We’re nothing if not dedicated to the fried chicken sandwich. We’ve been known to eat them for a middle-of-the-night snack, or for breakfast during a grueling 9am Zoom meeting. And what is life, really, if not one long-winded pursuit of the best fried chicken sandwich? Lucky for us, there are tons of excellent ones in SF and the East Bay that are just a walk or a drive away. Here are 18 to try right now.
Hotbird, the Nashville hot chicken sandwich spot, used to be a staple at Oakland First Fridays and Off the Grid at the Presidio. Now they have a temporary space in the Twitter building food hall while their brick-and-mortar restaurant (also located in the same building) is under construction. Their sandwich is a master class in the art of doing one thing great. Like, Jordan Peele great. Sandwiches come with five heat levels, which have a fiery kick but not in a, “Help, please send milk” sort of way, as well as dill pickles, a tangy aioli, and a light, buttery bun.
Cracked & Battered is a halal breakfast and lunch spot that makes everything from chicken and waffles and fried chicken benedicts to nasi goreng topped with fried eggs. If you really want a dish that will inspire you to write love letters, order the fried chicken sandwich. The well-seasoned chicken is juicy and tender, and comes with a refreshing lemony slaw and a nice layer of pickles. You’ll also get some excellent fries on the side. They’re open every day for lunch only (until 2pm).
Fowl + Fare is a pop-up in Oakland’s Jack London Square that’s making a fantastic fried chicken sandwich. Their version comes with a nicely fried, juicy thigh, a creamy, crunchy pear slaw, pickles, and chipotle aioli on a brioche bun (if you want an extra kick, order the citric hot). You can also have your fried chicken in biscuit sandwich form, topped with gravy and habanero honey. Keep an eye on their Instagram for pop-up dates and special menus.
Eating the excellent fried chicken sandwich from Birdsong in SoMa is a delightfully tactile experience. For starters, the deboned chicken thigh and drumstick comes with “Claude the Claw” still attached (give it a high-five if you must). Hand-drawn instructions then show you how to artfully stack all the ingredients - fluffy potato roll, tangy yeast/mayo sauce, sweet pickles, coleslaw, chicken, and fried shallots. Smash it down to your ideal size (the thick breading will make a satisfying crackle), and enjoy. Make sure to pull the claw out before eating.
Malibu’s Burgers is an all-vegan fast food restaurant on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue specializing in plant-based proteins, like Impossible patties and faux chicken tenders. They make excellent burgers and phenomenal tater tots - and a fried “chicken” sandwich that’s perfectly crunchy with every bite. The patty is stacked with bacon, caramelized onions, and all the regular fixings, and presented neatly on a golden-brown brioche bun.
Last year, Flour + Water opened Flour + Water Pasta Shop, a takeout-focused operation where you can get meal kits with their incredible pasta, sauces, and charcuterie. But if you leave without trying their Calabrian fried chicken sandwich, you will deeply regret it. The perfectly-fried chicken comes on a sesame hoagie roll, topped with a swath of chili aioli, creamy slaw, and pickled banana peppers. Don’t be surprised when this sandwich becomes your sole motivator to get out of bed in the morning.
The SoMa chicken spot has an excellent fried chicken sandwich that’s also one of the more affordable in town - their signature is $9. It’s loaded with pickles, mayo, and a sweet apple slaw, and comes in two ways: regular or spicy. Both forms are delicious, and the spicy one packs some heat (but don’t expect to sweat). We recommend ordering the sandwich as part of their “Happier Meal” - which comes with a side of curly fries and a beer for $13.50 - and enjoying it somewhere sunny.
If you regularly have dreams about sandwiches, WesBurger is where you need to be. This Mission spot has it all - smash burgers, regular burgers, and, of course, fried chicken sandwiches. We like the Southern-style with buttermilk chicken. It’s extra crispy, as big as your face, and topped with red cabbage and miso aioli. Another thing you’ll probably dream about: their excellent Nashville hot chicken sandwich with mayo and pickles.
