American History: Battered & Fried
America’s role in the fried chicken craze continues to emerge. The process of seasoning, battering, and frying poultry is said to have originated from West African slaves in the deep south and the evolution of this tradition has been culturally driven by Americans over the past century.
The recent battle of the fried chicken sandwich left us craving a guide on where to go in Elk Grove and Sacramento for some of the best crispy-juicy-fried birds.
If you didn’t know, there are actually quite a few spots to check out! Here’s our guide…
Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen (Various locations)
Popeye’s chicken is prepared Cajun-style to honor its roots. Their infamous chicken sandwich has been making headlines recently (some good and bad) but the sandwich does hit several must-haves when it comes to a chicken sandwich. The brioche bun is perfectly soft and buttery. The original had a generous amount of mayo; the spicy had sriracha mayo. Both sandwiches included two large dill pickle slices. Now…the chicken: It was warm, juicy and well, to be honest…soft. There was no crispy factor here. Both pieces of meat in the original and the spicy were very large pieces of breast meat.
Both sandwiches were flavorful but if you prefer a little more kick, the spicy sandwich is the best move. However, be forewarned the heat level was very mild so do not expect any real fire from this one.
If “bone-in” is more your type, a signature chicken meal will fulfill your craving. The 4-piece meal order included a chicken thigh, two legs, and a wing. Additionally, all dinner meals include a regular side and a biscuit. The chicken pieces were all very crispy and juicy even after a reheat in the microwave later. The Cajun-style flavors were also right on-point.
Overall, I would say, Popeye’s chicken definitely has flavor. I mean, it is fast-food, so in that respect for some quick, low-priced fried chicken, it meets the mark.
Savory Fried Chicken (Elk Grove)
Savory Fried Chicken has a no-batter approach to frying their chicken. Your options from this Filipino restaurant include either the whole chicken or a half.
Due to the chicken being fried without any batter, keeping the skin crispy, besides the parts that are next to the bone, is nearly impossible. However, the juicy factor is over the top (also another reason the skin is not crisp), but no complaints over here. It was delicious! The half chicken was very flavorful and comes with gravy and sides of your choice.
Savory Fried Chicken is a great option if you are cutting back on the carbs and prefer no batter. Additionally, the half chicken was enough for two, maybe even three. Also, if you visit around Thanksgiving, you can order fried turkey instead if you’d like.
South (Southside Park)
South is the epidemy of its name, straight-up, southern cooking. Petey’s Fried Chicken entree includes a half of chicken, boiled kale greens, a biscuit, and honey butter. Now if a southern-fried chicken is what you are looking for…then baby, this is it! I will say this chicken tastes very similar to my mom’s which is originally my grandma’s recipe. Both are from Alabama. That means, by way of association alone, they know how to season and fry up some battered-chicken.
The flavors are definitely well-cured. The chicken was very crispy and had just the right amount of seasoning. Additionally, honorable mention goes to the biscuit! Fluffy, soft and delicious. The meal will set you back almost $18 however there is enough food for two.
The Porch Restaurant & Bar (Midtown)
The Porch offers brunch, dinner, and a full bar. Now, if you want fried chicken on the bone, you will have to go for dinner. The buttermilk fried chicken is only offered in the evening and boneless fried chicken tenders come with the chicken and waffle or the chicken and beignets entrees for brunch.
For some people, chicken tenders are a no-go. I will say however this is likely culturally influenced. Chicken tenders are white meat and traditionally drier. Southern cooking typically does not call for chicken tenders, ever! Wings, legs, and thighs are most often chosen instead. Even with the whole chicken available, most will eat the dark meat first or the meat on the bone. However, I will say, when eating The Porch’s buttermilk chicken tenders, I was not looking for the bone because the flavors were delicious!
The tenders were very crispy and it was a good portion with the four beignets. The tenders weren’t dry but not juicy either; no real surprise there. However, the entire dish was well prepared and the price reflected it for sure. The chicken and beignets came with a slice of applewood bacon, powdered sugar, warm bourbon-fig syrup, and jam.
KiKi’s Chicken Place (Sacramento)
Kiki’s is a typical wing spot. Breaded wings or boneless tenders with your choice of sauce and dip. With that said, placing an order with sauce on-the-side, likely impacted the taste. The point of adding sauce is essentially to add flavor. Therefore, maybe going for the chicken and waffles here would allow you to better judge their regular seasoned fried chicken.
Even without sauce, the wings were very tasty and crispy. After being able to judge the flavor and texture alone, I added teriyaki and spicy chili sauce. They were certainly some good wings and at a good price.
Fixins Soul Kitchen (Oak Park)
Fixins serves authentic soul food and has an all-day breakfast menu and a full bar. The chicken at Fixins brines for 24 hours and then it’s fried until crispy according to their menu. The chicken and waffles are served with two wings, two or three pieces of white or dark meat chicken.
The two-piece option came with a leg and a thigh (I went with dark meat, obviously). The meat was battered and fried very well. Furthermore, both pieces were very juicy and the flavor had a little kick. I can’t quite figure out what that kick might be, but paprika or cayenne would be my initial guess. I’ll definitely be back for more – the food is absolutely delicious.
