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Where to Get Spectacularly Crunchy Fried Chicken in San Francisco

From classic Southern buttermilk birds to fried chicken slathered in gochujang

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There’s a good reason why many people consider fried chicken the ultimate comfort food. It’s fried, it’s flavorful, and it travels well, whether that means in the car back to your kitchen table or out to the park on a sunny San Francisco day. In San Francisco, diners don’t even have to stick to a single style of fried bird; there’s a plethora of crispy, crunchy chickens to explore from juicy thighs smothered in gravy to golden wings tossed in a coating of spicy gochujang. No matter what kind of fried chicken you’re craving, here are 18 excellent options around San Francisco.

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This new restaurant in the Marina-Cow Hollow neighborhood comes from a duo of longtime friends, but they’re borrowing their fried chicken recipe from the Lucky Pig, a stalwart of the city’s Korean restaurant scene — and known for its excellent fried chicken. Here your platter includes chile and garlic sauces, pickles, and a creamy slaw. 

A tray of fried chicken with pickled vegetable and sauce at Ilcha. Photos by Reuben Kim

SF Chickenbox

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SF chicken veteran Christian Ciscle’s (previously of Wing Wings) new fried chicken venture, SF Chickenbox, is now based out of a storefront off Broadway. That chicken, however, remains just as good — juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, with mochi muffins and pickles on the side. Get an order of Old Bay seasoned fries while you’re at it.

SF Chickenbox

New Golden Daisy

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New Golden Daisy is your prototypical Cantonese takeout deli with roast meats hanging in the window and big vats of prepared dishes sitting on the steam table. But by far, the best thing to get is a big carton of the restaurants excellent fried chicken wings — all drumettes.

Hot Sauce and Panko

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These are some of the most succulent, flavorful fried chicken wings in town, available in a whole range of internationally-inspired sweet, savory, or spicy varieties: everything from a pad Thai-inspired version to mango habanero or Jamaican dry jerk. It’s a very seriously to-only operation so order online for pickup or delivery.

Hot Sauce and Panko

Wayfare Tavern

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Celeb chef Tyler Florence has made Wayfare Tavern a go-to destination for California-style fried chicken thanks to an intense cooking process that involves a sous vide machine, an overnight rest, and Florence's grandmother's flour mixture before it finally hits the Fryolator. You’ve got all the options here: indoor and outdoor dining, plus takeout or delivery.

The Bird

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For those who like their bird on a bun, the Bird has been of the city’s most popular fried chicken sandwich shops since it opened in 2016. The (genuinely fiery) Nashville-inspired spicy version is especially choice. And, morning or night, a smaller piece of chicken served on a brown butter-brushed buttermilk biscuit makes for an excellent snack. In the city you’ll have options for indoor and outdoor seating plus takeout at locations in SoMa and Hayes Valley, with delivery through third-party apps.

Little Skillet

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If there's something wrong about eating fried chicken and waffles on a loading dock in an alleyway, then you don't want to be right. Just follow the smell of sweet waffles to this small takeout window in SoMa where there's bound to be a line of fried chicken fanatics waiting to get their fix — especially now that the restaurant has both indoor seating and a parklet for outdoor dining.

Brenda's Meat & Three

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Like a slightly gussied-up take on Popeyes, with outstanding crunch and a bit of slow-building heat, the BFC (Brenda’s Fried Chicken) is probably the most popular dish here. Apart from the juicy buttermilk chicken, what sets Brenda’s Meat & Three apart is, of course, the “three” — the choice of three mostly excellent sides that come with each meal, like cream biscuits, cheese grits, and tomato and okra maque choux.

Tastebuds

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Who says fried chicken isn’t breakfast food? Not the folks at this Richmond neighborhood restaurant, where everyday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. you can order fried chicken breast tenders atop fluffy Belgian waffles or nestled alongside homemade biscuits.

Of all the things Nopa, one of the city’s most elegant, highly esteemed farm-to-table restaurants, was known for in pre-COVID times, fried chicken wasn’t really one of them. No matter: The buttermilk-brined version of the dish they’re serving now — Moroccan spiced with a side of chile honey for drizzling — is the showpiece of its current menu.

During the pandemic, Um.ma shifted its focus to become, mostly, a grill-your-own-meat Korean barbecue spot on its lovely back patio, but the restaurant is still serving many of its customers favorites. Top of the list: its excellent gochujang- and honey-glazed Korean fried chicken wings. Order online, get delivery via one of the third-party apps, or grab a seat inside or on the patio.

