PDQ stands for “People Dedicated to Quality,” which does not make for the best name for a fast food joint. But this is not a fast food joint in the traditional sense. Sure, a ton of fast food places have taken “quality” as their selling point over the past few years, making this sort of a “run-of-the-mill” value statement. It’s not that PDQ gives you a better quality product for less money either; a meal here costs about as much as a trip to Five Guys or Chipotle.
When it comes to food, PDQ is probably most comparable to Chick-fil-A, but stands out when it comes to cooking technique. PDQ does not have a freezer or microwave on its premises, which already sets it apart for freshness. The potatoes are chopped on sight for French fries, which are first baked, then dunked in the fryer. Then they are topped with seasoned salt and handed over the counter to you hot and fresh, never touched by a heat lamp. These once-baked-then-fried potatoes taste more like baked potatoes and less like traditional fries, but they are crafted to go exceptionally well with anyone of their eight specialty sauces, made fresh daily without preservatives. I enjoyed them with a dash of malt vinegar on top.
Now for the main event: the chicken tenders and nuggets. The tenders are made from chicken tenderloins (as opposed to the breast meat that other restaurants try to pin off as tenders) and are double battered in buttermilk and seasoned flour before they hit the hot oil. They are juicy, crispy and the buttermilk batter flavors the tender so that it can stand out against the intense flavor of the sauces. You should try them with the Sweet Sriracha sauce or in between two brioche buns on the Spicy Buffalo Tenders Sandwich.
According to the chef, the all-white-meat nuggets go for a 15 minute ride in a 20 psi spin tank, coating them with honey and giving them the same taste as if they were marinated all night. They are dipped in batter and deep fried until golden brown.
These nuggets pack a lot of sweet and tangy flavor, and are complimented well by the honey barbeque sauce. As with all of their products, the nuggets are made-to-order ensuring that they reach you while they are hot and tender.
The grilled chicken sandwiches are also a good option. Get the Cali-Club sandwich, which features grilled chicken smothered in homemade ranch, crispy bacon and buttery avocado.
Although they serve great chicken, PDQ can take pride in something that no other fast food joint offers: Butterball Turkey. They prepare it in two ways: panko-breaded and fried or grilled. The extra crispy fried turkey tenders pair great with their sweet honey mustard sauce, but their “handheld Thanskgiving” sandwich with grilled turkey and cranberry sauce takes top spot as the best thing I ate at PDQ. If the thought of more Thanksgiving turkey does not make you crazy, stop by and give this sandwich a try.
Overall, I left PDQ inspired by what a fast food restaurant could be, or maybe used to be back in a glorified golden age: a place where people could go to hang out and eat good food. The fast food restaurant used to be a place where you were a face with a name, and not just a number on a screen. Every order at PDQ is taken face-to-face; there is no automated drive through system or order numbers on a menu. However, this restaurant, like so many other great fast food joints, is a thing. So stop by the brand new PDQ on Harvey Street in Winston-Salem before heading home for the holidays and enjoy the quality that only people dedicated to their craft can create.