Generally, Julian, 20-something, and Mark, 70-something, will be hunting for the Mission’s best fried chicken sandwich. If you have suggestions, write a comment — or, if you prefer, send an e-mail to Julian at email@example.com. This week, however, Laura, 20-something could not resist and made a beeline to Wes Burger “N” More.
This one’s intense.
If you’re going to have a Wes Burger chicken sandwich, you have to know what you’re getting into. You have to be willing to commit. Your body has to be ready.
This much was clear from the moment I opened the paper bag containing my Southern-style fried chicken sandwich (I know my limits, and I was not going to venture into “Nashville Hot” territory. Nuh uh.) The aroma hit me right in the sniffer, steam clinging to the waxy sides of the bag.
The sandwich, sturdy and voluptuous, strained against the confines of its fold-up box, the golden brown curve of a bun peeking through.
I bit in. Ten flavors at once, each distinct — an excellent quality. The chicken, sauce, cabbage and pickles formed a loud but harmonious blare. Not so great was the simperingly sweet bun, which added a mushy honey note when all I wanted was salt, fat and spice.
But its crunch is uncontested. My skull reverberated with it. There’s no Pepto-Bismol sauce to weaken this crust, and if there were, this crust would defy it and laugh. There’s also the tater tots to contend with. These are the stronger, better-trained cousins of your school-lunch-variety blobs.
And when I managed to pull off a bit of the breading I found — oh, happy day — a bit of dark meat in all its earthy, pungent poultry glory.
So, $10 for a meal that will feed you for a week, then reach back in time and satiate your hunger from a week ago? Not bad — but next time, hold the bun. –Laura
“Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.
Wes Burger has a charming old Mission Street vibe wrapped around a jarring new-Mission menu that features “Cauliflower Steak” and “Peach Buttermilk w/Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro.”
Like Daisy and Tom, I was not thinking of Wes Burger for my fried chicken fix. If it hadn’t been for Laura, I’m sure I would have kept walking up (or down) Mission. Her report intrigued me. She sounded giddy. Like someone whose slaw had been spiked.
Since Laura passed on the Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich, I couldn’t resist. Besides, the name suggests a possible cure when hung over.
It might work. As long as you keep your eyes closed. The “Hot” in “Hot Chicken” is Orange. Not a Bloody Mary orange. More like a greasy sunset.
The menu says the chicken is dipped in “our house Nashville spice mix.” How exotic! And it tastes … just like Tabasco sauce.
The menu says the Tennessee spices will deliver a “kick in the pants.” That may be a good thing for Roller Derby, not so much for lunch.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all good with hot and spicy. But I draw the line when hot overwhelms — dominates, you know, brutalizes — three of my five senses.
I’ve never been to Nashville, but on Mission Street, hot trumps chicken. Not to mention cabbage, garlic mayo (or aioli) or the sickly pickle (another sight to avoid on a weak stomach).
Uninspired on its best days, the bun sheepishly soaked up as much of the mess as it could. Or would.
That’s the downside. Not a bad downside for a $10 chicken sandwich. The upside?
Crispy. Wow. Really crispy.
But even upsides can have their downsides. I used to think crispy was the key to a great fried chicken sandwich (or plate). Now, thanks to Wes Burger, I get that crispy can be over-valued when taken out of the team concept. Despite runny Tabasco sauce, overly mayoed (aiolied?) slaw and a pickle that insinuates itself into every bite, Wes manages to keep the batter crisp. Great. But what about flavor? What about taste? When it comes down to crunch time, crispy alone (like Kevin Durant) won’t carry the day.
What about the chicken? Glad you asked. From what little I could get beyond the hot sauce, the chicken on the periphery of the bun, white meat, seemed bored — as tasteless as a presidential tweet.
But then, the dark meat!
Laura’s encounter with the dark meat had been the highlight of her Wes Burger experience. For me it was the same.
First of all, I had forgotten the fuss about it Laura made, so I wasn’t prepared. Imagine: here I am, badmouthing Nashville, dripping a mixture of Tabasco sauce and mayo (or aioli) onto my pants, then suddenly hitting the dark meat.
I’m not a fan of legs and thighs, but the dark meat at the core of the Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich was everything Laura says it would be. And then some. It’s like the chicken woke up and the flavor came rushing out. Asserting itself over the heat and the rest of it. At last.
Alas, one or two mouthfuls, and goodbye dark meat. Back to the old grumpy white meat.
Hot Flash!! Daisy and Tom report that making out in Dolores Park while eating Wes Burger Nashville Hot Chicken sandwiches, though sloppy, has never been so fervent.
Wait! Super upside! Laura hits the potato right on the head. I know this is a fried-chicken column, but I don’t think anyone can walk out of Wes Burger without publically declaring the tater tots to die for. Well done, Wes.
On to Monk’s Kettle. And yes, we are going to get to Rhea’s Deli. Other suggestions?
The Fried Chicken Showdown begins at the Salumeria, Dec. 7, 2017