Toronto is pivoting to fried chicken. Here are 15 sandwiches that will satisfy purists and decadent diners alike
Aunty Lucy’s Nima sandwich is a variation on chef Adrian Forte’s grab-and-go Top Chef Canada challenge.
Fried chicken sandwiches are everywhere right now. Comfort food in general is high on our list of cravings, but fried chicken seems to be tops in Toronto at the moment.
A good fried chicken sandwich starts with good fried chicken – it can’t hide behind sauces and garnishes. Crispy, battered chicken that is juicy and flavourful on the inside, just the right amount of sauce, the perfect balance of savoury and spicy.
Whether you’re a purist or looking for something with a little more flare, this list has something for you.
Ever wonder what it would be like to taste a Top Chef Canada challenge-winning dish? Well, that’s what Aunty Lucy’s promises with their Nima fried chicken sandwich. The version they serve is a modified recipe of the sandwich that won chef Adrian Forte a grab-and-go challenge in the show’s last season. Battered and fried chicken thighs are enveloped in garlic sauce and mango scotch bonnet hot sauce in between two soft potato roll buns. It’s named after Nima, Ghana, or “the city of kings.” But does it live up to its name? We say yes, each bite feels decadent and the flavours are intense but balanced perfectly between sweet, savoury and spicy.
296 Brunswick, auntylucysburgers.com
Mi Taco Taqueria launched Bubba’s in October and went all out with it. They serve not one, not two… but eight different fried chicken sandwiches (including one vegan option). That’s definitely a commitment from a mother-daughter duo who, up until last September, were mostly known for tacos and burritos. Luckily (for us) the commitment paid off and they’re making some of the best sandwiches in the city. Their original is made with crispy Texas-style fried chicken, bread and butter pickles, honey mustard and house-made coleslaw. The others are equally as tempting, from the Irie Love doused in jerk sauce and grilled pineapple to the over-the-top Italian Stallion, with tomato sauce, sautéed mushrooms, mozzarella and garlic butter.
521 Bloor West and 247 Queen West, instagram.com/bubbascrispyfriedchicken
If you’re into small buns and big meat, hit up Chen Chen’s. The Nashville Hot Sandwich comes on a brioche bun with slaw and pickles, but the chicken portion size is so large you’ll be savouring flavourful crisp before you get to the toppings. As far as takeout goes, Chen Chen’s has a nice balance between thoughtful flavour and portion size, making it a good bet for someone who can only afford to splurge on decadent takeout every now and then. Spice is also a big part of the offerings here, with a “poultrygeist” level and a Szechuan version of the sandwich. The Nashville Kung Pao Cauliflower Wings are a good option if you prefer something sweet and snacky.
390 Queens Quay West, chenchenshotchicken.com
Chica’s OG Sando was inspired by Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, the restaurant widely regarded as the birthplace of Nashville hot. It’s very classic, crispy fried chicken, buttermilk ranch, pickles and slaw between two slices of Texas toast. If you’re feeling fancy you can upgrade to brioche buns, but white bread is the proper Tennessee way. This is the sandwich for the ultimate purist. They let you choose your own spice level, on a scale of six levels ranging from plain to Hot AF. (Go hot or go home.)
2853 Dundas West, chicaschicken.net
This Kensington Market chain (now with a handful of other locations throughout the city) has one of the more decadent sandwiches on this list. You can get waffles as your bread. That’s a perfect canvas for their northern fried chicken (also available without the waffles or as a sandwich on regular bread, but c’mon), which has a hint of sweetness in their maple sugar-laced batter.
79 Kensington and others, thedirtybird.ca
The new ghost kitchen specializing in Korean and Japanese-style fried chicken is for sticky, sweet and spicy sauce lovers. Like, a lot of sauce. Be sure to request gravy on the side so the sauce doesn’t kill the crispiness while en route to you. The “bomb” spicy chicken sandwich delivers on its name, smothering the chicken breast with an intense Japanese five spice. If you want to go big but less spicy, the Korean sweet and spicy option for the fried chicken gives you the same level of flavour without the heat.
The Big Ass Chicken Sandwich deserves its name, it can barely fit in adult hands. Chef Jerome Robinson’s colossal monstrosities (in the best way) have earned him the distinction of unofficial king of oversized comfort food. This is a sandwich for the strong and the brave because it will stop your heart, but it will be worth it. Two pieces of fried chicken are tossed in Carolina butter sauce and topped with spicy ranch, sweet pickles and creamy slaw. We call this a deconstructed sandwich because by the time you get through it, it will no longer be in one piece.