Church’s Chicken (Sacramento)
Church’s is a fast-food restaurant that started across the street from the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, in 1952. Later, the company was purchased by Popeye’s in 1989. Church’s serves bone-in fried chicken and boneless tenders; no chicken sandwiches here. Also, the menu includes another southern American favorite is fried okra. The two-piece chicken meal comes with a leg, thigh, and one side as well as one of their signature honey-butter biscuits.
The chicken was very crunchy, juicy and slightly greasy. Furthermore, Church’s is traditionally greasy in my experience. The flavor was pretty good for fast-food fried chicken.
BAWK! Fried Chicken (Midtown)
BAWK! is a new restaurant on R Street that was established in 2019. On the menu, you will find fried chicken buckets, wings, sandwiches, “chicken fried” cauliflower and oysters on the half shell. I am hoping maybe fried oysters eventually too. The house-favorite fried chicken sandwich comes with a thigh, coleslaw, pickles, and “bawk” spread on a brioche bun.
The sandwich was delicious and very filling. The slaw was crisp and added a nice flavor to the sandwich. Additionally, the chicken was juicy and the flavor was good, however, there is no real heat for those who are looking for it. Yet, BAWK does offer a Nashville hot chicken sandwich on their menu. My server Ricky shared that it’s his favorite and it is HOT! Also, the sandwiches come with fries and they serve a house remoulade and ranch for dipping. Very yummy all around! Also, if you come for the happy-hour specials, you will not be disappointed.
Hawks Provisions + Public House (East Sac)
Hawks is a gastropub-style restaurant with fried chicken on the menu only on Mondays. The buttermilk fried chicken entree is served with a leg, breast, and thigh. Additionally, the meal includes macaroni and cheese, broccoli slaw and a honey mustard dipping sauce.
The fried chicken had a major crunch and a nice flavor. Hawks’ version of fried chicken is certainly the most expensive at $22 for dinner however there is enough to share. I likely would not order the fried chicken entree again, however, the Nashville hot confit chicken legs with local honey and buttered kale, on their happy hour menu, just could be my next venture.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (Various locations)
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is one of America’s first fried chicken restaurants. KFC is known as the world’s largest fast-food chicken chain. Currently on the menu is a chicken and waffle sandwich that comes with a side of Mrs. Butter Worth’s syrup. Additionally, the two-piece meal includes a dark meat option (leg and thigh) or white meat (breast and wing), one side, a cookie, and a biscuit.
KFC’s chicken tastes like there is more salt in the seasoning compared to others. However, the chicken did have a lot of crunch and the original KFC flavor.
Nash & Proper (Various locations)
Nash & Proper is a Sacramento-based hot chicken food truck that serves chicken with your choice of hotness. On the menu is the “sammich”, quarter bird, chicken tenders, wings, and sides. Also, they offer a kids meal which is a rarity for most food trucks. Furthermore, your heat level options range from no heat to “get the cluck outta here ” heat. The “sammich” includes a crispy fried thigh, slaw, Fuego sauce, pickles on a buttered bun.
The chicken thigh on the sandwich was very large. Further, the mild hot sauce was enough heat for me and the flavors were great. Additionally, the chicken was extremely crunchy and the slaw was too. The over-sized butter bun was soft and delicious. I’ll be back for this “sammich” again soon.
Chick-fil-A (Various locations)
Chick-fil-A is a fast-food chicken restaurant that began in Hapeville, Georgia in 1942. Their menu includes all things chicken including sandwiches, tenders, nuggets, wraps, and salads. The recent chicken sandwich battle between Chick-fil-A and Popeye’s had many people ordering from both fast-food restaurants just so they could compare the two.
The spicy chicken deluxe sandwich includes a large piece of chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, pickles, lettuce, and tomato on a toasted buttered bun. For those of us who like their sandwiches “dressed” the vegetables were a pleasant addition. Furthermore, the heat level was definitely mild and the pepper jack cheese gave a little more flavor to the sandwich. Additionally, Chick-fil-A offers bun alternatives including gluten-free and multigrain. The spicy chicken deluxe is a solid sandwich from a fast-food spot; I was very satisfied.
Bonchon (Elk Grove)
Bonchon is a Korean fried chicken and wings restaurant. The signature fried chicken is double-fried and then brushed with sauce according to their menu. Furthermore, there are three sauce options available including, spicy, soy garlic, and sweet crunch. The ten-piece wing meal includes a very small side of pickled radish or coleslaw.
The wings were extremely crunchy and very lightly-sauced. I personally would prefer more sauce. Additionally, the soy garlic sauce was flavorful. If you are looking for Korean-fried wings for a good price, Bonchon is a solid option.
Best Fried Chicken
In conclusion, whenever I am craving a fried chicken sandwich, Nash & Proper will be my go-to for sure. Though $14 is a bit pricey for a sandwich, the quality and size of the sandwich makes it well worth the price. Alternatively, I would go with Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Deluxe for a low-cost option that’s close to home.
The next time I want some southern-fried chicken, which is my personal favorite type of fried chicken, I am going to Fixins. Fixins’ flavors and super crispy chicken is really amazing. Since visiting the restaurant for the first time just for this article, I have already been back within a week to ensure my family was able to experience all the southern treats on their menu. The waffles and grits are also amazing. Additionally, Savory Fried Chicken is always a great local option for Filipino-fried chicken or Popeye’s for their Louisiana Cajun-style meals, both at a good price.
Do you have any favorites on this list? Are there any restaurants not on this list that should be? Let us know!