Top 5 Chicken Sandwiches in Chicago

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So much for Chicago being a pizza and Italian beef kind of town. I had no idea last week’s post about my Top 5 Fried Chickens would stir such a passionate discourse. With more than 40,000 views from my Facebook page alone, all of the sudden interest crashed my website briefly the next morning. As promised, I’m back this week, focusing on the boneless fried chicken sandwich. There are quite a few good options in Chicago for this southern indulgence, and you don’t need to go to Chick-whatever to satisfy a craving.

1. Do-Rite Donuts

233 E. Erie St.; (312) 344-1374

Note: even though there are two locations, the store at 50 W. Randolph in The Loop sells only doughnuts; you have to go to the Streeterville store, on Erie, for the sandwich.

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To be honest, I’m not in love with Do-Rite’s doughnuts. But leaving Northwestern Hospital last week, I spotted their second store, where they also sell chicken sandwiches. Their hormone free chicken breasts are submerged in a proprietary brine (“buttermilk and pickle” according to their website) for 24 hours, before breading, frying, and serving on proprietary brioche buns made by Z Bakery. The chicken comes in Original and Spicy, but I just ordered the Original – what a perfect combo of juicy, crispy, but not too much breading – a fate too many places suffer. The bun is also just that right amount of starchy grip, without overwhelming the chicken. I wish more places paid attention to ratios like Do-Rite. They also make an off-menu Sweet Heat sandwich with spicy chicken and house made jalapeño or maple aioli served on one of their donuts (overkill). $6.99 for an Original sandwich, fries, and a soda.

 

2. Analogue

2523 N. Milwaukee Ave.; (773) 904-8567

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Few of my friends even know about Analogue, and what they do know is limited to the fact they make awfully good cocktails (at very fair prices). But the secret weapon is their chef, cooking the cajun dishes from his Louisiana childhood. They have a fried chicken dinner special on Tuesdays (go) but they always have a killer chicken sandwich on the menu too. Slagel Farms chicken is brined with herbs, lemon zest, honey, and pickle juice then dredged in heavily seasoned buttermilk and flour before being fried. Served on Red Hen white bread with house made pickles, crunchy slaw, and Louisiana mayo, this beauty costs $11. See if they’ll make you a sazerac for the total NOLA experience.

 

3. Leghorn

959 N. Western (773) 394-4444

600 N. LaSalle St.; (312) 944-4444

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Eating at Leghorn is all about decisions. Breast or thigh? Hot or not? Bun or biscuit? And now, the original shop on Western Avenue or the newer Cafe in River North, which occupies a corner in that grubby old motel at Ohio and LaSalle, across the street from the Rock ‘n Roll McDonalds. They start with local, Amish-raised hormone and antibiotic free chickens, and whether you go with breast or thigh (I say thigh), they’re both pounded thin for easier frying. Marinated in a signature pickle brine for several hours then dredged in a secret herb and spiced breading, the chicken comes in original or Nashville hot, which is slathered with a homemade Nashville hot sauce after it exits the fryer. Served on housemade buttermilk biscuits (good, but too puny to hold the chicken together) or buttered brioche (yes!). $8 for a sandwich and 3.50 for a side of fries – CASH ONLY, although they have ATMs there.

 

4. Parson’s Chicken & Fish

2952 W. Armitage Ave.; (773) 384-3333

imageIn the summertime, sitting out back on that massive patio, it’s hipster-watching at its finest, but their year round commitment to local farms is notable. They start with Amish chicken that’s brined for 12 hours in salt, sugar, and spices. Then it’s battered and fried. Served with homemade aioli, coleslaw, and hot sauce, American cheese, and NorthStar pickles (from Mundelein) on a brioche roll from Red Hen Bakery, it will set you back $10 for a sandwich with homemade potato chips.

 

5. Honey Butter Fried Chicken

3361 N. Elston Ave.; (773) 478-4000

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Updated as of 5 p.m. today: got a call from HBFC, and despite my claim that they double battered (one of the reasons I knocked them off my Top 5 Fried Chickens last week) they have since changed to a single batter about a year ago, which yields a much lighter, less dense crust.

I’ve really enjoyed watching the Honey Butter owners’ arc over the past few years, moving from quirky little under-the-radar dinner club, to crazy lines-down-the-street business in Avondale, with that original Sunday Dinner Club housed upstairs. But I haven’t been as enamored with their fried chicken, which was notably absent from last week’s Top 5. I’m not a fan of having all of the pieces boned-out. But here’s the thing: there’s redemption in their sandwich. Like the others in this list, it’s all about local – starting with whole Amish chickens raised humanely and antibiotic-free in Indiana; butchered in house, then brined for 12-18 hours, battered in seasoned flour and buttermilk and then fried in non-GMO, trans-fat free canola oil. Their Original sandwich features candied jalapeño mayo, and crunchy slaw served on a toasted, buttery bun from Highland Baking Co. of Northbrook. $8 for an original sandwich. The much-heralded honey butter slather that is recommended at the table is superfluous, like putting bacon and pulled pork on top of the “Led Zeppelin” at Kuma’s. I love that they brine it overnight in citrus and chili; I love that they dredge it in buttermilk and assorted flours and powders. The fact they dust ‘em with pimentón before serving is a nice touch too. But does it need the honey butter? Not really.

 

Honorable Mention:

The Roost Carolina Kitchen (also among Top 5 Fried Chickens post)

1467 West Irving Park Road; (312) 261-5564

8 Comments

  1. Myles

    December 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

    i stumbled upon jubilee juice and grill at 140 n halsted. Great, giant chicken Breast sandwich. Also great cottage fries. Just a take out joint but they really seem to try.

    • Steve Dolinsky

      December 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Thanks for the tip Myles, I will check it out. Cluck cluck.

  2. Blake

    December 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    you need to try the chicken sandwich at Dry Hop. It’s got this crispy Asian slaw and a fire roasted chipotle mayo. Pretty unbelievable to say the least.

    • Steve Dolinsky

      December 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Wow, that one is out of left field. Thanks for the heads-up. Would you put in this distinguished list?

  3. Benjy

    December 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I had two of these last week! Agree on the Analogue sandwich, which I probably would have skipped over had I not bumped into a friend there who recommended it. Was the best fried chicken sandwich I’d had in a long time. But the one I had a Leghorn (breast, hot, biscuit, Ohio & LaSalle) was incredibly disappointing…

  4. Gina

    December 18, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    I live in Logan and frequently consume both the Parson’s and Analogue sandwiches–hats off to the chefs! That being said, I feel compelled to add to your list and broadcast the fact that I recently had a life changing chicken and biscuit sandwich at the newly reopened Ohio House coffee shop. I lived in Georgia for several years, so I feel confident in my assessment of biscuits, and this one was hands down the best I’ve EVER had. Chick-fil-A ain’t got nothin’ on them!

    LIFE. CHANGING.

    • Steve Dolinsky

      December 19, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Thanks Gina. That would be Leghorn’s newest location, as I mentioned in the post. It’s across the street from Rock & Roll McD’s, correct?

  5. Ryan

    December 19, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Those are all great chicken sandwiches. A sleeper fried chicken sandwhich which is one of my favorites is made a Lawrence Fisheries, know for shrimp, but they make a good one.

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