SFGuide

The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In The Bay Area

Because you can never have too many fried chicken sandwiches.

The Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches In The Bay Area guide image

We’re nothing if not dedicated to the fried chicken sandwich. Deep-fried chicken, spices and aioli, and perfect, buttery buns—you really can't go wrong. And luckily there are plenty of places to get your fried chicken fix in the Bay Area—so many, that it can be almost overwhelming to narrow down the absolute best ones. So we did it for you. Here are the 20 best fried chicken sandwiches in San Francisco and the East Bay.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Hotbird

Hotbird review image

Hotbird

This Nashville-style hot chicken spot used to live in the Twitter building in SF before moving to Uptown Oakland in April 2022. We’re just grateful we can still get our hands on their sandwiches, which are a fantastic, nose-running power-up we come back to like it's an unskippable part of our weekly routine. The juicy chicken breast has a light breading that stays crisp under a mountain of coleslaw and creamy comeback sauce that oozes out with every bite. There are five spice levels that you can opt for based on personal preference, from mild to burnin—finish one of those and you’ll end up on the restaurant’s Burnin Wall of Fame, a title well worth bragging about. 

You’ll find us at this all-day NoPa spot often, whether it’s to grab morning coffee and pastries or spend an afternoon in a booth on our computers. But no matter what time of the day we head to Automat, there’s a good chance we’ll have their hot fried chicken sandwich in front of us (they start serving it at 9am). It comes on a housemade milk bun that can barely contain the massive piece of chicken, plus an overflow of pickled red onions and slaw that spill out onto the plate. A swath of seaweed aioli tops it off.

A new West Oakland spot from pitmaster Matt Horn has entered the ring and is adding fuel to the never-ending Best Bay Area Fried Chicken Sandwich debate. Kowbird is serving worthy contenders, and that’s mainly due to the high quality ingredients that go into them, like slaw, housemade pickles, creamy mayo, and soft potato buns that don’t overpower the star: juicy and perfectly-fried chicken thighs with crusts that have a nice hint of rosemary. There are three kinds on the menu—Nashville-inspired Hot Bird, Southern Bird, and Honey Bird—in addition to things like chicken wings, mac and cheese, and candied apples. Unless you come on a weekday, you’ll need to brave a line. But fried chicken sandwiches that will make you reconsider your F-C-S power rankings are always worth the wait.

Originating as a smashburger pop-up, Lovely’s is now a brick-and-mortar space in Uptown Oakland. The expanded menu includes two fried chicken sandwiches: an original and a hot one with comeback sauce. Both sandwiches come with a behemoth of a fried chicken thigh that has an ideal breading-to-meat ratio. Biting into one almost requires opening your mouth to a width that defies all laws of physics, but the juicy, piping hot sandwich is worth the effort—especially if you follow it up with some soft serve or a drink from next door at Two Pitchers Brewing. 

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 might 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 an Oakland-based pop-up that’s making a fantastic fried chicken sandwich. Their version includes a nicely fried chicken thigh, creamy pear slaw, pickles, chipotle aioli, and a brioche bun (if you want an extra kick, order the citric hot). You can also have your fried chicken in loaded fries form, or with charred lemon pepper sauce—check their Instagram for menu updates. Fowl + Fare currently operates out of The Lodge on Piedmont Avenue.

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.

Flour + Water's takeout-focused operation in the Mission is where you can get meal kits with their incredible pasta, sauces, and charcuterie. But leaving without trying their Calabrian fried chicken sandwich is practically sacrilegious. What sets theirs apart, aside from perfectly-fried chicken, is the sesame hoagie roll. Sandwiches are topped with a swath of chili aioli, slaw, and pickled banana peppers. Expect this sandwich to become your sole morning motivator.

This casual counter-service spot in SoMa has an excellent fried chicken sandwich that’s loaded with pickles, mayo, and sweet apple slaw. It comes in two ways: classic or spicy. Both forms are delicious, and the bright red spicy version packs some serious heat. Get a side of curly fries and some freshly-fried apple fritters for dessert, and enjoy it all somewhere sunny.

If you regularly have dreams that you're eating a sandwich, while dressed in a sandwich costume and driving a sandwich car, go to WesBurger. This Mission spot has it all—smash burgers, regular burgers, and, of course, fried chicken sandwiches. We like the Southern-style with buttermilk chicken—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.

The beauty of SF Chickenbox’s original fried chicken sandwich is in the simplicity—and that it nails all the pillars of a great fried chicken sandwich: crunchy breading, juicy chicken, and a 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 goes well with Old Bay-seasoned fries and their chewy mochi muffin.

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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 better perform. 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 more lowkey in its genius. RT Rotisserie’s well-seasoned chicken is topped with pickled onions, chipotle yogurt, and cabbage, then stuffed between a soft brioche bun. If you’re in Hayes Valley or NoPa, 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 also have an 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-ish 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.

Notes: Hetchy's Hots is temporarily closed.

Like World Famous Hot Boys and Cali Alley, we talked a lot about Hetchy’s Hots, especially during the onset of the pandemic, 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 at this Temescal spot is crispy, the jalapeño coleslaw is tangy and slightly spicy, and overall, this sandwich will change your life. Just don’t forget an order of strawberry shortcake or one of their perfectly baked cookies when you order to go.

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.

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