America's Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches
From coast to coast, these are 30 of the best fried chicken sandwiches in America. They're a big step up from the fast-food variety, and worth every indulgent calorie.
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National: Shake Shack
The Sandwich: Chick’n Shack
Years after developing a global cultlike following for its modern yet casual burgers, in 2016 Shake Shack decided to get into the fried chicken sandwich game. As one would expect, the Chick’n Shack is also done extremely well. Starting with a cage-free bird treated with no hormones or antibiotics ever, the chicken breast is slow-cooked in a creamy buttermilk marinade before being hand-dipped in a special batter, dredged through seasoned flour and tossed into the fryer. The crisp, crackly and flavorful breast is so plump it bulges out the sides of its spongy potato bun, which is stuffed to the gills with pickles, shredded lettuce and a wonderful Shack-made buttermilk herb mayo with chives, parsley and thyme.
Philadelphia: Federal Donuts
The Sandwich: Fried Chicken Sandwich
First introduced to the City of Brotherly Love in the summer of 2015, Federal Donuts’ fried chicken sandwich has become a runaway hit — and one of doughnut shop’s signature dishes. Boneless chicken breast is seasoned with buttermilk ranch, fried to a golden hue, covered with American cheese, accented with dill pickles and spicy Rooster Sauce, and served on a fluffy Martin’s Potato Roll. It’s available every day starting at 11 a.m. at six Philadelphia shops and two sports arenas. And don’t worry: No one’s going to judge if you follow it with a doughnut chaser.
Nashville, Tennessee: Prince’s Hot Chicken
The Sandwich: Half Chicken
What used to be a local specialty has become a national obsession: Nashville hot chicken is on fire. The peppery dish can be found in various forms in places spanning from Brooklyn and Philadelphia to Los Angeles and Sonoma, California. But you can’t talk about hot chicken without mentioning its birthplace, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. The family-owned place still serves the same dish that Thornton Prince put on the menu back in 1945. It’s worth booking a trip to Nashville for this dish alone — it’s one of the hottest, most-complex versions still in existence. The spicy, crunchy bone-in bird is coated in a fiery dark-red brew of cayenne and set atop slices of white bread with a couple of pickles on top.
Los Angeles: Howlin' Ray's
The Sandwich: JoJo Style Waffle Sando
The hormone- and antibiotic-free Nashville-style hot chicken at Howlin' Ray's is so popular the counter-serve place regularly has three-hour lines. After the wait, most guests are just happy to get a taste of the super-crisp fried chicken sandwich — it’s like LA royalty right now. But here’s an inside tip: There’s a secret menu. And on weekends that includes the JoJo Style Waffle Sando, which consists of Ray's regular boneless breast fried in 100% peanut oil, topped with melted cheddar cheese and sandwiched between two airy waffles. It's available in whatever heat level you like — don’t order it "hotter hot" unless you’re a glutton for punishment.
The Sandwich: Chicken Sandwich
Possibly the most-hyped, most-discussed fried chicken sandwich in the world, Popeyes’ rendition caused an internet frenzy when it debuted in August 2019. Some customers reported waiting over an hour to get a taste. The chain sold out of the sandwich in weeks. And a man was stabbed to death at one location after a fight broke out. Why the mayhem? The tender chicken breast fillet is marinated in the chain’s classic blend of Louisiana seasonings, hand-battered and breaded in a buttermilk coating that crunches loudly when you sink your teeth into it. It’s served on a warm toasted brioche bun with crisp barrel-cured pickles and a choice of classic or spicy mayonnaise. Order on the Popeyes App to skip the crazy wait.
Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles: Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
The Sandwich: Fried Chicken Honey Breakfast Sandwich
If you’re looking to start your day with a bang, head to Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken for the epic fried chicken honey breakfast sandwich. The fry-centric shop serves a fried chicken breast with hot sauce and honey butter on your choice of a savory doughnut, potato roll or cheddar biscuit. The combination is served until 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday (and all day Sunday).
