Potbelly's New Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich Is In Desperate Need Of One Thing

This messy sandwich goes heavy on the cream cheese and would benefit from a flavor boost.

Potbelly recently dropped its newest limited-time offering, the Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich. It's inspired by the classic jalapeño popper, which as you bar food aficionados know, is a jalapeño pepper filled with cream cheese, which is then breaded, baked or fried, and served with some form of dipping sauce that can run the gamut between savory and sweet.

The Potbelly sandwich version comes filled with grilled chicken, house-made jalapeño cream cheese, jalapeño crisps, lettuce, and tomato, on your choice of white, wheat, or flatbread — and we wanted to see if it's worth popping (clap clap clap) your head in for.

How does Potbelly’s Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich taste?

The new Potbelly sandwich is pretty unusual in that it's the only one that features a spreadable cheese — and in this case, there's a metric buttload of it. This is easily one of the messiest eating experiences I've ever had at the sandwich chain, so those who prefer to eat sloppily in private, just a heads up. Because the sandwich comes toasted, the cream cheese melts into a silky sauce, which means the sandwich fillings have a tendency to glide out if you're not careful.

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As to its flavor, the sandwich does capture the cream cheese part successfully, considering there's so much of it, but the jalapeño part is a little too subtle. That grassy, slightly spicy flavor is barely there, but mostly in the jalapeño crisps, which are crunchy battered bits that are sort of like French's fried onions, except they're jalapeño-based. Though there are supposedly jalapeños in the cream cheese, I could neither see nor taste any whatsoever; it just looked suspiciously like plain white Philadelphia cream cheese.

It's a bummer that there's not more of that jalapeño flavor, especially because that's one of the main selling points of the sandwich. Each bite is rich and a little more decadent than most things on the Potbelly menu, but after a while, I noticed that something was sorely missing: acid.

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Because traditional jalapeño poppers feature so much cream cheese, they always need some kind of acidic component to cut through that heavy fat content, which often shows up in the accompanying dipping sauce. This sandwich doesn't come with anything acidic on board, which means it's crying out for something along those lines.

If the concept of the Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich calls out to you, I'd highly recommend you order it with hot peppers added, which is Potbelly's term for Chicago's darling condiment, giardiniera. (Potbelly was founded in Chicago!) Not only will it give the sandwich some welcome kick, it'll also add that sorely missing acid component and make the flavor more closely resemble an actual jalapeño popper. If the idea of hot peppers is too spicy for you, hell, even pickles would help cut through some of the richness.

Otherwise, the Potbelly Jalapeño Popper Chicken Sandwich is somewhat modest in terms of flavor, and might be a decent one-time excursion for Potbelly regulars who want to try something slightly different from their go-to order. I can't say it's compelling enough for me to grab again, so for now, I'll have to stick my usual: a Wreck on wheat, don't forget the hot peppers.

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