The Guilty Pleasure: The South by Southwest
Where to Get It: Welcome Chicken + Donuts
What it Really Costs: The dawning realization that the other breakfast sandwiches in your life are sad and dull.
How do you get South Phoenix to become a hipster-approved breakfast and lunch destination? You open up a fried chicken and artisanal doughnut hut inside a cleverly repurposed KFC restaurant, of course.
It seems to be working for Welcome Chicken + Donuts, the quirky counter-service restaurant near the corner of 16th Street and Buckeye Road. Since opening its doors in late 2014, the restaurant has inspired its share of cross-city commutes. People come from far-flung corners of the Valley for its twisty menu of crispy, twice-fried Korean-style chicken combo platters, which are paired with Asian-inspired sauces and sides.
And they come for the doughnuts, of course, dreamy confections with names and descriptions that sound more like poetic fragments: chocolate rose with pistachio, grapefruit mimosa, and Thai tea. Just try and leave the restaurant without stopping to gape at the bakery counter with the kind of slack-jawed wonder that will make the counter guy on duty wonder if you've ever seen a doughnut before in your life.
But if you can make it past the bakery counter, it's worth getting your meat and flour fix in another way. We're talking about the South by Southwest, one of Welcome Chicken + Donut's original breakfast sandwiches.
A typical American fast food breakfast sandwich usually involves an eggy puck stuffed inside an English muffin. The South by Southwest is no typical breakfast sandwich, though. Fittingly, it's made on one of the restaurant's signature cake doughnuts. The golden-brown doughnut, sliced clean in half like a bagel, is a dense, faintly sweet vessel for all the layers of bold flavor packed in between.
The bread is dressed in the restaurant's signature Thai yum sauce, which wraps the whole sandwich in sweet and salty notes. At its base, it's stuffed with your choice of either sausage or fried bacon. We prefer the juicy, savory nubs of sausage over the salty bacon, but it's your call. On top of the layer of breakfast protein, there's a nicely cooked fried egg, which is almost entirely smothered by a glossy heap of melted cheddar cheese. To finish it off, the egg-and-cheese patty is topped with a sweet, mildly spicy jalapeño relish, which adds an unexpected blast of sweet heat.
At first bite, it's all too much; the Thai Yum sauce seems too sweet, and the jalapeño relish too bold and acidic. But then the ingredients start to sync up, the egg and cheese mellowing out the brightness of the sauce and relish. The sandwich becomes a strangely addictive medley of flavors, in turns sweet and savory and spicy.
You may come to South Phoenix for a hipster feast of Korean fried chicken and artfully glazed doughnuts. But we suggest you stay a bit longer to experience the South by Southwest for yourself.