Downtown Long Beach’s Sweet Dixie Kitchen Defends Repackaging Popeye’s Fried Chicken

Y’know, the whole “Buy Local, Eat Local, Be Local” mantra is one that some, including myself, take seriously.

Many try not to patronize Starbucks and instead go to Recreational Coffee. Many try not to hit up fast food when feeling lazy’n’fatty and opt, instead, for deliciousness at a local restaurant, preferably one that takes the time (and money) to create food from scratch.

This is—well, was—a reason that Sweet Dixie Kitchen made my list honoring 15 essential Long Beach breakfast joints: owner Kimberly Sanchez boasts of how Sweet Dixie “stays local,” the restaurant’s Facebook page says “everything is made here,” [it has since been removed but is pictured left] and she assigns her Instagram pictures with Made From Scratch hashtags like the one pictured below, while stating “there is simply no reason food can’t look and taste amazing with… better cooking methods.”

One of those methods? Bringing in Popeyes chicken tenders to use on their $13 chicken biscuit sandwich.

Called out by by Angeleno Tyler Hiebert on Yelp! for the switch-and-bait, Sanchez was quick to respond—and defend—her use of the corporate chicken empire’s food, noting that her kitchen isn’t prepped to handle frying.

Her lengthy, vociferous response verbatim:

“Hi Tyler – We PROUDLY SERVE Popeyes spicy tenders—the best fried chicken anywhere and from New Orleans—which are delivered twice a day. We also in case you need to know buy our gumbo from a friend who sells it at a local farmers market. And our jam—which we used to make here—we were introduced to a woman from Alabama who now sells the most wonderful jams and AS IT HAS ALWAYS been our goal to feature local food and guest chefs here, we promote usually small batch local producers in our menu. The exception is Popeyes—we can’t fry at this location—and it [sic] the fried chicken I love so much and I ate a ton of it in the ATL. So I serve it. We also don’t grow our own veggies—we purchase those—and if we run out of our own slow cooked pork, in order to keep our menu intact, I will order a batch of carnitas from the best place in Long Beach. We don’t mill our own flour as we don’t own a mill or wheat farm and our coconut cake is made by our prep cook who makes cakes for private clients. Just FYI. So whatever to you and your little review like it was some great exposure—and whatever to you dude.We do what we do and bring Long Beach the best food—mostly made here but we always get by with a little help from our friends—and we don’t want it any other way. Kim Sanchez.”

This, admittedly, is somewhat of a moment when the situation could be viewed as a restaurateur simply getting defensive, especially in the age of Yelp! reviews that are often misguided, intentionally harmful for unreasonable reasons, or just flat-out unwarranted.

But when another customer stated that using Popeyes was okay, they would just prefer to know about it and the restaurant should just clearly advertise it, Ms. Sanchez told this customer to “get over herself”:

And this is where the ultimate point comes into clarity: If a restaurant is re-selling already-prepped fast food, it should clearly note that it is doing so.

With all due respect, Ms. Sanchez, if you’re so proud to serve Popeye’s, then you should have a sign saying so and stop telling folks about your “housemade jam”; promote the other businesses you profit off of and skip the whole “Stay local” and #scratch mantra. When you run out of your slow-cooked pork, you tell customers you’re sold out; you don’t resell the work of others and claim it as “made from scratch.”

To top it all off, your sarcasm, from not owning a mill to your “Whatever Dude”s, adds further fuel to the Yelper’s fire—and this is coming from a food lover who despises Yelp on almost every level.

This isn’t necessarily an attack on your business as much as it is defending the right for customers to know what you’re feeding them; it’s about being forthright in saying that this is an insult to those who care about food and how it is made and where it comes from; it’s about really trying to ignite within you the idea that you’re basically creating and selling a form of gentrified Southern food, which is just outright egregious and offensive to those who cherish it.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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