On the sixth day, Popeyes Louisiana Chicken created a sandwich. They rested the day before, having built monuments of MSG in the people’s bloodstream. Next, Popeyes, in its infinite wisdom, rolled the sandwich out nationwide. It’s out there, lurking, for $3.99, and it’s an awe-striking thing — a stupendous two-hander of juicy chicken in bone-shattering breading. Colossal white meat tenders, squiggled with fried casing, span the bun. It’s a worthy fast-food adversary to the oily chicken thighs at the one-that’s-closed-on-Sundays.
You feel the spice at the base of your skull, along with the shatter of the fried breading. The pickles are sharp, crinkle-cut, each the size of a Susan B. Anthony coin. So let’s get this out of the way: Popeyes serves a remarkable fast-food, fried chicken sandwich that you want, not the other one with the cow mascots. The Colonel’s is weak, too. Popeyes simply knows how to wield the Excalibur-power of MSG.
When you’re looking for something more than fast food, Dallas has bright stars. A popular oral tradition says the best sandwiches have four or five ingredients. The most hair-melting fried chicken sandwiches are a thoughtful use of those few things. The fewer the ingredients — time spent like Doctor Frankenstein focusing on his parts — the better the creation gets.
These are the perfect sandwiches:
There are three enormous chicken tenders, craggy giants with crunchy caves and valleys, under a heap of shredded cabbage and carrot slaw. You’ll find black pepper and juices behind the thin, breakable orange-gold shell. The bun is a soft, store-bought thing and smashed into a hot griddle. Long-cut slaw is dressed in a sauce as orange-red as Apollo 11’s rockets. The pickles cool the fire. You’ll find this sandwich at the joint near the Jr. Coin Laundry, likely with a line at lunch time. It’s worth the wait, and it’s under $5. Prop up both elbows on the table — you’ll need to act as the sandwich’s load-bearing support.
The blunt side of a fork easily breaks through the fried chicken at Carbone’s. That tenderness comes from the brine: Carbone’s bathes the chicken breast in a salty, sugary water. Out of the bath, they pound the chicken breast flat and cloak it in Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper and the pulverized crumbs of day-old bakery bread. You should never grit your teeth through a chicken breast. It should never be the texture of a Sam Elliott in A Star is Born. Bright, white mozzarella stretches from each bite. Shishito peppers, blistered and warm, mingle with peppers and onions. This is one of Dallas’ best sandwiches, fried chicken or beyond.
It’s a thin, light crust. It’s brittle after a buttermilk bath and dip through seasoned flour. Pickled Fresno peppers are faintly sweet and brightly hot. Mayonnaise gets amperage from roasted garlic and Sriracha. There are also a few things this sandwich doesn’t do. The weakest fried chicken sandwiches have soupy, overdressed coleslaw. Not Hide’s. Some also leave you with a mouth full of fried casing. Hide’s has fried chicken that spans the equator of the bun. Do not share. Happy hour is exponentially happier with a just-for-you chicken sandwich. You deserve this.
It’s a crunch you feel right down to the soles of your feet. Street’s Fine Chicken spice brines and breads like the others, delivering a reliably spiced and infinitely deliverable sandwich. On two separate occasions, this sandwich kept its crunchy jail of juices after a lengthy delivery time. Slaw cut with apples and jicama is a sweetness and herbaceous crunch. Pro-tip: Ask for an extra side of the smoked, maple syrup-infused mustard.
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The sandwiches at Uncle Uber’s, staked deep in a fast-changing neighborhood, are like old friends. The city's changing with high-rises blocking the sun streams, and its menu is a reliable thing. The fried chicken sandwich, quickly delivered and always delicious, is a simple, joyous thing. Order a heaping side of french fries, generously salted, and a cold soda. This is a classic Dallas meal.
You’ll want the recipe. It’s best to ask Jonathon Erdeljac before it changes in this sensitive restaurant bubble: There’s buttermilk, pepper and Tabasco hot sauce in the brine. You'll find yourself blackout-craving the seasoning: Chicken breast that’s hit with chili powder, paprika, garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper is something that finds its way into the nooks and crannies of your brain. Once the chicken is deep-fried to a fashionable crisp, it sits on heavily buttered and grilled bread. Pro-tip: They char the sourdough on both sides — along with fresh shredded lettuce, tomato slices and two fried eggs.
Chef Nathan Tate is deft at the high-wire act of spicy and cool. Chicken thighs rest in pickle juice for a day or longer. Next, they immerse the thigh in some buttermilk and hot sauce. Later, it’s run through a dry blend of flour, salt and barbecue seasonings, then deep fried. The buffalo sauce that cloaks the chicken is infused with the tangy heat of a Sichuan-style mala sauce, explosive with peppercorns (you’ll find the same sauce at Rapscallion). Like a cool breeze, iceberg lettuce, fresh dill pickles, sliced scallions and an herb-forward ranch dressing brings down the temperature. Simply put, the sandwich is a feat of balance. Better yet: It’s one of Dallas' best sandwiches.