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October 11, 2018

3 Ways To Top A Chicken Sandwich (Plus 7 Sandwiches You Need To Try)

Fried Chicken (one of our top trends for 2018) is one of my favorite meals. I remember each occasion fondly, as do many consumers. In fact, 81% of consumers love fried chicken. And as we’ve been watching, and sampling, how restaurants are taking the southern favorite to new places across the menu, sandwiches are the obvious and natural extension. When loaded on the right bread, topped with flavor-forward toppings, and smeared with the creamiest of condiments, a new experience is born. That’s right, the quintessential chicken sandwich has more wings, so to speak, than most sandwiches. It’s tried-and-true and can transcend trends, cuisines, and consumer generations. And if it’s a fried chicken sandwich, well, the likelihood of love at first bite goes up.


While the formula (bread + protein + toppings) is quite simple, the narrowing of possibilities complicates matters a bit. Brioche, growing at a high rate of 157.2%, according to Datassential, is a solid choice, but so is a biscuit, or a classic bun. Wait, perhaps a waffle? Aioli or a housemade mayo? Pickles or another pickled veggie? And with a version for each cuisine, the list goes on. So much inspiration, so little menu space. What you add matters, how you describe it matters, too, but the chicken is the most important part of the deal, in our opinion. Get the chicken right and you’ll gain the opportunity to introduce guests to new cuisines and flavors, too.

Global influences have found a welcoming home with the humble chicken sandwich. At Fuku, David Chang’s Fried Chicken spot in NYC, the spicy fried chicken sandwich leads with chicken thighs that have been brined and marinated in a fresh habanero pepper puree followed by a buttermilk bath and a coating in seasoned flour. When the sandwich comes together, it’s remarkably simple. Housemade pickles, Fuku butter, and a steamed potato roll. Additional toppings are offered to add a not-to-be-missed Asian-inspired flavor punch. At E&O Kitchen and Bar in San Francisco, a Chicken Katsu Sandwich showcases a tonkatsu glaze, spicy mustard aioli, and coleslaw. And at Old Standard Fried Chicken in St. Louis, the chef brings an Israeli twist to the batter by subbing in kefir for buttermilk and topping with housemade ranch dressing, romaine hearts, and horseradish pickles.

Classics approaches have not been left behind, but the twists set them apart. Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Chicago, one of our favorite spots for fried chicken, adds a spin to their handheld version of the American classic. Their original fried chicken sandwich starts with an overnight brine in salt, sugar, and citrus before a dip in buttermilk and seasoned flour. They maximize crunch by slicing into strips and then top this beauty with candied jalapeno mayo and crunchy slaw, all on a locally sourced buttery bun. Cutty’s in Boston uses an extreme version of limited-time-offers to their benefit with the Super Cluckin’ Sunday Fried Chicken Sandwich. Offered only once per month, this addictive sandwich takes over the restaurant and encourages a line of hungry consumers to form. The sandwich is topped with housemade ranch dressing, tangy BBQ sauce, iceberg lettuce and Vidalia onion on griddled sesame bread.

Switching up the bread carrier keeps the chicken sandwich fresh and trendy. Soul Groove Waffles and Chicken in San Francisco serves a Chicken Fried Soul that will complete you and your Instagram feed. This sandwich is wrapped in bacon, deep fried, topped with jalapeno coleslaw, slathered with maple barbecue sauce, and tucked between two maple-infused sourdough waffles. And if that isn’t enough, the chef offers a vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free version. At The Wandering Goose in Seattle, Aunt Annie’s Fried Chicken Sandwich is equally simple as it is indulgent. Locally sourced skin-on chicken thighs are brined in buttermilk, fried to order and topped with bread-and-butter pickles and a housemade honey mustard using fresh honey from the rooftop hives. Served on a warm biscuit, which has experienced 101.7% growth in the last 4 years, this sandwich is offered for breakfast, lunch, and on Friday Fried Chicken Dinners.

Are you hungry yet? We are, but before we head out the door to try one of the spots in our roundup, we’d like to leave you with simple and flavorful toppings for your Fried Chicken Sandwich. On-trend Harissa Mayo, a sweet and spicy Latin Citrus Chili Mayo, and for extra indulgence and savory flavor, a Bacon and Caramelized Onion Mayo. Let us know what you think.

Bo Chhay
Manager, Insight & Communication
Custom Culinary, Inc.