Five great fried chicken sandwiches that aren’t that one
The cluck stops here
Words— Jeremy Freed
Many years from now, when humanity has finally learned from its mistakes, those enlightened beings will look back on 2019 from their floating pods and shake their heads. Geopolitics and environmental catastrophes aside, they’ll think, what was the deal with that sandwich? You know the one. While the fried chicken frenzy of 2019 brought up a bunch of ugly stuff about our current human era, it could also provide a good opportunity to move towards a better, saner one in the future. For one thing, we can advocate for better wages for the people who work in fast-food restaurants (and everyone else trying to make ends meet on minimum wage). We can also stand up for the rights of the immigrants who harvest and process our food. And, equally importantly, we can make more informed choices about where we spend our lunch money.
Next time you’re hankering for a fried chicken sandwich, instead of heading for a big chain with dubious labour practices, try one of these locally-owned spots. You’ll be supporting great food in your community, and businesses who care about their ingredients and their people. Whether or not humankind still has fried chicken sandwiches in the future, those enlightened beings will probably agree that food tastes better when you feel good about where it came from.
When Pawel Grezlikowski opened shop in a closet-sized space in the heart of Toronto’s Little Italy, he instantly set a new standard for fried chicken in the city. Now with two locations, PG Clucks continues to draw lunchtime crowds with its spectacularly good fried chicken sandwiches. Available in either classic (regular or spicy), honey-dipped with sweet-pickled jalapeños, or with lettuce, pickles, onions, American cheese and Mac Sauce (aka The Big Cluck) this is the sandwich against which all others are measured.
This Williamsburg, Brooklyn dive bar’s excellent Pina Coladas, cheap beer and nautical-inspired decor have made it a longtime favourite in the neighbourhood. It’s The Commodore’s classic down-home cooking, however, that draws the crowds, especially chef Stephen Tanner’s fried chicken sandwich. Elbow your way through the crowds of loyal regulars to order at the bar and you’ll be rewarded with a whole chicken breast, breaded and fried to crispy perfection, anointed with a scoop of creamy slaw and a few crunchy slices of dill pickle served on a soft sesame seed bun. Perfection.
Los Angeles’ combination of thriving immigrant communities from every corner of the globe and year-round access to great products makes it one of the world’s top food cities, and fried chicken sandwiches are no exception. You could wait in line at Howlin’ Rays, but the Venice outpost of Night+Market offers something just as tasty. Chef Kris Yenbamroong’s take involves a juicy fried thigh topped with crunchy papaya slaw, homemade ranch dressing, tomato and cilantro. It’s exactly the kind of thing that makes LA such a great place to eat.
Montreal, with its proud tradition of gravy-drenched rotisserie joints, is a town for chicken-lovers. When it comes to fried chicken sandwiches, one of the best is the Mc Arthur, a perennial favourite at Arthur’s Nosh Bar in Saint-Henri. In keeping with their Jewish comfort food theme, the sandwich nestles a tender chicken schnitzel between two slices of challah, topped with iceberg slaw, mayo and pickles from Moishe’s (a Montreal institution since 1938). The wait can be long to get a seat here, but it’s definitely worth it.
For all of its reputation as a city that runs on tempeh and salmon maki, Vancouver has a pretty solid fried chicken scene going on. Among the top contenders is Hundy, a weekends-and-evenings only spot from the team behind Their There. Like the best classic sammies, Hundy’s keeps it simple, relying on the age-old trifecta of buttermilk fried chicken breast, a few leaves of iceberg lettuce and a pillowy bun. The addition of a jalapeño aioli provides creaminess and kick, for a perfectly spicy finish.