12 New and Noteworthy SF Bay Area Fried Chicken Sandwiches

By Trevor Felch  |  February 2, 2017
Credit: Lara Hata

San Francisco is both a sandwich city and a city that's accepted the South's beloved fried chicken with open arms. So it was only natural for the two to come together in delicious fashion, via the fried chicken sandwich. Fast-casual concepts like The Bird and Starbird are offering quick and concise versions, while established restaurants like Bluestem Brasserie and Maybeck's deliver spruced-up iterations with pimento cheese and an unusual vodka-based batter. Then there are the more extreme ones, in both spice (WesBurger 'N' More) and size (Hot Sauce and Panko), renditions for the more daring fried chicken sandwich fans. Start planning your next fried chicken sandwich fix with these notable Bay Area newcomers.

  • Credit: The Bird

    Fried chicken sandwich at The Bird
    Do one thing and do it well. That's the philosophy of this debut from Back of the House group, which opened last fall. Until recently, the only choice for diners was spicy or classic with a side of curly fries, but now there's a salad option. Still the central focus remains the tidy, crunchy sandwich thanks to celery and a housemade apple slaw. A berbere spice blend in the batter gives the chicken an underlying umami note. It seems to be working as FiDi workers have been lining up for the sandwich since the day The Bird opened.

    115 New Montgomery St.; 415-872-9825

  • Credit: Madison Ginnett

    Chicken sandwich at Bluestem Brasserie
    What are you doing for lunch on Tuesday? You should be heading to this Union Square–Moscone Center area restaurant for its Tuesday-only sandwich, which combines two of the South's most beloved food items: fried chicken and pimento cheese. The light cornmeal batter lets the tender chicken shine, and butter lettuce balances out the smoky punch of applewood smoked bacon perched atop a thick layer of cheese. In other words, it's a BLT fried chicken sandwich with tomatoes replaced by pimento cheese. If you can't make it on Tuesday, try the weekend brunch version, which swaps the pimento cheese for an earthy Calabrian chile aïoli.

    1 Yerba Buena Ln.; 415-547-1111

  • Credit: Corridor

    Chicken Parm sandwich at Corridor
    There's no need to exclude the chicken Parm from its now trendy friends — it's still fried chicken, albeit topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese. The Italian-American comfort composition at Hi Neighbor Group’s two-story spot near City Hall comes together as provolone over the chicken, with pesto aïoli and pickled giardiniera and a side of broccolini.

    100 Van Ness Ave.; 415-834-5684

  • Credit: Duchess Oakland/Facebook

    Fried chicken sandwich at Duchess Oakland
    Oakland's Rockridge neighborhood has a worthy contender for best new fried chicken sandwich around the Bay thanks to its recently opened local gastropub. The chicken comes pounded flat Wiener schnitzel–style, with hot sauce, slaw and pickled onions. However, it’s gaining particular fame (of the Instagram sort) because of its massive size and the impressive extension of meat beyond the bun, which makes the bun seem like a token gesture.

    5422 College Ave., Oakland; 510-871-3463

  • Credit: E&O Kitchen & Bar

    Crispy chicken sandwich at E&O Kitchen and Bar
    Fried chicken sandwiches weren't such a marquee trend back when this Union Square modern Asian classic opened in the '90s. But the restaurant is staying fresh with of-the-moment dishes like this one where the chicken is given a sweet-spicy gochujang glaze and a xhayote-green apple slaw.

    314 Sutter St.; 415-693-0303

  • Credit: Lara Hata

    Cornflake-crusted fried chicken sandwich at Finn Town
    Ryan Scott, chef-owner of this Castro New American tavern, brought this sandwich over from the now-closed Market & Rye restaurant duo. The crunchy, almost brittle breakfast cereal coating gives a whole new dimension to fried chicken exterior. Scott adds Chesapeake aïoli (think the Old Bay seasoning flavor), slaw and pickles to the sandwich on housemade brioche. By the way, the fries with the sandwich should be on everyone's top fries list, as well.

    2251 Market St.; 415-626-3466

  • Credit: Hot Sauce & Panko

    Ultimate Goliath at Hot Sauce and Panko
    Legions of diners have made the trip to Nob Hill for their fix of wings and waffles from this cult favorite take-out joint, which left its Inner Richmond home last year. And while those dishes are good, don't miss the over-the-top fried chicken karaage, sandwiched between waffles and drizzled with a soy-based ginger "sushi" sauce and sticky Sriracha caramel. The sandwich gets the “ultimate” tag for a reason: just how daunting it is to finish.

    1468 Hyde St.; 415-359-1908

  • Credit: Maybeck's

    Fried chicken sandwich at Maybeck's
    Served on a housemade onion bun, this brunch and happy hour–only sandwich from the swanky Marina restaurant is far more complex than the menu suggests. There are two key secrets. First, only chicken thighs are used, which are relentlessly tender when cooked just right. Second is the three-step batter. The chicken gets dry brined and then given an initial batter soaking with Maggi sauce and vodka (the liquor aids in keeping the crust extra crunchy). A second soaking involves cayenne pepper and ground panko crumbs. It's complete with house pickles and a malt vinegar mayonnaise, plus hot sauce on the side.

    3213 Scott St.; 415-400-8500

  • Credit: The Organic Coup/Facebook

    Signature sandwich at The Organic Coup
    There are lots of buzzwords about this mini-chain that started in the Embarcadero’s Rincon Center — it’s the country’s first USDA certified fast-food concept, it was started by two former Costco execs and it’s 100% organic. But let’s get to the point: The sandwich uses air-chilled chicken soaked on buttermilk and cooked in coconut oil. Thinly sliced vegetables serve as the garnish for the sandwich on a brioche bun. Diners can also choose one of four homemade sauces, including spicy barbecue ranch and sesame ginger.

    101 Spear St.; 415-546-3988

  • Credit: Starbird Chicken/Facebook

    Chicken and the egg sandwich at Starbird
    This fast-food chicken start-up brings together convenience and freshness. Order ahead and you're promised to wait five minutes or less for your sandwich. At lunch or dinner, you can choose amongst several options for fried chicken sandwiches, iterations like the Southern Belle, Backyard BBQ and banh mi. In the morning, it's all about crispy-to-the-point-of-shattering chicken teamed with American cheese and bacon. Why such a glorious batter? The secret is rice bran oil used for frying, made famous in the region as the trick behind Marlowe’s addictive fries. It works the same wonders with chicken in this sandwich.

    1241 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale; 650-988-6630

  • Credit: Sunset Reservoir Brewing Co.

    Chicken sandwich at Sunset Reservoir Brewing Co.
    Beer and burgers? That’s so cliché. Now it's all about beer and fried chicken sandwiches. The trio of coleslaw, chipotle aïoli and barbecue sauce star in this double-decker fried chicken stack that is delightfully sweet and smoky but not overly saucy. As it's served at a family-friendly Inner Sunset craft brewery, give it a try with the house IPA. You can also order it grilled should you want a healthier option.

    1735 Noriega St., 415-571-8452

  • Credit: Wes Rowe

    Nashville hot chicken at WesBurger & More
    Wes Rowe’s ever-popular year-old Mission establishment has a menu focusing on burgers and “more,” which includes creative salads and sandwiches. There's a third section that doesn’t get in the name but is equally noteworthy: fried chicken sandwiches. Diners can go for the classic buttermilk battered variety or jazz it up with the batter getting the addition of a Nashville spice mix, plus garlic mayonnaise, lettuce and pickles. Nashville hot chicken is a smoking trend coast to coast, and this is SF's one standout example.

    2240 Mission St., San Francisco; 415-745-9371