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Shake Shack Just Dropped The Best Fried Chicken Sandwich In All Of Fast Food — Here’s Our Full Review

Who amongst us hasn’t imagined what it would be like to sit across from Sean Evans in our very own episode of First We Feast’s Hot Ones? Spice fanatics and hot sauce lovers all love to talk a big game about how much heat they can handle — prior to today, I was one of them. I was under the impression that I’d be able to handle the Last Dab without breaking a sweat. Now that I’ve tried Shake Shack’s new Hot Ones Menu, which comes with a packet of The Last Dab Apollo to kick up the heat… well, I’m not so sure.

Beginning Friday, The Hot Ones menu is set to hit Shake Shacks nationwide for a limited time (app users can access the menu today!) and includes a Hot Ones-inspired burger, chicken sandwich, and bacon fries — all featuring a special Hot Ones-inspired Shake Sauce.

Shake Shack Hot Ones
Dane Rivera

We tried the whole menu to see whether it’s worth you taking a trip to the Shack ASAP. Let’s dive in, starting with the star of the show…

Hot Ones Chicken Sandwich

Shake Shack Hot Ones
Dane Rivera

Generally, when we hit full seasonal menus, we save the best for last but I NEED to talk about this chicken sandwich. It absolutely cannot wait until the end of this article. No cap, this is the best chicken sandwich currently in fast food. Yes, that includes Popeyes and this is coming for someone who reviewed the original drop of that very infamous sandwich and has reiterated just how good it is in our giant fried chicken sandwich ranking where Popeyes took the number one spot.

Well, that article is officially obsolete. This is now the greatest chicken sandwich in fast food, hands down. Want to get real? It’s no f*cking contest.

Yes, it’s that good. Better bread (potato roll >>> Popeyes way too dry Brioche), better sauce, cheese (get on this level, Popeyes), bacon, and a way juicier and more tender white meat chicken filet that melts in the mouth. All of the flavors in this sandwich work harmoniously, melding together into this beautiful bouquet of heat, savory, and slightly sweet and tangy flavors.

The sandwich consists of a chicken breast filet breaded in Shake Shack’s lightly and flakey batter, which also serves as a great sponge for the slightly sweet and spicy Hot Ones ShackSauce, with applewood bacon adding a bit more crunch and slightly smokey notes, and a slice of melted Monterey Jack cheese adding a layer of sweet nuttiness. The sauce has that typical savory tangy flavor of the original ShakeSauce but with some added spicy notes that taste a bit like a buffalo sauce — with a lot more depth and less prominent vinegar notes.

Each bite is ecstasy — it doesn’t really deliver on the heat, even if your spice tolerance is low, but that hardly matters considering how savory it is. It’s not just a little bit better than Popeyes sandwich, it absolutely dunks on it. Once this leaves the menu, I don’t know how I’m going to go back to Popeyes and not think about this sandwich.

Hot Ones Burger

Shake Shack Hot Ones
Dane Rivera

The Hot Ones Burger, which I tried as both a single and double, is delicious but I’m not going to lie, compared to the chicken sandwich this doesn’t really taste like anything special. The Hot Ones Spicy ShakeSauce doesn’t pair as harmoniously with the ground beef patty as it does the chicken. Instead, it kind of muddles the savory flavor of the beef. Burgers are rarely less savory and satisfying than chicken sandwiches, but in this case, this burger comes across as a bit lacking.

What’s interesting though is the spicy notes of the special ShakeSauce comes across as a lot spicier here, cutting through as the dominate tasting note. I’m an American Cheese purist when it comes to burgers, but I don’t mind the inclusion of Monterey Jack here instead — it adds a sweetness to this burger which balances out the heat. Salty American cheese might not have done that, so good move on the Shack.

Because overall I felt the burger lacked a bit of flavor in comparison, I used this as an opportunity to utilize a dab of the Apollo packet and I really wish I hadn’t. It’s really f*cking spicy, bringing the sort of heat that makes you feel high and totally shocks your tastebuds into submission. I tried washing the heat down with some Coca-Cola and it literally had no flavor, just a wet sensation on my tongue.

Shake Shack Hot Ones
Dane Rivera

As spicy as it is, what surprised me was just how good the Last Dab Apollo actually tastes. This is by no means stunt food — it starts off sweet and settles into a bitter but interesting earthiness before it overtakes your senses. It tasted so good that I wanted to try more of it to better explore the flavors but… I couldn’t. It was too hot to manage. And I’m not someone who has any sort of aversion to spice. I eat Thai food on the regular, I make my own salsa, and even the Habanero pepper registers more as bright and citrusy to me than it does spicy.

Still, the Last Dab Apollo kicked my ass.

The Last Dab Apollo packet was made in collaboration with Guiness World Record holding chili breeder Smoking’ Ed Currie and features a special crossbreed of Carolina Reapers and Pepper X. From the small dab I had I can tell that this sauce is good and isn’t as vinegar heavy as your typical hot sauce, offering a lot of natural sweet notes, but I found it to almost be inedibly hot.

If you’re up for a challenge, definitely order this but don’t skip out on getting a shake on the side.

Hot Ones Cheese Fries/Bacon Cheese Fries

Shake Shack Hot Ones
Dane Rivera

I’m sorry to end this glowing review on a slightly low note but I will never not have a problem with Shake Shack’s fries. If you like the Shack’s fries, you’ll probably like these, but if you’re waiting for a few ingredients to turn these middling fries into something delicious, keep waiting.

No amount of cheese sauce or Aleppo pepper flakes can turn these mid-tier fries into anything else. The Aleppo pepper dusting is almost flavorless, it adds the slightest amount of heat but not enough to substantially change the flavor, despite how appetizing it looks. While we always appreciate bacon on fries, Shake Shack’s bacon isn’t all that great either, it’s too thin to ever really taste like anything and works better when paired with beef or chicken than it does potatoes.

The real shame is Shake Shack has everything on hand to actually make this good. Instead of cheese sauce, they could’ve just melted Monterey Jack cheese on the fries, which would’ve added a sweet creamy, and nutty flavor instead of an overly salty mess like the cheese sauce does. The fries are already salty Shake Shack, we don’t need more salt. Just think of how good these fries would be if they used melted Monterey and crumbles of Shake Shack’s Angus beef patty in addition to the bacon and Aleppo dusting. You’d have something with a lot of depth of flavor and character, instead of this salty sludge.

Luckily, the fries come served alongside some Spicy ShackSauce which is a must-dip. Like the burger, the heat is a lot more prominent on the fries compared to the sandwich.

The Bottom Line:

You absolutely need to head to Shake Shack ASAP to order this chicken sandwich. Don’t even wait until the Friday release, drive (or walk) to your nearest Shake Shack, park, order this on the app, and walk inside and pick up the best fast food chicken sandwich you’ll ever eat.

Once you’ve tried the sandwich, give the burger a try with the Apollo packet on hand. Shake Shack almost never disappoints, but they’ve truly taken things to another level this time.

Find your nearest Shake Shack here.