Aside from your dog Zoom-bombing a meeting, there aren’t too many things we can rely on these days... Except for the fried chicken sandwich at Monk’s Kettle. The Mission tavern makes a great one that’s stacked with a well-seasoned chicken thigh, apple slaw, and pickles and then stuffed between two fluffy buns. Right now you can enjoy it for takeout and delivery - and make sure to get it with a bottle of beer to go.
SF Chickenbox’s original fried chicken sandwich is a strong contender for our favorite sandwich, ever. And the beauty of it lies in its simplicity - and the fact that it nails all the pillars that make a great fried chicken sandwich: crunchy breading, juicy chicken, and a fresh, squishy bun. It comes with lettuce and house sauce, and it’s flawless. There’s also a version with jalapeño, hot sauce, and red onion, or a buffalo one with pickles and ranch. Whatever you order, it all goes well with Old Bay-seasoned fries and their chewy mochi muffin.
Catered To You
Catered To You is a takeout window in Uptown Oakland that focuses on grilled and fried chicken, beef, and fish. We love coming here for their fried chicken sandwich (technically, it’s a fried chicken tender sandwich). The chicken is doused in a sweet BBQ sauce (a welcome change from aioli), and is finished with crisp lettuce, red onion, and tomato. The hours can change, so plan ahead by checking out their Facebook.
When your sibling has a reputation as iconic as Rich Table’s, you’d better perform. And if Rich Table is I AM...SASHA FIERCE, RT Rotisserie’s slightly sweet fried chicken sandwich is A Seat At The Table - equally brilliant and complex, yet a little more lowkey in its genius. RT Rotisserie’s moist, well-seasoned chicken is topped with pickled onions, chipotle yogurt, and cabbage - all of which are stuffed between a soft brioche bun. If you’re in Hayes Valley or NoPa, you’ll want to stop by to witness the greatness.
World Famous HotBoys should be synonymous with greatness - or, at the very least, their Nashville hot sandwiches should be. The former pop-up is now a brick-and-mortar spot in Uptown Oakland (they recently opened a new outpost in Sacramento), and their perfect, crispy sandwich is what we order when we want to feel spice, heat, and joy. You can choose from various heat levels that range from no spice to training wheels to painfully spicy. There’s even a Hot Hot sandwich that requires you to fill out a quick questionnaire when you order. Serious sandwich stuff.
The casual Hawker Fare spin-off does their fried chicken sandwich with a garlicky, gingery chicken thigh that’s doubled fried. In other words, prepare for a satisfying crunch. And if you need more convincing that this is the flavorful chicken sandwich you need now, consider this: the chicken is slathered with a homemade charred chili jam, and topped with a coleslaw with tons of chiles, cilantro, and mint.
The new takeout window in Berkeley makes burgers, rice bowls, and beef barbacoa plates. But what got us hooked on this to-go spot is their fried chicken sandwich. The Fat Cat is a work of art - a crispy buttermilk chicken breast layered with sweet marinated peppers, fried shallots, coleslaw, and tomato. It is massive, messy, and perfect.
Like World Famous Hot Boys and Cali Alley, we’ve talked a lot about Hetchy’s Hots, and with good reason. The Square Pie Guys spin-off in SoMa makes great Nashville-inspired hot sandwiches that come with delicious sauces, massive cuts of chicken, and toppings that range from Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to taco spice to Calabrian chilies.
If you’re only going to make one thing, make sure it’s as good as Bakesale Betty’s fried chicken sandwich. The buttermilk chicken is crispy, the jalapeño coleslaw is tangy and slightly spicy, and overall, this sandwich will change your life. Just don’t forget one of their perfectly baked cookies when you order to go. They’re currently open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Clove and Hoof is an Oakland butcher shop that doubles as our go-to sandwich shop. They make everything from cheesesteaks to burgers to pulled pork sandwiches. But our favorite is the fried chicken sandwich with a fish sauce caramel. They change up what goes on the sandwich from time to time (right now, you can get it with green curry mayo, pickled pineapple, and mixed herb and jalapeño), but the chicken always stays the same - savory, sticky, and tender.