On Saturday, June 11th, we had the chance to check out the new PDQ on Haddonfield Road in Cherry Hill. It finally opened to the public the following day on Sunday June 12th. PDQ is a fast casual chain of chicken restaurants based in Tampa, Florida. This is the 2nd of many they plan to open in the area; the first opened in Sicklerville last year. There are 55 total as of now; mostly in Southern US states, Texas, and one in Las Vegas.
The chain’s slogans are “Just Made Better” and “Fresh Food Fast,” but they might as well be “Really Freakin’ Good” and “Better than Chik-fil-A.” Yeah, I went there.
PDQ stands for “People Dedicated to Quality” and it shines through in every aspect of the operation. From food to service, they take the business of feeding people good food seriously.
We were honored to receive a comprehensive corporate-level tour of the entire operation of the new restaurant location, which is less than 2 miles from our home. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by PDQ’s social media manager, Shea Perez. After a warm reception and introduction to PDQ, a few senior operating managers emerged to meet us, to tell us more about the company and also their backgrounds.
VP of Operations, Andrew Sansone, then walked us through the new location including a look at the ingredients, the equipment, work stations, drive-through order taking areas, and storage areas.
Quality is not only in their name, but it is their ethos. They only have one freezer which is for french fries only. They used to hand-cut potatoes, but claim they have developed a better fry that can be frozen and are happy with the quality and taste. As we later discovered, the fries are really good; the fact that they are frozen isn’t a big deal especially when you consider that it’s the only thing that comes frozen on the menu.
In any case, fresh chicken is soaked in a brine everyday and are stowed away in the walk-in cooler until they are used. They have a very precise food prep system. All of the ingredients are prepped daily and are labeled with dates to ensure maximum freshness and quality. In other words, those chicken tenders and nuggets are not sitting there for very long.
All produce is delivered in-tact and prepared on-site. Every vegetable is chopped daily by hand; nothing is delivered pre-cut in bags. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, etc. are all prepared in the kitchen. Including lemons for fresh-squeezed lemonade and apples for the apple slices. Apples are soaked in pineapple juice to prevent browning. Nothing else.
PDQ offers a variety of sauces for chicken tender/nugget dipping or as a condiment to sandwiches. And, yes, all of the sauces are made in-house too. They are then labeled and stowed away in the cooler as demonstrated in the picture above. I called it the “Sauce Wall” because, as we can imagine, they go through a lot of sauce and need to have plenty of it at-the-ready. I’ll talk about them more later.
Rounding out the “back of the house” tour, we were shown the cooking and food prep area. They’ve got separate fryers for the chicken and the fries. The main kitchen area is open, well-lit, and visible from the dining room; so you can see the kitchen staff preparing the food.
After our tour commenced, we were seated and they started bringing out food for us to sample.
They brought out the regular French Fries and the Zucchini Fries. I’m a big fan of zucchini so it wasn’t surprising that I loved the zucchini fries. I was hoping for more crispiness on these, though. The breading was more on the soft side, but still managed to adhere to the zucchini pretty well.
The regular fries are very good. As I mentioned, I was not put off that they were frozen. While not shoestring-sized, they are are definitely on the thinner side. So don’t expect big steak-cut fries here. There’s a nice seasoning on them, so you likely won’t have to salt & pepper them. But if you feel the need, they have salt and pepper grinders on the table.
After we sampled the fries, they brought out the PDQ signature item: Chicken Tenders.
Chicken is by-far my favorite protein/meat. Probably because it can be cooked a million ways. Roasted, grilled, baked, poached, or fried — I’ll eat it. However, my all-time favorite when chicken is breaded and crispy.
Fried chicken is great, too. But I prefer a softer breading as opposed to a hard crusty chicken. I’m not a fan of the type of fried chicken where the breading is so hard you tear up the roof of your mouth when eating it. That’s no fun.
With that said, these tenders are right up my alley and are literally perfect. They’re tender, juicy, and flavorful. I couldn’t find anything wrong these tenders.
You can get the tenders in a 3 piece, 4 piece or 5 piece combo meal with choice of homemade sauce, choice of side, and beverage. Or by themselves. They also make honey marinated chicken nuggets that are similar to the tenders (in texture), perfectly breaded and fried. Forget McD’s or Chik-fil-A, these are going to be your new favorite tenders and nuggets.
Let’s talk about the homemade sauces. As I previously mentioned, they’re all made on premises. Select from Bleu Cheese, Buffalo Bleu, Creamy Garlic, Chipotle BBQ, Honey BBQ, Honey Mustard, Ranch, and Sweet Sriracha. They’re all good, but my favorites are the Honey BBQ and Sweet Sriracha. The latter has a nice kick to it thanks to the sriracha, but it’s not too hot. Even the Chipotle BBQ sauce is not crazy hot. If you want to add heat to any of the sauces, they have Frank’s Red Hot bottles at the condiment/soda fountain station.
PDQ also offers amazing salads, grilled and crispy sandwiches, and a couple of turkey sandwiches too.
Choose from a Crispy Chicken Salad (Crispy chicken served over mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, and mixed cheese and Honey Mustard dressing), Grilled Chicken Salad (Grilled chicken served over mixed greens, tomato, candied almonds and craisins with Blueberry-Ginger vinaigrette dressing), or Chicken Caesar Salad (Grilled chicken mixed with romaine hearts, Parmesan cheese and croutons with Classic Caesar dressing).
During our preview, we tried 4 out of our six sandwiches: Crispy Chicken (crispy chicken tenders on a brioche bun with mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles), Cali Club (grilled chicken served on brioche bun with ranch, crispy bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato), Grilled Turkey (“Hand-held Thanksgiving” on a brioche bun with traditional spices, seasoned mayo, lettuce and cranberry), and Buffy Bleu (two crispy chicken tenders on a brioche bun with lettuce and buffalo bleu sauce). All were delicious, but their signature crispy chicken sandwich is my favorite.
In addition to two Freestyle fountain soda dispensers, you can also order Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade and Cheerwine, a cherry-flavored soft drink that is popular in Southern states. Both were refreshing and not too sweet either. Good alternatives to soda, for sure.
Last, but not least, they make cookies in-house, too. They offer the following flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Cranapple Oatmeal, and Chocolate Chunk. All 3 are great, but I absolutely LOVED the cranapple oatmeal! The cookies are soft and chewy, not crunchy or dense.
No matter what you choose at PDQ in Cherry Hill, you can’t go wrong! In fact, we’ve been back twice since the preview. We really do love it that much and we know YOU will too. It’s great for a family outing, lunch with colleagues, or a quick snack. You’ll get tasty, high-quality food quick. You really can’t ask for a better “fast food” joint. It blows the usual guys out of the water.
Check it out and tell them Philly Grub sent you!
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.