Chicago: Honey Butter Fried Chicken
The Sandwich: The Original Fried Chicken Sandwich
This Avondale fried chicken shop that had a humble start as a supper club has found plenty of ways to add razzle-dazzle to its original fried chicken sandwich, including giving it the trimmings of a Reuben. But the original lets the quality of the ingredients do the clucking. Chefs and co-owners Josh Kulp and Christine Cikowski butcher Amish chicken from Indiana and brine it overnight in salt, sugar and citrus before dredging it in buttermilk and seasoned flour. Where they win the game is by cutting the chicken into strips to maximize crunch. The accouterments are candied jalapeno mayonnaise and crunchy slaw. Order the sandwich, which comes on a buttery bun from Highland Baking Co., by its nickname — The OG — and wash it down with sweet tea.
Atlanta: Empire State South
The Sandwich: Fried Chicken Biscuit
There’s no need to wonder which came first: Both the chicken and the egg take center stage in this breakfast sandwich. Every morning, Chef Hugh Acheson and his Empire State South crew crank out legendary chicken biscuits for adoring Atlantans. Airy, buttery biscuits surround a scrambled egg and a tender batter-fried breast sourced from nearby Grateful Pastures in Mansfield, Georgia. Those fillings alone would make for one delicious brekkie, but Acheson and his crew just keep laying on the Southern flavor. They add sweet and savory bacon marmalade and creamy pimento cheese to kick it up an extra couple of notches. Talk about a hearty start to the day.
The Sandwich: Super Cluckin' Sunday Fried Chicken Sandwich
The good news is the Super Cluckin’ Fried Chicken Sandwich is so addictive it has a cult following. The bad news is you can get it only once a month, on Super Cluckin’ Sunday, when Cutty's scraps its regular menu for just one between-the-bread beauty. "We love the idea of a fast-food fried chicken sandwich, but we use awesome ingredients — nothing creepy, nothing to feel gross about," says chef and co-owner Rachel Kelsey. Her recipe calls for housemade ranch dressing flecked with fresh herbs and tangy BBQ sauce, as well as shredded iceberg lettuce and Vidalia onion on griddled sesame bread. Customers start lining up at the Brookline sandwich shop at 9 a.m. in anticipation of the 10 a.m. opening.
St. Louis: Byrd & Barrel
The Sandwich: The Mother Clucker
Love it or hate it, Provel cheese is one of the best-known specialties of St. Louis. The processed cheese, designed to make pizza even better (is that even possible?), became a staple of the Stl Louis-style pizza made famous by local chain Imo’s. But Provel enhances more than pies in the Gateway to the West. At Byrd & Barrel, a cheffy version of whipped Provel-infused bechamel smothers the restaurant's hulking fried chicken sandwich. The Mother Clucker features a large fried chicken thigh topped with caramelized onions, red pepper jelly and spicy local potato chips, Red Hot Riplets, and oozes housemade Provel whiz.
Decatur, Georgia: Revival
The Sandwich: Closed on Sunday
Chef Kevin Gillespie took one of the most-beloved chicken sandwiches in the United States, one of the top contenders in the Great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019, and made it even better. That’s right, Gillespie improved upon the extremely popular Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich with his Closed on Sunday sammie and stuck it on Revival’s Sunday Brunch menu (when the chain is closed — hence the name). His version features a pasture-raised bird brined in pickle juice with Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing powder, which also gets sprinkled into the breading. The fried bird is encased in a honey butter-toasted King’s Hawaiian bun with spicy pickle mayo.
Denver: Denver Biscuit Company
The Sandwich: The Cordon Bleu
Those who believe the South is a state of mind instead of a region will find comfort in Denver Biscuit Co.'s cuisine, most notably its Cordon Bleu biscuit sandwich. Buttermilk-brined fried chicken receives a boost from thinly sliced ham that’s been flash-griddled, gooey sharp cheddar cheese and local honey butter, forming a play on the classic French dish. "All of our sandwiches are fork-and-knife situations — you’re not picking them up," says owner Drew Shader. Denver Biscuit Co. got its start serving breakfast out of the Atomic Cowboy bar on East Colfax, and from one of the city’s first gourmet food trucks — The Biscuit Bus. You can now try the Cordon Bleu at three brick-and-mortar locations throughout the city from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.
