simply a mixture of honey mustard, barbecue, and ranch dressing…) What’s the big deal? I made a U-turn to find out.
It meant breaking the personal boycott I made back in 2013 when the chain opened its first and only South Coast location. Like many others, I refused to give my business to a company who donated to anti-LGBTQ+ charities. It also meant violating a doctor’s advice to watch my cholesterol, because, let’s just say, I know my way around a McDonald’s double quarter-pounder, with cheese.