The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In Austin guide image


The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In Austin

Some of the best fried chicken sandwiches you can eat today.

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 some of our favorites that you can get right now.


Pollo Las Abuelas

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.

There aren’t a lot of places still serving food at 2am these days, so when the late night fried chicken cravings strike, we head to The Little Darlin’ off William Cannon and South Congress. The sandwich here is a classic done right—pairing a crispy fried chicken thigh with a bit of Duke’s mayo, a few slices of housemade pickle, and a small mound of sweet and sour coleslaw that adds some great texture and crunch to each bite. Grab a drink with of one of The Little Darlin’s house-infused liquors to go along with it, then find a spot on the massive patio and get comfortable. It’s not difficult to do here.

Pinthouse Brewing in South Austin is a side project from the folks behind Pinthouse Pizza, and while beer was always a large focus at the other locations, here it’s at the forefront. On their recently-revamped menu is the Austin Hot Chicken sandwich. It’s a fried chicken breast—though almost tender enough to be confused for a thigh—covered in a sweet and spicy Nashville hot sauce, black pepper vinaigrette slaw, all between two thick slices of pullman bread. It’s spicy, it’s peppery, and it’s reason enough to switch your allegiances from Pinthouse Pizza to Pinthouse Brewing (which, fortunately, you’ll never have to do).

We’ve been pretty vocal about our love for the chicken wings at The Cavalier, so it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that they also make one of the best chicken sandwiches in town. The fried chicken gets dressed in a sweet-and-spicy glaze before being topped with a refreshing Caribbean coleslaw that adds just as much texture as it does flavor (you can get an additional side of it, too). It’s a sandwich that will leave your hands a little messy, giving you a lingering reminder about the excellent sandwich you just took down.

Loro is the brainchild of two Austin favorite institutions—Franklin Barbecue and Uchi—resulting in an Asian/Texas smokehouse that provides some unique fusion flavors in a beautiful space. Their fried chicken sandwich, that’s only served during the day, is exceptional: smoked chicken is thickly battered more along the lines of fish and chips, and then fried and covered with a smoked hot sauce. For extra texture and flavor, there’s a citrus cabbage slaw and a full-on layer of pickles.

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.

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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.

We especially like the O.G. fried chicken sandwich at Spicy Boys, 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. 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. There are multiple locations in Austin, including at St. Elmo Brewing Company, on East 6th, Rainey Street, and Metric Boulevard.

At Golden Tiger, located just outside of the popular East Side cocktail bar Whisler’s, 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.

There are a handful of eateries in the HEB Mueller food court, but our favorite mid-grocery pitstop is Roots. The specialty here is duck fat fried chicken in the form of wings, strips, and sandwiches. It’s a well known fact that duck fat makes everything taste better. We like the Spicy Bird here, topped with kimchi mayo, giardiniera, and kale. It adds some great texture to some incredibly juicy chicken.

At Lebowski's Grill inside Highland Lanes, you can get a whole variety of customizable hamburgers and fried chicken sandwiches. The chicken sandwiches here are a very standard affair, with mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles—we're partial to adding pepper jack cheese. But you can also order it as "The Walter," and they'll stack two chicken patties on top of each other with double cheese (this is a thing you should get on your birthday).

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photo credit: Richard Casteel

The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In Austin guide image