New York: Emmy Squared
The Sandwich: Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Emmy Squared may be best known for bringing Detroit-style pizza to the slice capital of the world, but the place is also hailed for its burgers and a unique spicy chicken sandwich. Its special fried chicken dish gets its kick — and crunch — from an inspiring combination of ingredients from all over the world. Each order starts with two chicken cutlets marinated in buttermilk and gochujang, a savory, sweet and spicy fermented chile paste from Korea. Those tenderized hunks are crusted with Japanese panko, thrown in the fryer and tossed in a sweet Indonesian-inspired sambal sauce. The juicy poultry is layered atop bok choy, then topped with pickles, radish and a housemade ranch dressing.
Seattle: The Wandering Goose
The Sandwich: Aunt Annie’s
With its hospitality and comfort food, The Wandering Goose is a cure-all for those with a hankering for Southern fare in Seattle. Named after a friend of Chef-Owner Heather L. Earnhardt, the Aunt Annie’s fried chicken sandwich will have you salivating once you see its sheen. "It’s a riff on the classic Chick-fil-A sandwich with pickles and their honey mustard sauce — ours is just way better," Earnhardt says. Local, skin-on chicken thighs brined in buttermilk and fried to order are adorned with bread-and-butter pickles, tangy Creole mustard and honey from the cafe’s rooftop hives. A warm, flaky biscuit will help you elevate the sticky, savory stack to your mouth. Try it for breakfast or lunch seven days a week or during Friday fried chicken dinners.
New York City and Santa Monica: Fuku
The Sandwich: Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich
The heat in Fuku's spicy fried chicken sandwich doesn’t come from a spice shaker. Rather, chicken thighs are brined and marinated in a fresh habanero pepper puree before they go for a swim in buttermilk. The seasoned flour adds another layer of spice and complexity. In order to let the chicken remain the star, toppings are kept minimal — just housemade pickles and Fuku butter on a steamed Martin’s potato roll. Fuku butter? It’s a potion consisting of butter, pureed Fuku pickles, garlic and fermented products from the pickling process. There are locations throughout New York City, plus one inside a food court off Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade.
Minneapolis: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub
The Sandwich: Northern Fried Chicken Sandwich
One of the few items at Northbound Smokehouse that doesn’t come out of the smoker, this chicken sandwich is familiar, sort of like something your grandmother would have made for a picnic — if she were a really great chef. According to the proprietors, this homespun dish embodies the motto "Slow down, take your time and do things perfectly every time." Seasoned panko batter creates a dense, crunchy crust on the deep-fried breast, which gets balanced out with dill pickles, lettuce, tomato and a sweet and savory roasted-garlic mayo on a toasted egg bun.
New Orleans: Sylvain
The Sandwich: "Chick-Syl-vain" Sandwich
If you subscribe to the "bigger is better" philosophy, the Chick-Syl-vain might be your sandwich match made in heaven, because crispy fried butterflied chicken breast peeks out from either side of the bun. Sylvain’s executive chef, Martha Wiggins, keeps things simple by topping the chicken with dill pickles she makes in-house and serving it on a brioche bun. The Chick-Syl-vain, a cheeky play on Chick-fil-A, is served with fries, and Wiggins recommends washing it down with an unconventional pairing: a glass of sparkling rosé.
New Orleans: Compère Lapin
The Sandwich: Hot Fire Chicken Sandwich
Top Chef winner Nina Compton is known for blending her Caribbean roots with Louisiana and Southern influences at her New Orleans hot spot. The craveable Hot Fire Chicken Sandwich she put on the menu is just one delicious and piquant example of Compere Lapin’s creative fare. It starts with boneless thighs that are fried crisp, then coated in a spicy and slightly sweet combination of Original Franks Red Hot, red wine vinegar, brown sugar and spices. To offset the heat, Compton tops the meat with a refreshing mojo-infused carrot-and-chayote slaw and nestles it in a brioche bun. It’s served with pickles and housemade potato chips.
