When done well, the fried chicken sandwich is a thing of beauty. And its popularity in recent years has skyrocketed, with nearly every fast food chain giving it a go (we’d be lying if we said we didn’t wait in a long Popeye’s line at one point). Fortunately, Austin is home to a wide range of styles and takes on the fried chicken sandwich. Here are eight of our favorites that you can get right now.
The fried chicken sandwich at Pollos Las Abuelos isn’t just one of the best in Austin, it’s also one of the most unique. Taking inspiration from South Texas and Mexico, you’ll find toppings here like Arbol-garlic oil, queso, roasted serrano crema, and cotija cheese. And if you show up for their weekend special, you can even throw on some Mexican Coke-glazed bacon and a fried egg. Make sure to add on an order of Bandera Tots - covered in a drizzle of chipotle mayo, cotija, jalapeno crema, and Tajin. The small trailer is outside of a gas station south of Slaughter and Menchaca, just close enough to Valentina’s to get a nose-full of some great barbecue smells on your way in.
This downtown restaurant mostly specializes in upscale Southern food, like chicken-fried ribeyes, heritage pork chops, and Gulf seafood chopped salads. But our favorite item might just be their fried chicken sandwich. The toppings here are a little less conventional, but no less appropriate nods to the Southern theme. Kale slaw, sweet-tea pickles, chicken mayo, and sunchoke all accompany an intensely-fried slab of chicken between a benne seed roll. It just works. Everything feels thought out and portioned appropriately. We found ourselves immediately wanting another sandwich after we finished it, but without the requisite stomach capacity to do so.
Specializing in Nashville-style fried chicken sandwiches, Tumble 22 has become one of the most popular names in the Austin fried chicken sandwich scene (Is that a thing? Let’s make it a thing). And rightfully so - all of the chicken here, whether sandwiched or sans-bread, comes perfectly fried, hot, and drenched in a hot spice dip that ranges from “wimpy” to “cluckin’ hot.” They keep it simple here - a bit of coleslaw, bread-and-butter pickles, and some Duke’s mayo rest on top of a massive fried chicken breast that somehow manages to stay as crispy and tender as any that we’ve ever had. They currently have three locations - one on Lake Austin Blvd, one on Burnet, and another in Cedar Park - and all are open for patio seating or curbside
Many of the fried chicken sandwiches at Spicy Boys are similar to the ones offered at their sister restaurant, Soursop, which is to say - they’re excellent. We especially like the O.G. here, which is a mild-spiced piece of chicken dressed with papaya relish, Thai basil ranch, chili-honey sauce, scallions, and crispy shallots. But if the weather isn’t already making you sweat, you can add a little more heat with the Hot Gai (also available at Soursop). It’s a little spicier and comes with the addition of swiss cheese - a somewhat controversial move in the world of fried chicken sandwiches, and one that we’re fully on-board with. Make sure to grab an order of roti and panang curry while you’re there, and strongly consider adding on a side of tater tots to dip in the curry. It’s probably the best way we’ve found to eat tater tots, though we’re not convinced that a bad way exists. They’re currently at Zilker Brewing on East 6th for delivery and takeout.
Golden Tiger is located just outside of the popular East Side cocktail bar Whisler’s, taking the place of longtime food truck Thai Kun. Here you can get fried chicken sandwiches in three styles: original, Thai, or Buffalo. All of them feature a deep-fried chicken thigh, which already gives them “juicy points,” but the sauces set them apart. The original has gochujang mayo, the Thai has sweet chili sauce, and the Buffalo has (you guessed it) buffalo sauce. We’re fans of the Thai version that, in addition to the chili sauce, also has shredded lettuce, pickled serranos, and red onions. You can also get fries covered in green chili cheese sauce here, which sounds like a pretty clear home-run.
The fried chicken sandwich isn’t the first thing most people gravitate towards when eating at June’s on South Congress, known best for their great wine list and upscale take on things like bone marrow bolognese and shaved jambon sandwiches. But their simple fried chicken sandwich comes remarkably close to perfect. The piece of chicken is large and fried to a crisp and golden brown, before being topped with hot sauce and kohlrabi ranch slaw. The result is a sandwich that showcases the few ingredients used. If it was just a little cheaper, we would turn this into a weekly fried-chicken-friday staple.
This chicken-focused food truck recently opened at The Far Out Lounge near Slaughter and I-35. The menu has a variety of wings and tenders, but the star of the show here is the fried chicken sandwich, topped with shaved kale and pickled jalapeño aioli. The kale, which inevitably steams a bit between the bun and the chicken, adds an additional savory element to an already-savory sandwich. The end result packs some uniquely rich and earthy flavors. That might sound like a strange profile for a chicken sandwich - and it is - but it’s different enough to warrant a try.
Located in the Crescent Shopping Center off Airport Blvd, 101 by Tea Haus is a fast-casual Asian/American spot that serves things like kimchi fried rice, Japanese curries, Chinese braised pork belly, boba tea, and perhaps most importantly, one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in town. Featuring a generously-sized, crispy Taiwanese basil fried chicken thigh with a tangy Asian slaw served on a sweet buttered bun, the Haus Chicken Sandwich has only been around since April 2020, but it’s found a permanent place in the chicken sandwich-sized part of our hearts. You can also get it spicy with a Korean pepper sauce, but on a recent visit, we preferred the plain.