Cluck or duck: Is Cluckstein worth it?

After the end of the spring 2021 semester, NYU introduced Chick-fil-A’s evil twin sister: Cluckstein.


Joey Hung

Cluckstein is the new replacement for Chick-fil-A in the Upstein Food Court. Cluckstein serves its version of chicken tenders, nuggets, sandwiches, and waffle fries, with additional vegan options. (Staff Photo by Joey Hung)

Joey Hung, BStyle Editor

Rest in peace — and long live — Chick-fil-A. During the 2020-21 school year, NYU formally requested its vendor Chartwells to discontinue their license with Chick-fil-A due to the corporation’s ethics, most notably their long-standing stance against the LGBTQ+ community. These values have provoked a history of student activism against the corporation. In early Fall 2020, student activists pushed again for NYU to cut ties with the fast food chain, and it finally happened later that spring. 

But then, the notorious brand was replaced by its mysterious copycat Cluckstein.

Honestly, I was not interested in trying what is essentially Chick-fil-A’s Walmart replacement, but I was willing to give it a go just this once to help you determine whether or not it’s worth it. Cluckstein, like Chick-fil-A, serves its own version of chicken tenders, nuggets, sandwiches and waffle fries. And for those who prefer vegan fare, they even offer vegan tenders. 

Let’s talk about the chicken. It was orange. I repeat — the chicken was dark orange with pieces of pepper and other spices just barely clinging to the breading. As I dipped the tender in Cluckstein’s Signature Sauce, the breading began to fall off. It was very much giving Texas Roadhouse’s Blooming Onion but in the worst way possible. By the end of the meal, bits and pieces of the breading were drowning in the sauce, softer and soggier than they were initially. However, unlike Chick-fil-A, the breading had some degree of spice. However, take that with a grain of salt; its aftertaste was extremely peppery, leaving a mild zing on your tongue.

The meat itself was too tender and chewy, and it didn’t help that, unlike the breading that coated it, it was devoid of flavor. Its defining personality trait was dryness. Cluckstein’s Signature Sauce, however, saved the day. It was buttery and sweet — definitely the highlight of the meal —  complimenting the chicken’s lack of dimensional flavor. It also gave the meat the moisture it desperately needed, making it slightly closer to edible. 

Allegedly, the kitchen uses the same fryer as Chick-fil-A, but that wasn’t apparent. Or maybe the kitchen staff just doesn’t care about the food. Either way, the waffle fries were similar to Weinstein’s walls — off-white and sad. They were soggy instead of crunchy, either too salted or not salted at all. Half the fries tasted starchy while the other half begged me to succumb to high blood pressure. But overall, they’re fun to eat if you’re into mystery flavors.

Would I eat Cluckstein again? Perhaps under particular circumstances. It reminded me of Sticky’s or Atomic Wings. It’s the kind of food you’d eat late at night, when most restaurants are closed, but you have the munchies. It feels good in the moment, but guilt and regret inevitably follow when the crumbs are hanging off your mouth and you’re messily stretched out on the carpet floor. After reading this review, you would probably think I hated everything about the food. But, I’ll give it this: Cluckstein seasons its chicken, unlike its predecessor, but nothing will ever beat Chick-fil-A’s classic chicken nuggets and waffle fries.

Contact Joey Hung at [email protected].