It’s hard to resist a fried chicken sandwich when it’s really done right, ideally with crispy and juicy chicken nestled on a pillowy bun. Fortunately, the Bay Area has many spots that cater to the craving — and the vast majority don’t involve standing in line for an hour at Popeyes, where the sandwich hype shows no sign of slowing down. Instead, try one of the many dedicated fried chicken sandwich shops that call the SF Bay Area home, as well as the assorted butcher shops, arcade bars, and tiki dens that also serve excellent varieties of fried chicken on a bun. Whether you prefer white meat or dark meat, drenched in hot sauce or topped with herb slaw, here are some great chicken sandwiches to seek out now.Read More
15 Fantastic Fried Chicken Sandwiches in the Bay Area
Where to find extra crispy options from mild to hot
This Nashville-style hot chicken pop-up from Iyasare alums Aaron Nam and Caleb Longacre deserves the long lines it generates at Presidio Picnic appearances on Sundays and in Oakland on First Fridays. They fry Mary’s chicken breasts, dip them in hot oil mixed with spices, finish them with dry spice powder, and serve them on buns with apple vinegar slaw, dill pickles, and sauce. Customers choose their spiciness level: Mild, medium, hot, or burnin’ (with Carolina Reaper peppers). Yes, people do cry, and even medium is pretty hot. Next up: In January, they plan to open their first permanent location at 1355 Market Street, in the new Twitter building food hall.
2. Brenda's Meat & Three
At a classic southern meat-and-three, you could pick fried chicken as your protein, and round it out with a few sides. But Chef Brenda Buenviaje wisely slides it onto a sandwich, as well. The “Big Mama” features spicy fried chicken, and don’t even try to ask about the secret recipe.
3. Hi Tops
This gay sports bar in the Castro is known for big screens and a big scene (their motto: “Cold pitchers, hot catchers”). But don’t underestimate the food, and in particular the chicken sandwich, which features white meat fried very thoroughly and topped with a punchy slaw.
4. SF Chickenbox
San Francisco, CA 94103
SF Chickenbox is a fried chicken surprise tucked inside the Trademark sports bar in SoMa. Get a box of expertly-fried chicken with mochi muffins and a choice of side, or swing for the sandwich, simply stacked with shredded lettuce and a special sauce — add extra dash of chef Christian Ciscle’s Moombah sauce, a sweet, spicy take on Baltimore’s mumbo sauce. Online orders are available, too.
Union Square’s newest fast-casual fried chicken sandwich shop comes courtesy of Sababa chef Guy Eshel, an aviation-themed restaurant that takes customers around the world with its selection of breaded fried chicken cutlets on Boudin Bakery buns. Options include the “Mexico City” (topped with black beans, avocado, pickled radishes and cotija cheese), the “Med” (which features hummus. za’atar, and tahini), or the more straightforward slaw-and-pickle “Classic.”
6. The Bird
This fried chicken sandwich-dedicated shop comes from the team behind Super Duper, and it’s doing what that local burger chain does so well, but this time, for chicken. There’s one location downtown, ideal for lunch breaks, and their main sandwich offering is only eight bucks, prepared with a berbere spice rub in two heat levels, regular or spicy. Celery, apple slaw, mayo, and pickles provide some acid and added crunch.
Disclosure: Carolyn Alburger, the Cities Director for Eater, is married to the Bird partner and chef Blair Warsham. She has recused herself from involvement in any Bird coverage on Eater.
7. Brown Sugar Kitchen
Tanya Holland’s celebrated soul food restaurant has excellent fried chicken, available with waffles or all on its own. At the Ferry Building location, you can also get it in sandwich form, stacking a fried thigh on a torpedo roll, with creole aioli and spicy slaw.
8. Old Kan Beer & Co.
Old Kan is a big indoor-outdoor brewery with strong community ties. Local brewer Adam Lamoreaux partnered with Chef James Syhabout on the menu, so the fried chicken sandwiches are just as legit as those at Hawking Bird, but a little milder, with aioli and slaw on a sesame bun. It goes down easy with an old-school pale ale.
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9. Xingones at Fort Green
One of the East Bay’s most popular pop-ups, Xingones is known for its Mexican tacos and its American-style fried chicken and waffles. And there’s probably no dish on the menu where the two cuisines come together as beautifully as the torta-style fried chicken sandwich, which comes topped with a curtido slaw and house-made remoulade.
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10. World Famous Hot Boys
Oakland, CA 94612
Nashville hot chicken, all the rage from Tennessee to Los Angeles, has hit the Bay Area, and it looks like it’s here to stay. Self-declared “World Famous” Hotboys has been casing the area with pop-ups at Forage Kitchen (478 25th Street) where customers can find them from Tuesday to Friday, 11 am. to 4 p.m. They’re making it permanent in Uptown Oakland this fall. Their chicken comes in whole, half, and quarter portions, or on a sandwich, and the heat levels turn up from “southern” and “mild” to “hot hot.” Try crinkle-cut fries or pimento mac and cheese on the side.
11. Aburaya Go
Oakland, CA 94612
This popular punk rock fried chicken joint’s second, takeout-oriented location is the only place where you can nab this fully loaded sandwich: two pieces of Japanese-style chicken karaage, sweet-and-spicy Japanese barbecue sauce, onion, tomato, avocado, and coleslaw — all served between two slices of Texas Toast.
12. The Kon-Tiki
Step into this dimly lit tiki den at the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown for classic rum cocktails, fried food, and over-the-top decor. In between rounds of mai tais, the fried chicken sandwich from chef Manuel Bonilla is a total delight, slathered with both kewpie mayo and chili honey.
13. Hawking Bird
Oakland native James Syhabout may own Commis, a Michelin-starred tasting menu restaurant, and Hawker Fare, serving colorful Thai street food — but that doesn’t mean he’s not into fried chicken sandwiches. At Hawker Fare’s chicken-focused spinoff, Hawking Bird, Syhabout’s sandwich includes a chicken thigh marinated in garlic and ginger, dipped in rice flour batter, and double fried before it’s topped with a fierce slaw featuring lots of lime and chiles.
14. Bakesale Betty
Alison Barakat is the Bay Area’s original fried chicken lady, rocking a blue wig and courting a line around the block in Temescal. Her sandwich is an Oakland urban legend that precedes the latest fried chicken sandwich hype, made with buttermilk-brined breast meat and a jalapeño slaw. Use both hands and don’t forget to grab napkins.
15. Clove And Hoof
This restaurant and butcher’s shop sources from local ranches to serve the best cuts around. As one would expect, there’s lots of meat on their prepared food menu, and a burger is a popular choice. But the fried chicken sandwich is a hot take, covered in caramelized fish sauce, with pickled pineapple, herb salad, and curried mayo.
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