Los Angeles: Ma’am Sir
The Sandwich: Fried Chicken Sandwich
At his hip Silver Lake restaurant, Chef Charles Olalia digs deep into the foods of his Filipino heritage with an array of traditional dishes and somewhat less traditional ones such as Happy Birthday Fried Chicken. It's Ma’am Sir’s spin on the dish Olalia eats every year for his birthday, fried chicken from Filipino fast-food joint Jollibee. And for happy hour, the former fine-dining chef offers an $8 fried chicken sandwich that is absolutely amazing. In the Philippines, fried chicken with gravy is another very popular fast-food staple, which Olalia has transformed into a hand-held meal. The chicken is battered, fried and topped with a special adobo gravy, a slice of tomato and fresh vegetable slaw.
Dallas: East Hampton Sandwich Co.
The Sandwich: Fried Chicken and Jack
East Hampton Sandwich Co. founder & CEO Hunter Pond had a habit of bringing his Chick-fil-A sandwiches home to dress them up with whatever he could find in his refrigerator. This is how one of his top sellers — the Fried Chicken and Jack — was born. It combines the makings of a BLT with fried chicken, pepper Jack cheese, avocado mash spiked with lemon zest, and a zingy jalapeno cream sauce. The Dallas sandwich shop, now with four locations, is generous with its proteins; that’s why you’ll find customers opening wide to tackle a stack that includes two, sometimes three, lobes of fried chicken scaloppine. Try one anytime between 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Nashville: Biscuit Love
The Sandwich: East Nasty
As you might guess from its name, this popular Nashville counter-serve spot highlights the owners’ passion for biscuits. Chef-partners Karl and Sarah Worley started Biscuit Love as a truck before opening multiple brick-and-mortar locations around town. Guests can pick and choose from a wide selection of biscuit-hugged fare, from burgers and ham to French toast, but the East Nasty is one of the perennial fan favorites. Essentially a Nashville take on the gravy-smothered Nasty Biscuit, this version features a fried boneless chicken thigh topped with aged cheddar and sausage gravy, squeezed within a flaky buttermilk biscuit.
Los Angeles: Plan Check Kitchen and Bar
The Sandwich: Southern Fry
With Plan Check's Southern Fry sandwich, the proof is in the poultry. That’s because the Los Angeles chainlet uses local Jidori chicken, meaning free-range birds delivered the same day they’re slaughtered, for ultimate freshness. Before Chef Ernesto Uchimura fries his chicken in premium beef fat, he cold-smokes it and coats it in a batter dominated by rice flour. Once it's crispy, he sprinkles on smoked salt and begins to layer on flavors from around the world: kombu and sesame Sriracha pickles, duck breast ham, and pimento cheese polka-dotted with green instead of red because Uchimura substitutes roasted green chiles for red ones to add Southern California flair. A crunchy bun that’s been glazed and sprinkled with panko breadcrumbs is the hug holding it together.
Miami: Root and Bone
The Sandwich: Fried Chicken Biscuits
At their Miami and New York City restaurants, husband-and-wife Top Chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth serve a fun and delicious fried chicken dish with layer upon layer of bold flavors and textures. Their crispy fried chicken is brined in sweet tea, battered, tossed in zested lemon powder, drizzled in pepper jelly and wrapped in a buttery and flaky angle biscuit. One would think that would be enough for most chefs, but these two decided to take it up another couple of notches. "I love adding potato chips to sandwiches," says Booth, "so we decided to add our housemade root chips for extra crunch and our homemade mix of pickled cucumbers, red onions and Fresnos for acidity and sweetness."
Richmond, Virginia: Secret Sandwich Society
The Sandwich: The Hoover
This speakeasy-inspired deli and bar draws inspiration from world leaders with an array of scratch-made sandwiches named after American presidents, some founding fathers and other famous international statesmen. Its fried chicken sandwich, the Hoover, surely could win some sort of popular contest. Made entirely of locally sourced ingredients (like everything else on the menu), it features a hand-breaded, deep-fried breast on a toasted brioche bun with honey butter, Swiss cheese, pickles and mixed greens. It’s worth popping in for this sandwich — and many others — but this inspiring place also appeals to diners' eco-conscious side. The restaurant is 100% wind-powered, and the staff recycle everything they possibly can.
