Chicken sandwiches can be thoughtful and thought-provoking layered masterpieces that pack and pair chicken with some unlikely bunkmates. Here are 10 greats that don't simply sub bird for burger, but celebrate and elevate the whole chicken sandwich category.
Havasu Hot Chicken SandwichFamous 48
8989 North Scottsdale Road, #608, Scottsdale
Famous 48 Local Kitchen & Bar offers a menu of items with an Arizonan nod, like the Sun Deviled Eggs and Four Peaks Nachos, but we want to talk about the hefty Havasu Hot Chicken Sandwich. This is a major slab of crispy fried chicken doused with house-made hot sauce. The handheld also holds lettuce, mayonnaise, and dill pickles. A brioche bun finishes this work of art.
What The Cluck?Nocawich
777 South College Avenue, #105, Tempe
When you order “What The Cluck?” and the gal ringing you up sighs in delight and declares, “I eat it every day," you know you’re getting something special. And it is. That breast is loved before it hits the bun — brined overnight, dipped, drudged, and deep-fried until the exterior gets very crispy while the interior stays extremely juicy. And this is no puny piece of poultry. Exceptional marks continue for the bread and butter pickles, the creamy slaw and house-made Parker Roll — a slightly sweet bun glistening with a top coat of melted butter, honey, and flakes of sea salt. This Nocawich sandwich demands respect — and lots of napkins.
Crispy Chicken SammieIngo’s Tasty Food
4502 North 40th Street
Is there a proper way to construct a chicken sandwich? Like art, sandwiches are subjective, but after tasting Ingo’s standout, we’ve flip-flopped to a firm yes. From the ground up it goes: spicy aioli, sliced Granny Smith apples, dill pickles, chicken schnitzel, and a smidge more aioli between a squishy-soft, sesame-topped bun. The minimal yet mighty toppings are thoughtfully built to capitalize crunch and thwart sogginess, plus each elevates the other. The spicy sauce plays off the sweet pickles plays off the sour crunch of the apples plays off the soft hug of the bun. That said, the chicken is the indisputable star, a piping hot boneless breast, pounded, schnitzeled, and deep-fried to tender, fall-apart perfection.
Crispy ChickenWorth Takeaway
218 West Main Street
Let’s deconstruct the crispy chicken sandwich at Worth Takeaway, shall we? The slab of chicken breast is deep-fried to seal in the juicy insides and coated in a honey Sriracha sauce. The house-made pickles pop but don’t overpower, the Bibb lettuce adds crunch, the mayo lends tang, and let's not forget the fresh-baked Proof ciabatta, a spongy, nook-filled cloud that encapsulates and elevates the saucy insides. The whole thing has a finger-licking dimension that bathes your mouth (and fingers) in a sweet-savory symphony. We hate to throw in a pun with such a legit sandwich, but the mess is definitely worth it.
929 East Pierce Street
The proportions are all off. The Bumblebee almost looks lonely served on a big white plate garnished with two cubes of watermelon. But biting into this Southern-inspired biscuit behemoth from Welcome Diner in the Garfield 'hood makes it all right. To reach chicken sandwich stardom you have to get the chicken right — and this bird is absurdly good. Dressed in honey, the ethereal outside is golden brown, all cracked and craggy so the honey has plenty of hiding spots, while the moist insides are deeply satisfying. Layered with grainy mustard and pickles and topped and bottomed with a high-rise, gently flaking homemade buttermilk biscuit, each bite is like an indulgent, mouth-stretching sport.
Phat Azz SamichLo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles
Yes, all the food is supersized and outlandish at Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles, but the novelly named Phat Azz Samich stands on its own. Delivered open-faced on a platter or basket with a hefty side of fries, even the two sturdy strips of bacon and mound of melty cheddar can't hide the chicken's herb-a-licous crunch. Topped off with ruby red tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and a bouncy brioche bun buttered and toasted just right, this chicken sandwich is a wide-mouth eat with soul and substance.
Hot & Spicy Chicken SandwichThe Original Hamburger Works
2801 North 15th Avenue
Let’s start with the best part: price. This bad boy is under $9. The chicken is delivered fresh daily to The Original Hamburger Works, where it's butterflied, mesquite broiled over an open flame, and squirted with spicy sauce before getting slapped onto a toasted-just-right sesame bun. Then you're free to let loose on the toppings bar, a wagon-sized trough of fresh tomatoes, lettuce, onion, pickles, jalapenos, mustard, mayo, and more, all housed in an actual wagon. Stack that sucker like a skyscraper and revel in the kitschy nostalgia of the place's trikes, wagons, and retro neon signs dangling from the walls.
Katsu Chicken Sandwich12 West Brewing Co.
12 West Main Street, Mesa
The menu at the cavernous 12 West Brewing Co. spot in downtown Mesa exceeds the usual bar food expectations, placing itself more at the legitimate gastropub level. And that's in part thanks to its warm sandwiches. The katsu chicken sandwich is a spiced, extra-crispy fried chicken thigh topped with Thai chili aioli sauce and nestled on a warm bun. And (if you like), it can come with those crunchy, piping hot Blap! Blap! fries. Just don’t forget to join it with a 12 West Extra Crispy brew — an ideal pairing.
Chicken SandwichRocket Burger & Subs
12038 North 35th Avenue, #2
If you broke the ingredients down — fried chicken breast, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, mayo — this one could sound plain Jane, verging on McDonald’s territory. But seeing the chicken sandwich at Rocket Burger & Subs is believing. The toasty bun and crisp garnishes get points, but the star is inarguably the chicken. The hefty behemoth of breast is gloriously crisp, with peaks and valleys that could give the Grand Canyon a run for its money. As for atmosphere, there’s more substance than style going on at both the north Phoenix and Chandler locations, both of which are pared down, counter-service joints with plenty of retro pop flavors and no attitude. Wash the bird down with a sip of nostalgia and you’ll leave saying, I’m lovin’ it.
Katsu Chicken SandwichAlter Ego
108 East University Drive, Tempe
The katsu chicken sandwich at Alter Ego stands out in one simple way: It’s sweet, like a savory dessert, where most everything else on the menu is salty and intense. The chicken is topped with agave, Asian pear cabbage slaw, and drizzlings of Gochujang sauce, but a bite into the sandwich puts up zero fight. It’s like a cloud between the halves of the Noble Bread bun, despite the weight in your hands.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 23, 2017. It was updated on November 14, 2020.