It seems P. Terry’s was no longer content to sit on the sidelines of the fried chicken sandwich wars that heated up last year. The local chain started by Patrick and Kathy Terry in 2005 today announced that it has added a new sandwich to the menu for the first time since opening. Actually, two sandwiches.

The P. Terry’s Crispy Chicken Burger showcases the restaurant’s all-natural, fresh-ground chicken patty dipped in buttermilk, breaded with panko bread crumbs and fried to a crunchy finish. The sandwich, which features a patty thinner than the plump breasts found at a certain national chain, is dressed with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, pickles and Swiss cheese. The sandwich costs $4.25 ($7.90 for a combo).

If you’ve made the pro move of adding grilled jalapenos to your P. Terry’s burger order over the years, the spicy version of the Crispy Chicken Burger will feature a familiar flavor profile. The chopped, grilled peppers are spread across the bun on the sandwich that also gets heat from spicy mayonnaise and pepper Jack cheese. The result is a crunchy, juicy sandwich with a formidable but not overwhelming kick. I was able to sample each version this week, and I’ll probably happily alternate between the tang of the original and the punch of the spicy during the sandwiches limited run at all 19 P. Terry’s locations.

One of the locations serving the sandwiches is the new P. Terry’s at 517 W. MLK Blvd. The restaurant, which took over the space previously occupied by sister concept Taco Ranch, opened both its drive-thru operation and dining room Tuesday. Dining room capacity will be at 25% until Friday, when it will expand to 50% Friday. It is the first P. Terry’s dining room to open since March 17 when Texas dining rooms were ordered closed. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on May 1 that restaurants could reopen at 25% capacity and on Monday said that they would be able to open to 50% capacity on Friday.

The newly opened dining room will serve as the model for how P. Terry’s intends to operate its dining room of the future during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new design and protocols include contactless service offerings and sanitized payment processing; floor markings instructing safe social distancing throughout the restaurant; fewer dining tables with greater spacing between them; and clear acrylic shields at cashier stations to protect both guests and staff. There will be new guidance regarding the self-serve beverage station, condiment station and restrooms, and P Terry’s says it will also sanitize tables and chairs after each use, making hand sanitizer available to our guests as they enter the building, and creating single points of entry and exit where possible. The restaurant will also require that guests wear face coverings when entering the restaurant and while moving around the dining room. P. Terry’s will implement these measures at other locations as it gradually opens more dining rooms.

"We understand some of what we are asking may feel awkward or extreme at first. But in the end, this is about friends and neighbors coming together in a way we can all feel safe and comfortable," P. Terry’s CEO said. "So we ask that our guests respect our guidelines and respect each other as we navigate together this new way of dining. From our family to yours, we are honored to gradually begin welcoming you back into our dining rooms and we look forward to serving you. Thank you for your business, your support and your patience during this challenging time."