Fast food fish is difficult to pull off. There’s the ever-pressing question on the quality of the normal food at fast food establishments, and I think more people are wary of old seafood than an old burger. Oil quality and freshness is another, potentially underrated, issue. If the restaurant isn’t regularly cleaning and replacing the oil used for the fish, the air inside the establishment will have a gross funk, and the old oil will affect the taste of the fish, giving it a non-fresh taste. Also, fish items tend to be heavily battered, so you’re in for a heavy meal if you choose the fish route. Lastly, I also think they’re a tough sell if you’re near water. Any location that has access to fresh fish will also likely have cheap options to each said fresh fish. The price point may be higher than a fast fold establishment, but the quality is likely better.

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All of this is a roundabout way of saying that even though I’ve been going to Popeye’s since I learned of its existence, I had never ventured to stray from the chicken until I tried the Sweet Heat Butterfly Shrimp. There’s no longer a product description on their website, but this is pretty self-explanatory: the breading on the shrimp combined sweet and spicy elements over their standard butterfly shrimp. This was sold in several different permutations: I ordered a 10-piece meal for $6.49, but it was also available in smaller portions in a $5 box. My meal came with a drink and a side dish.

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The Sweet Heat Butterfly Shrimp have a good crunchy breading. Even though the surface area on the shrimp is smaller than on a chicken piece, you’re still getting that satisfying crunch on each bite. While there wasn’t an upfront spice, I did feel a lingering spicy aftertaste after I started eating the shrimp, which was pleasant. It wasn’t so hot as to set your mouth on fire, but at lot of fast food places don’t really deliver on promised heat. The shrimp meet that challenge.

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Unfortunately, it’s the sweet aspect of the breading that did not leave me with a favorable impression. My initial thought is that it had a vanilla frosting taste. I don’t mind vanilla frosting, but it’s not an enjoyable taste when combined with shrimp and cayenne pepper. As I continued to eat, the sweetness became overwhelming, perhaps because I didn’t like that taste so it stood out more.

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The butterfly shrimp themselves were surprisingly good. They weren’t tough or overly fishy. I didn’t get a big shrimp taste, but they served as a useful vehicle for the breading, which was the star of the meal. The shrimp were a decent size, and ten is definitely enough for a regular meal. They weren’t overly greasy or heavy. Perhaps most importantly, just like their chicken tenders, you can dip them into the mashed potatoes and they still taste good.

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The only drawbacks to the shrimp: there were some issues in the consistency of the breading and they were served with the tails on. Not all the shrimp had full breading coverage, which defeats the purpose of the special breading. And while I don’t mind the tails on the shrimp, that makes them harder to eat with a fork, if you’re so inclined. Your hands are going to get a little messy.

While I wasn’t a fan of the Sweet Heat Butterfly Shrimp because of the overly sweet breading, I can say that I was a fan of the shrimp and regret not trying them before now. I’m not sure if they’ll come into the regular Popeye’s rotation, but I would absolutely order them again. I’ll also keep an eye in the future for new shrimp items that feature spiciness. I think I’d unequivocally like a spicy shrimp from Popeye’s. Because the experience broadened my menu choices at Popeye’s, I’d call it a success!

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