823 Dundas West, the-heartbreak-chef.business.site
A local pub in a Victorian house might make you immediately think of fish and chips but don’t count out this Cabbagetown favourite for their Southern-fried chicken sandwich. The chicken is brined in pickle juice (the tanginess that is integral to a good fried chicken sandwich starts here), fried and then anointed with chipotle aioli, house-made slaw and jalapeño Monterey jack cheese and wedged between a squishy butter bun.
454 Parliament, houseonparliament.com
Imanishi’s spicy karaage sando is a perfect blend of Japanese and North American cuisine. The meat is fried using the karaage method – it’s lightly coated in batter and fried, leading to chicken that doesn’t have the crispy shell of an American-style deep fry but is so juicy. Soft bread with no crust means the flavours have to stand out on their own, without the leg up a fancy bun provides. The karaage sando is jam-packed with lettuce, tomato, honey mustard, tartar sauce, hot sauce and of course, chicken. It comes with pickles and macaroni salad on the side.
Although the basement bar is on Carlton, Imanishi is running all takeout orders through their Dundas West restaurant.
1330 Dundas West, imanishi.ca
This Kensington Market spot does bone in and bone out (for $3.50 extra) on fried chicken, but the draw here is the cheese and sauce combinations. Yes, it might seem simple but chicken-and-cheese is an underrated combo and the generously sized sandwiches have a few inspired pairings: Jerk sauce and smoked Canadian cheddar (the Left Hook), habanero and Swiss (One Punch K.O.) and havarti and chipotle aioli (the Southpaw).
207 Augusta, knockoutchickento.com
Unlike most on this list, PG Clucks has been slinging fried chicken sandwiches long before it became a pandemic trend – even before Popeyes brought their popular chicken sandwich to Canada. Clucks is still there in their tiny storefront crammed next to the Royal Cinema on College, and they’re still there brining their deboned leg meat brined for 24 hours in lemon and herbs and dredging it twice to make it as crispy as possible. You can get it by the piece too, regular or as Nashville Hot, but even with all the new competition, the hefty sandwich is still one of the best in the city. Now you can also find them on Queen West.
610 College and 1112 Queen West, pgclucks.com
This east-end dive double fries their chicken before mounting it inside a brioche bun with jalapeño honey mustard, mayo, pickles and lettuce. It’s stacked high and dares you to take it down. This will leave you comatose but so satisfied. Plus, if you head there in person, they have a rotating roaster of craft beers that will go down nicely with the sandwich.
1029 Gerrard East. instagram.com/poor_romeo_bar
Otto’s is a German-style beer hall made for “those who love to eat, especially off each other’s plates.” In the before times, it was a perfect communal dining experience, but that way of eating doesn’t fully translate to takeout and delivery. They launched Sammy’s in January and they do two things: smash burgers and fried chicken. The spicy chicken sandwich is made with
fried chicken thighs, shredded lettuce, pickles, pickled jalapeños and Kewpie mayo from Japan (can be spicy or not, your choice).
1087 Queen West. instagram.com/eatsammys
This chicken spot stands apart with more traditional Japanese street food and takeout bites – gyoza, takoyaki, edamame, jackfruit, karage – but obviously the chicken sandwich is the main event. A fusion between between Japanese hot fried chicken and Nashville style, the sandwich hits a balance between crisp and juicy. It comes on a ubiquitous brioche bun and is all about flavour: sesame sauce, spicy mayo, wasabi mayo, ginger and pickled daikon are on deck. (As usual, be sure to get sauce on the side and dress the sandwich yourself before you eat.)
928 College, tokyohotfriedchicken.com
A plant-based and pescatarian Italian restaurant might not be the first place you think of for fried chicken sandwiches but Ufficio’s vegan fried chicken sandwich is the latest addition to their ever-evolving menu. They launched a ghost kitchen, Stefano’s Sandwiches, on February 18. The vegan fried chicken (made with plant-based chicken from Spain breaded in a secret spice recipe, vegan mayo, preserved chilis, crisp iceberg lettuce and pickles on ciabatta), vegan filet-o-fish and vegan meatball sub are just a few of their offerings – because vegans deserve comfort food, too!
1214 Dundas West. ufficiorestaurant.com