Korean fried chicken from Um.ma Lauren Saria

San Tung Chinese Restaurant

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Two things are bound to happen when you go to San Tung. You'll wait for a long time (even picking up takeout). And then you'll eat some of the best dry-fried chicken wings you've ever had. By far the restaurant’s most popular item, the wings are deep fried in batter and tossed in a sticky-sweet sauce with garlic, ginger, and red peppers. That magical combination has made them an absolute legend among San Franciscans. Call in to place your takeout order.

Krispy Krunchy Fried Chicken

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Yes, it’s fast food chicken served out of a gas station convenience store (in the Mission, in this case). But there’s a reason Krispy Krunchy proponents swear this is best Southern-style fried chicken in the entire city. Juicy flesh and well-seasoned, unfailingly crunchy skin — hence the name — are the hallmarks here. Walk up to order.

Hard Knox Cafe

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Hard Knox Café is back open for takeout and dine-in, including plates of juicy, hot fried chicken. Order a plate of spicy or regular fried chicken snuggled up with sides like collard greens and coleslaw, or have it resting atop a fluffy Belgian waffle. In addition to the original location in Dogpatch, there’s also a second outpost in the Richmond avenues.

Head to the foggy outer avenues to find this former garage-turned-restaurant, where the music and drinks flow late into the night. There’s a full menu of Korean food to explore but the fried chicken — offered either in wing form or as a whole bird, broken into piece of course — continues to be among the most popular dishes. 

Village Rotisserie

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As the name implies, the stars of the menu at this casual Noe Valley restaurant are the ones spinning away on the imported Australian rotisserie. But if you’re craving something fried, the restaurant also drapes its birds in a well-seasoned, golden brown batter. Three boneless pieces of chicken come with your choice of sauce and you can’t go wrong with the spicy peri peri and a side of duck fat potatoes.

Exterior of Village Rotisserie Patricia Chang

The Front Porch

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If you want chicken in a bucket in SF, you can either go for fast food (no judgement here) or head to Front Porch, where the "Bucket O' Chicken" — ten juicy, cornmeal-encrusted pieces of happiness — will run you $32. Buy a bottle of the excellent housemade hot sauce while you’re at it and you’ll be set for the night.

Old Skool Cafe

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You can feel good after choosing to scratch your fried chicken itch at this Bayview supper club not only because it’s home to some of the city’s best fried chicken, but also because it’s a training ground for at-risk kids. The restaurant and jazz club, swathed in red and black decor, hosts live music and employs at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth.

Frisco Fried

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The motto of this Bayview Hunter's Point soul food joint is "fried with pride," and once you bite into their fried chicken, you'll taste that it's true — it’s one of the crispiest, most succulent versions in town.

Frisco Fried

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ILCHA

A tray of fried chicken with pickled vegetable and sauce at Ilcha. Photos by Reuben Kim

This new restaurant in the Marina-Cow Hollow neighborhood comes from a duo of longtime friends, but they’re borrowing their fried chicken recipe from the Lucky Pig, a stalwart of the city’s Korean restaurant scene — and known for its excellent fried chicken. Here your platter includes chile and garlic sauces, pickles, and a creamy slaw. 

A tray of fried chicken with pickled vegetable and sauce at Ilcha. Photos by Reuben Kim

SF Chickenbox

SF Chickenbox

SF chicken veteran Christian Ciscle’s (previously of Wing Wings) new fried chicken venture, SF Chickenbox, is now based out of a storefront off Broadway. That chicken, however, remains just as good — juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside, with mochi muffins and pickles on the side. Get an order of Old Bay seasoned fries while you’re at it.

SF Chickenbox

New Golden Daisy

New Golden Daisy is your prototypical Cantonese takeout deli with roast meats hanging in the window and big vats of prepared dishes sitting on the steam table. But by far, the best thing to get is a big carton of the restaurants excellent fried chicken wings — all drumettes.

Hot Sauce and Panko

Hot Sauce and Panko

These are some of the most succulent, flavorful fried chicken wings in town, available in a whole range of internationally-inspired sweet, savory, or spicy varieties: everything from a pad Thai-inspired version to mango habanero or Jamaican dry jerk. It’s a very seriously to-only operation so order online for pickup or delivery.

Hot Sauce and Panko

Wayfare Tavern

Celeb chef Tyler Florence has made Wayfare Tavern a go-to destination for California-style fried chicken thanks to an intense cooking process that involves a sous vide machine, an overnight rest, and Florence's grandmother's flour mixture before it finally hits the Fryolator. You’ve got all the options here: indoor and outdoor dining, plus takeout or delivery.

