The work had been done; the good news of a single sandwich's return rolled through the air like thunder. The people clamored into the streets. Postmates drivers wept as dove-white smoke emitted from the Popeyes Basilica. The air filled with the chimes of celebratory car horns as people found their places in line; they came to Popeyes for reasons they couldn’t even fathom. The fried chicken sandwich memories were so thick, they had to brush them away from their faces.
Seriously, it was a bizarre year for fast fried chicken sandwiches. There was actual murderous rage and disturbing hysteria over the availability of the One Sandwich. At a San Antonio Popeyes, a customer and an employee allegedly exchanged blows with red plastic trays as tensions grew. There seemed to be a pressure building from the hype that no fast food sandwich could relieve.
In times of trouble, you’ll find comfort locally. It’s a common thing to find a line at Mike’s Chicken, for example — where enormous chicken tenders, craggy giants with crunchy caverns sit with a saucy, rocket-red slaw between a bun — and maybe a few impatient customers.
The agitation seems to dissipate as soon as the food is delivered (at least on our visits). The value, at Mike’s Chicken, far outweighs the hype: Their chicken is armored with a crunchy shell, with big flavors of pepper and salt and rich juices. Also, there’s an indescribable feeling of worth when contributing to a family-run joint’s hustle over giving in to the marketing strategy of a big chain.
These are the Dallas joints that never disappoint — sandwiches delivered piping hot, fresh and just plain great — each found at tried-and-true spots run by locals.
Mike’s Sandwich at Mike’s Chicken
You’ll find pepper and juices beneath an armor of orange-gold. The chicken doesn’t need a brioche bun — this is the soft, squishy kind you’d find at the store. It’s pressed into the griddle until it’s got a buttery inch of crunch. Fresh slaw is cut into long stripes and heaped high in a fiery sauce that lights up the sinuses. Pickles cool the fire. You’ll find this sandwich at the joint near the coin laundry, likely with a line at lunch time. It’s worth the wait, and it’s under $5.
4234 Maple Ave. #2403
The Fried Chicken Parm at Zoli’s
You'll see the swirls and waves printed on the golden breading. Chef Jeff Bekavac dips chicken in a dry mixture, moves to batter, then back to the dry to achieve a crunchy exterior with undulating wavy prints made-to-order. "It stays crispy," he says. In the worst sandwiches, the chicken fires out of the casing like a busted picture frame. Zoli's breading clings to the chicken, ensconced in juices. It's bedded by a combo of smoked mozzarella and good old-fashioned melty mozzarella. "It's a fun sandwich," he says. The tangy heat from cherry pepper-based aioli makes this more Texas than New York.
14910 Midway Road, Addison
The Crispy Chicken at Alamo Club
The best fried chicken sandwiches wield only a few sharp ingredients. This one is pointed and perfect: Brioche that's both buttery-crunchy and soft inside, bookending a squiggled, breaking crust that's been generously spiced-up. Iconic chicken sandwiches know the balance of smooth, pepper heat and loud crunch: This one finds it in between a spicy aioli, fresh slaw and fried crunch that brakes noise when you take a bite. It's one of Dallas' newest and best sandwiches.
1919 Greenville Ave. (East Dallas)
The “Long Walk” Crispy Chicken Sandwich at Hillside Tavern
Chef Nathan Tate has a black belt in balancing creamy and acidic things. Chicken thighs lounge in pickle juice for about a day. After the pickle bath, they get dunked in another soak in buttermilk that’s dotted with hot sauce. The marinated thighs run through a dry blend of flour, salt, their own barbecue seasonings and into the deep fryer it goes. Buffalo sauce clings to every nook and crunchy cranny of the fried armor. That sauce is bright and sweet — it’s got the kind of heat (from Sichuan-style mala sauce and peppercorns) that glows outward from the center of your chest. Iceberg lettuce, dill pickles, grassy scallions and a herb-forward ranch dressing are a cool breeze. It’s all a balancing act between a bun.
6465 E. Mockingbird Lane, Suite 386 (Hillside)
The Chicken Sandwich at Hide
It’s a thin, luxurious crust. It gets brittle after a buttermilk bath and dive into seasoned flour. They add Fresno peppers — they’re faintly sweet and vividly hot. Roasted garlic and Sriracha amp up a normal mayo condiment. There are also a few things this sandwich doesn’t do: There’s no over-sauced slaw or burnt-oil-tasting bits. The slaw is fresh, radiant from vinegar, and the chicken is tender, easily spanning the length of the bun. It’s a true bar sandwich, one that begs for a cold drink.
2816 Elm St. (Deep Ellum)
The Crispy Chicken Sandwich at Street’s Fine Chicken
Three years after opening, Street’s Fine Chicken has found a familiar groove. Their fried chicken is as reliable as the sunrise, all at once golden-hued and comforting on the daily. The sandwich, whether it’s delivered or dropped in-house, pipes heat from the deep fryer and shatters down the center when you cut it in half. Their slaw makes this sandwich stand out — it beams with sweetness and herby-crunch from apples and jicama.
3857 Cedar Springs Road (Oak Lawn)
The Chicken Breast at Uncle Uber’s
Yesterday, there was a bank. Tomorrow, you might find another high-rise glinting the sky over Deep Ellum like a brand-new watch. There’s something about Uncle Uber’s reliable menu, nearly eight years after opening, that feels like hanging out with an old friend. The fried chicken sandwich is pure and simple: good chicken, shatter-able breading, crisp onions and lettuce. Order it with a reach-the-sky side of french fries, generously salted, and a cold beer-soda is the best idea. As they near a decade of being open, a fried chicken and fries order feels like a classic, simple Dallas lunch on a block blurred by change.
2713 Commerce St. (Deep Ellum)
The Which Came First Sandwich at Jonathon’s Oak Cliff
It’s been nine years for the little diner in Oak Cliff. They’re closing the decade as good as it ever was: It starts with a brine of buttermilk, pepper and Tabasco sauce. The chicken breast gets dipped in flour that’s seasoned with chili powder, paprika, garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper. The flavor is trapped behind the fried walls. Once the chicken is deep-fried to a breakable crunch, it sits on thickly buttered, grilled bread. They char the sourdough on both sides. Two fried eggs remind you how important it is to have a local diner that's willing to indulge you with good eggs. This has been a good decade of fried sandwiches.
1111 N. Beckley Ave. (North Oak Cliff)