Las Vegas: Buldogis Gourmet Hot Dogs
The Sandwich: Buldogis Spicy Korean Sandwich
Combining owner Mi Sun Han’s Korean background with Executive Chef Boyzie Milner’s culinary know-how, the pair have raised the fried chicken sandwich to new international heights. At Buldogis Gourmet Hot Dogs, fresh chicken breasts are marinated overnight in a mix of soy sauce, sea salt and garlic brine to make them tender and infuse them with savory flavors. Each one is double-breaded in seasoned flour and deep-fried until golden brown. It's cradled in a sesame kaiser bun with crisp romaine lettuce, sliced beefsteak tomatoes and refreshing banh mi slaw, and finally drizzled with a tangy and bold Korean gochujang sauce.
St. Louis: Southern
The Sandwich: Firebird Chicken Sandwich
Affiliated with one of the best barbecue spots in the barbecue-obsessed state of Missouri, Southern pays just as much attention to its fried bird as sister Pappy's Smokehouse does to its 'cue. Executive chef Bernardo Papalotzi Sanchez rubs chicken tenders with a cayenne-habanero spice blend before crisping them up in the fryer and bathing them in hot pepper oil. They're served on a buttered toasted bun with baby spinach, tomato and three pickle chips dipped in sauce in your choice of heat level (from mild to Cluckin’ Hot to General Tso’s) and drizzled with "Fancy Ranch" dressing made with buttermilk and lime.
The Sandwich: Chug’s Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich
This Miami Cuban diner by Chef Michael Beltran of highly acclaimed Ariete, one of the best restaurants in bustling Coconut Grove, offers traditional American diner fare with a South Florida twist, like cast-iron skillet pancakes and eggs with black beans and fried sweet plantains. Another perfect example of the Miami-style fare is the hot fried chicken sandwich. Chicken thighs are seasoned with sazon completa, battered and deep-fried until nice and crisp, then tossed in a fiery plantain sauce. The zesty meat is layered with lettuce and housemade bread-and-butter pickles on toasted white bread.
Pittsburgh: The Vandal
The Sandwich: Crispy Chicken Sandwich
This Insta-worthy Lawrenceville cafe is known for serving some of the most aesthetically pleasing food in the Rust Belt. While its Crispy Chicken Sandwich may not be the most-photogenic dish on the menu, it’s certainly one of the most popular, because it’s got a whole lot of flavor going on. Chicken breast is brined daily in a combo of buttermilk and pickle brine, then it's floured and fried until crispy. Guests who order it spicy get their bird tossed in house -ermented hot sauce, a tasty addition to the flavorful accoutrement of mustard seed-infused bread-and-butter pickles and thinly shaved napa cabbage slaw accented with housemade aioli and a touch of vinegar.
Asheville, North Carolina: Buxton Hall BBQ
The Sandwich: Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich
Prepare to leave Buxton Hall BBQ stuffed. This Carolina barbecue specialist is best known for its slow-smoked whole hog — which is a must-try — but it also serves one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in this entire fried-chicken- sandwich-loving nation. Pitmaster Elliot Moss precooks his bird in the smoker alongside his pork, dipping each breast in buttermilk before it's deep-fried. The juicy meat comes out of the fryer with a subtly smoky aroma and a perfectly crisp shell, which is then coated with a combination of American and pimento cheeses, white barbecue sauce and bread-and-butter pickles sandwiched between halves of a toasted white bun.
Oakland, California: Bakesale Betty
The Sandwich: Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Coleslaw Sandwich
Oakland residents have been counting their lucky stars ever since Australian expat and Chez Panisse alum Alison Barakat opened the doors to Bakesale Betty back in 2005. The Temescal shop still regularly gets lines down the block of eager locals and tourists angling to get a taste of the buttermilk fried chicken and coleslaw sandwich. The perfectly breaded plump and juicy breast is well balanced with a vibrant spicy slaw. And, for those who don’t eat meat (this is California, after all), the place offers a vegetarian tofu version that also has a cult fan base.