Fried chicken’s appeal is universal--just take a look at Bay Area menus, which offer a tour of fried chicken styles from around the world, from Southern soul food chicken to Korean chicken to Japanese fried chicken. And while there’s no denying the elemental pleasure of tucking into a sky-high pile of the stuff, a good fried chicken sandwich adds flavors and contrast, elevating the chicken into something ever more majestic. Luckily, it’s easy to find a great chicken sandwich in the Bay Area. Here are seven of our favorites in Alamdea, Oakland and San Francisco. Did we miss yours? Let us know in the comments.
As Bakesale Betty’s sandwich has been lauded by everyone from the San Francisco Chronicle to ABC’s The Chew, there’s not much left to say at this point except: get it. If for some reason you haven’t partaken of this iconic Oakland sandwich, dreamed up by bewigged Australian Alison Barakat, cancel your plans for your next lunch or weekend and head to Temescal. Yes, there will be a line. No, there probably won’t be seating at the ironing board tables. No matter. This sandwich, one that launched a thousand imitators--with its combination of perfectly crispy chicken, tangy and spicy (sometimes viciously so) jalapeno coleslaw--deserves trying, no matter if you have to eat it Dr. Seuss style in a car, in the bar or somewhere very far. And did we mention it’s less than $10?
If you find yourself in North Beach and tired of Italian food--or are just looking for a relaxed patio where you can buy beer by the bucketful--Naked Lunch is your place. The affordable restaurant offers a view of the street’s many strip clubs and a small but considered menu from chef and owner Ian Begg. Sous chef Sarn Saechao also runs a Chao Mien pop-up at the restaurant on Sunday nights and Monday lunch. Their sandwich features a pile of peppery fried chicken, buttermilk coleslaw, and a not-insignificant amount of creamy green garlic aioli. It’s delightfully messy, and while I ate it, I thought the brunette smiling down from the Garden of Eden sign looked jealous.
504 Broadway [Map]
San Francisco, CA 94133
Ph: (415) 577-4951
Hours: Mon, 11:30am-2pm; Tue-Wed, 11:30am-2pm 4:30-10pm; Thur-Fri, 11:30am-2pm 4:30-12am; Sat, 11:30am-12am; Sun, 12-9pm
Facebook: Naked Lunch
Price: $ (Fried Chicken Sandwich $11)
Show Dogs might be a sausage fest--literally, they’re a bratwurst restaurant--but they know their fried chicken. That much is evident from their chef Seth Carter’s large fried chicken sandwich, featuring tender, turmeric-spiced chicken with a wonderfully crunchy skin, its texture reminiscent of cornflake-crusted chicken. It’s finished with garlicky aioli and a toasted bun, but the best part is its fiery slaw, packed with chunks of ginger and heavy on the mustard seeds.
1020 Market St [Map]
San Francisco, CA 94102
Ph: (415) 558-9560
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-9pm; Sat, 10am-9pm; Sun, 10am-6pm
Facebook: Show Dogs
Price range: $ (Fried Chicken Sandwich $10)
Lola’s Chicken Shack
The first thing you notice about Lola’s Chicken Shack is that, appropriately, there are a lot of chickens represented in its decor. The diner-like interior is brightened with chicken sculptures, prints with chicken-crossing-the-road jokes, and paintings of chickens playing chess. Owners Mark, Nancy, and Ryan Rogers have created a relaxed, well-priced place that’s very family-friendly. They specialize in chicken tenders with various breadings--who doesn’t like chicken tenders?-- and your choice of sauces from a long list, but they also offer a selection of sandwiches. A chicken and waffles sandwich featured two generous pieces of crunchy and juicy chicken sandwiched between two fluffy, savory waffles spiked with black pepper and green onions. A maple-mustard sauce sounded bizarre but added an appealing dimension of savory-sweetness that recalled traditional chicken and waffles.
Marlowe’s fried chicken sandwich, from chef Jennifer Puccio, is a classy, balanced affair. It’s big, but not excessively so. There’s bacon, but only a slice or two. It comes with your choice of fries or salad (go for the fries, which come with a horseradish aioli). The dark meat is coated with a crispy, thyme-scented batter, and a slick of Caesar aioli adds an umami funkiness. More crunch comes from the addition of romaine, and the bacon--completely necessary? Probably not. But it’s just enough to make it decadently satisfying, without requiring a nap afterwards.
500 Brannan St [Map]
San Francisco, CA 94107
Ph: (415) 777-1413
Hours: Mon-Wed, 11:30am-10pm; Thur-Fri, 11:30am-11pm; Sat, 10am-11pm; Sun, 10am-10pm
Price: $$ (Fried Chicken Sandwich $16)
Clove and Hoof
The sandwiches at Clove and Hoof, from the husband and wife team John Blevins and Analiesa Gosnell, are almost mocking in their gargantuaness, and their fried chicken sandwich is no exception. It’s so large--two slabs of dark meat with a crispy caramel skin balanced on a too-small bun, with toppings spilling onto the plate--that it’s almost stressful to eat. But once you summon up the courage, you’ll be rewarded with an altogether satisfying riff on a bahn mi, featuring the chicken’s crunchy, candy-like skin; bean sprouts; mint and tart pineapple cubes that add a burst of sweetness. As is, it’s a balanced combination of sweet and savory, with heat from the jalapeno slices. But if you want more spice, don’t miss their smoky and delicious housemade charred jalapeno hot sauce.
Clove And Hoof
4001 Broadway [Map]
Oakland, CA 94611
Ph: (510) 547-1446
Hours: Wed-Mon, 11am-9:30pm; Tue, 11am-3pm
Facebook: Clove & Hoof
Price: $$ (Fried Chicken Sandwich $14)
The fried chicken sandwich from the chefs at Mission institution Rhea’s--James Choi, Jesus Cendejas and Humberto Cantu--is almost comically large, definitely the largest on this list, and features pieces of the kind of beautiful fried chicken you see in KFC ads. It’s a mix of white and dark meat, with chili sauce adding a spicy kick and a craggy, crispy breading. There’s an pleasant funk to the sandwich--maybe fish sauce? My waitress wasn’t sure--adding a pleasant savoriness that contrasts the sweetness from an apple and jalapeno slaw. The fried chicken sandwich is only available at the cafe on Bryant and not at the smaller outpost on Valencia where the Korean Steak sandwich seems to be very popular.
2200 Bryant St [Map]
San Francisco, CA 94110
Ph: (415) 875-9481
Hours: Mon-Sat, 8am-4pm; Sun, 10am-4pm
Facebook: Rhea's Deli & Market
Price: $$ (Fried Chicken Sandwich $13.20)