The Bird

For those who like their bird on a bun, the Bird has been of the city’s most popular fried chicken sandwich shops since it opened in 2016. The (genuinely fiery) Nashville-inspired spicy version is especially choice. And, morning or night, a smaller piece of chicken served on a brown butter-brushed buttermilk biscuit makes for an excellent snack. In the city you’ll have options for indoor and outdoor seating plus takeout at locations in SoMa and Hayes Valley, with delivery through third-party apps.

Little Skillet

If there's something wrong about eating fried chicken and waffles on a loading dock in an alleyway, then you don't want to be right. Just follow the smell of sweet waffles to this small takeout window in SoMa where there's bound to be a line of fried chicken fanatics waiting to get their fix — especially now that the restaurant has both indoor seating and a parklet for outdoor dining.

Brenda's Meat & Three

Like a slightly gussied-up take on Popeyes, with outstanding crunch and a bit of slow-building heat, the BFC (Brenda’s Fried Chicken) is probably the most popular dish here. Apart from the juicy buttermilk chicken, what sets Brenda’s Meat & Three apart is, of course, the “three” — the choice of three mostly excellent sides that come with each meal, like cream biscuits, cheese grits, and tomato and okra maque choux.

Tastebuds

Who says fried chicken isn’t breakfast food? Not the folks at this Richmond neighborhood restaurant, where everyday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. you can order fried chicken breast tenders atop fluffy Belgian waffles or nestled alongside homemade biscuits.

Nopa

Of all the things Nopa, one of the city’s most elegant, highly esteemed farm-to-table restaurants, was known for in pre-COVID times, fried chicken wasn’t really one of them. No matter: The buttermilk-brined version of the dish they’re serving now — Moroccan spiced with a side of chile honey for drizzling — is the showpiece of its current menu.

um.ma

Korean fried chicken from Um.ma Lauren Saria

During the pandemic, Um.ma shifted its focus to become, mostly, a grill-your-own-meat Korean barbecue spot on its lovely back patio, but the restaurant is still serving many of its customers favorites. Top of the list: its excellent gochujang- and honey-glazed Korean fried chicken wings. Order online, get delivery via one of the third-party apps, or grab a seat inside or on the patio.

Korean fried chicken from Um.ma Lauren Saria

San Tung Chinese Restaurant

Two things are bound to happen when you go to San Tung. You'll wait for a long time (even picking up takeout). And then you'll eat some of the best dry-fried chicken wings you've ever had. By far the restaurant’s most popular item, the wings are deep fried in batter and tossed in a sticky-sweet sauce with garlic, ginger, and red peppers. That magical combination has made them an absolute legend among San Franciscans. Call in to place your takeout order.

Krispy Krunchy Fried Chicken

Yes, it’s fast food chicken served out of a gas station convenience store (in the Mission, in this case). But there’s a reason Krispy Krunchy proponents swear this is best Southern-style fried chicken in the entire city. Juicy flesh and well-seasoned, unfailingly crunchy skin — hence the name — are the hallmarks here. Walk up to order.

Hard Knox Cafe

Hard Knox Café is back open for takeout and dine-in, including plates of juicy, hot fried chicken. Order a plate of spicy or regular fried chicken snuggled up with sides like collard greens and coleslaw, or have it resting atop a fluffy Belgian waffle. In addition to the original location in Dogpatch, there’s also a second outpost in the Richmond avenues.

Toyose

Head to the foggy outer avenues to find this former garage-turned-restaurant, where the music and drinks flow late into the night. There’s a full menu of Korean food to explore but the fried chicken — offered either in wing form or as a whole bird, broken into piece of course — continues to be among the most popular dishes. 

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Village Rotisserie

Exterior of Village Rotisserie Patricia Chang

As the name implies, the stars of the menu at this casual Noe Valley restaurant are the ones spinning away on the imported Australian rotisserie. But if you’re craving something fried, the restaurant also drapes its birds in a well-seasoned, golden brown batter. Three boneless pieces of chicken come with your choice of sauce and you can’t go wrong with the spicy peri peri and a side of duck fat potatoes.

Exterior of Village Rotisserie Patricia Chang

The Front Porch

If you want chicken in a bucket in SF, you can either go for fast food (no judgement here) or head to Front Porch, where the "Bucket O' Chicken" — ten juicy, cornmeal-encrusted pieces of happiness — will run you $32. Buy a bottle of the excellent housemade hot sauce while you’re at it and you’ll be set for the night.