You’re not making fried chicken sandwiches at home. You’re just not. It doesn’t make sense. No one wants their kitchen reeking of grease for days because of one meal. Also, you don’t have a deep fryer at your disposal. Even if you do have a deep fryer, you’re not using that thing on a regular enough basis to justify making this one meal.
And if you’re in Washington, D.C.? There’s absolutely no reason to make one of America’s greatest creations if you’re in America’s capital city. There are excellent fried chicken sandwiches available in all eight wards of D.C.
Before we begin, Popeye’s is not on this list. We are not denying the greatness of Popeye’s fried chicken sandwich. Popeye’s is great, but Popeye’s is also everywhere. You already knew that.
Ward 1: Federalist Pig
1654 Columbia Rd NW
The Adams Morgan BBQ joint has the meats (I swear to God this entire thing will not continue to reference fast food chains). Since opening their doors in 2016, they’ve been busy. The two-time Michelin Bib Gourmand winner serves some of the best BBQ and sides in the DMV. You’ll want to call ahead to make sure their fried chicken sandwich — the Music City, a spicy fried chicken breast topped with greens, pickles and buttermilk ranch on a sesame bun — is not yet sold out. If it is, just go a few miles north for our Ward 4 pick; both menus are by chef Rob Sonderman.
Ward 2: Bantam King
501 G Street NW
Has any D.C. neighborhood taken a bigger hit since Covid than Chinatown? It seems not great right now. Lucky for us, Bantam King from the Daikaya Group is still around, and so is their BK Ch’King Sandwich, available during lunch hours only. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the previous tenants of 501 G Street NW: Burger King. In fact, the name of the restaurant is, too, but the sandwich is quite far from corporate fast food. It’s a boneless chicken thigh with salsa verde and pickles and a side of seasonal greens with a roasted garlic Caesar dressing. You won’t find that on the Burger King menu.
If you want some fried chicken in Chinatown after lunch hours, walk around the corner to the flagship Daikaya and order their fried chicken wings with shoyu, lemon, parsley, shichimi and togarashi.
Ward 3: Duke’s Counter
3000 Connecticut Ave NW
The absolute best place for a meal before or after a visit to the Smithsonian National Zoo, this version of Duke’s isn’t as packed or popular as the original Duke’s Grocery on 17th Street, but the Fired Up Chicken Sandwich (spicy coated chicken tenders topped with dill pickles, tomato, romaine and garlic aioli on a brioche bun) is just as good as anything you’d find at their Dupont Circle spot. Since you’re probably going to the zoo with kids, don’t share your spicy chicken sandwich with them. They offer chicken tenders and fries on the kids menu.
Ward 4: Honeymoon Chicken
4201 Georgia Ave NW
Coworkers typically aren’t cool with their deskmates plopping down a bucket of fried chicken on the shared workspace. If they are, you’re lucky, and you should get the office a Honeymoon Chicken Bucket. If they’re reasonable people (and don’t want a shared office space to smell like fried chicken), get Honeymoon’s Hot Honey Dipped Chicken Sandwich. The slightly spicy, slightly sweet sandwich should inspire lunchtime envy. Make sure to order some honey butter rolls, too. They’re shareable and a gateway food to a deeper dive.
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Ward 5: Brookland’s Finest
3126 12th St NE
Brookland’s Finest is the type of neighborhood restaurant you want in your neighborhood. I’ve enjoyed brunch, lunch, happy hour, an early dinner and a late-night dinner at this place. I don’t even work or live in Brookland, yet I find myself there every fifth time I’m in the neighborhood. It’s a classic, modern, all-American restaurant with classic, modern, all-American food. The Southern Style Chicken Club with applewood smoked bacon, mozzarella, tomatoes and Crystal remoulade on brioche is what you want from a classic, modern, all-American restaurant.
If you’re more in the mood for chicken nuggets than a fried chicken sandwich, The Runaway, conveniently located just four blocks south on 12th Street NE, has, somewhat surprisingly, some of the best chicken typically associated with children’s menus. The Runaway Nuggs are the farthest thing from a McNugget while being called a “nugg.”
Ward 6: Grazie Grazie
85 District Sq SW
Remember Taylor Gourmet? The super successful D.C. sandwich chain that was everywhere in D.C. for about a decade? The guy behind Taylor opened Grazie Grazie on The Wharf in 2019, doing what Taylor did best but on a smaller, less chain-y level. They have two breaded chicken sandwich offerings — two sandwiches I can attest are just as good as a fried chicken sandwich: the Retzo, a breaded chicken cutlet with lemon ricotta spread, prosciutto, Calabrian hot honey, Pecorino Romano, fresh basil, arugula and extra virgin olive oil on a seeded roll; and the Benny, a breaded chicken cutlet with sharp provolone, marinara, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil on a seeded roll. They’re both easier to share and travel better than a fried chicken sandwich. Once again, they’re just as good.
Ward 7: Roaming Rooster
2710 Good Hope Rd SE
The best local fast food chain offers one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the greater D.C. region. Just because they serve a ton of people doesn’t mean it’s not as good as the $20 offerings. They have the most fried chicken sandwich variations in D.C., too, offering honey butter, Nashville, Buffalo, club and vegetarian versions.
Ward 8: Bluejacket
300 Tingey St SE
Bluejacket is first and foremost a microbrewery — they’ve been making some of the best beer anywhere near Nats Park and Audi Field long before Nats Park offered multiple offerings from multiple local breweries and before Audi Field even existed. And their food is far from typical brewery fare: Their fried chicken sandwich is topped with house buffalo, mumbo sauce or a sweet and smoky dry rub, coleslaw and pickles, all on a potato roll with fries. It’s a classic sandwich that happens to pair quite well with beer.
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