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 julian.mark@missionlocal.com.


“Normally, both your asses would be dead as fucking fried chicken.” — Quentin Tarantino

The only proper way to eat, and evaluate, a fried chicken sandwich from Bi-Rite is al fresco, on a sparkling SF day in Dolores Park.

Having blown that option, and due to unbearable deadline pressures bearing down on Mission Local’s Fried Chicken Department, I took my sandwich home to eat while watching the Warriors.

Initially this seemed like a good idea. But given that the Warriors currently resemble a stale version of the team (circa 1988), I wondered if my tastes would be influenced by their boring play? Will my critical faculties remain cool when my fan frustration reaches the boiling point?

I had low expectations for the game. And the sandwich.

Was I surprised!

Nick Young hit some early threes and the Dubs were competitive. For 24 minutes.  More than enough time to get into, and enjoy, Bi-Rite’s version of a fried chicken sandwich.

Version?

First of all, Bi-Rite’s sandwich is made to be taken out. The ingredients are pressed together on a small baguette, then tightly wrapped to preserve heat, freshness, flavor and composition.

Crunch time: If you are expecting a crispy or crunchy batter coating your meat, go someplace else. Although Bi-rite makes a buttermilk batter, subtly seasoned and spiced, it’s never crisp, much less crunchy.

Is it light meat? Dark? Who knows?

This is a “Buffalo Fried Chicken Sandwich,” meaning Buffalo sauce insinuates itself into every bite. Juicy is not an issue. In support of meat and sauce, Bi-Rite adds Calabrian chilis, cabbage, pickles, aioli and honey. Pressed together on the aforementioned (Italian?) baguette.

The press makes Bi-Rite’s entry a different experience from your standard Mission fried chicken sandwich. Rather than each individual ingredient playing with one another, Bi-Rite mashes them together as one.

A substantial sandwich. It won’t leave you starving or stuffed.

Though a little on the sweet side, I liked it.

You will, too. If you like Buffalo sauce.

Note: If you’re taking the sandwich to the park, watch out for dripping sauce, aioli and occasional scrap of cabbage. Not a big deal. The pressing helps!

Julian, the ball is in your court. I hope you do better than you did with Buttermilk. I don’t know how you could have missed the spices. Too subtle for the untrained palate? That’s the problem with young reporters, don’t you think? Seasoning.


Mark: It has been too long (I feel no need to counter your barbs because they are patently ridiculous. Monk’s Kettle turned me into a holy man. Buttermilk turned me back to nihilism.) 

Nevertheless, I’m excited to report this most recent sandwich is reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite fried chicken sandwiches: the Safeway chicken-tender sandwich.

This is when, while ordering a Safeway build-your-own sandwich, you ask the skeptical counterman to extract some chicken tenders from the hot case and insert them into your custom-crafted wedge — and the counterman, flashing a leery eye, not knowing whether that’s actually allowed, grudgingly does it and then decides whether to charge you extra (most of the time, they don’t).

My point is: Mark, the Safeway special is a friggin’ great — and very affordable — sandwich. But it comes with a huge side of uncertainty.  

Luckily, at Bi-Rite, you don’t have to cajole someone into creating a Franken-wich. The sandwich is on the menu. And, by most appearances, it stays true(r) to the traditional fried chicken sandwich, complete with pickles, coleslaw and buffalo sauce. The coleslaw is crunchy and not too heavily soaked in mayo. The pickles, long dill slices, marry well with the slaw. And the sauce — the buffalo — is a holy force. (They were out of the baguette, so I had a sweet roll, which artfully soaked up the sweet, red nectar.)

Sadly, however, these accoutrements are the sandwich’s only strength. The chicken, as the counterwoman at Bi-Rite told me, is fried every few days. Frying them to order “doesn’t make sense,” she said. Instead, the meat is heated up in the oven as the orders come in. That explains the stiff, cold, lunchmeat-esque core.

Also, sir, the chicken’s breading is more like a (cough, cough) milanesa — with its thin, fine, almost katsu-like coat. Which is fine. But, taken together with the chilly core, it is reminiscent of my dark, adolescent days of endless frozen Tyson’s chicken tenders, a microwave and marathon proportions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Mark: I genuinely liked this chicken sandwich, but, at $10.99 a pop, I’d rather go to Safeway.