Julian, 20-something, and Mark, 70-something, are on a journey to find 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walking into Son’s Addition is perhaps like stepping into the Twilight Zone or, you know, suburbia. Maybe it’s the culture shock of walking down 24th Street — with its colors, sounds & smells — and being lured into a Bed, Bath & Beyond or, more precisely, a brunchery in downtown Lafayette.
The host, his iPad in hand, directed me to the bar — in spite of a room full of empty tables. The empty seats gave me the impression that the place was more populated with reservations than actual people. Or, maybe not. It looked unusually empty for a Saturday during primetime for gourmet brunch. How is Son’s Addition actually doing? I wondered.
Then, a kind of Stockholm Syndrome set in, and I soon forgot that I was in the Mission at all. I even began to embrace the smiles of its young and effusive staff, who all looked freshly plucked out of a Banana Republic catalog. I even enjoyed its minimal decor — its abstract depictions of roosters and cows — and it’s ‘80s New Wave soundtrack.
A very attentive and tattooed waiter asked me whether I wanted something to drink and, since losing myself at West of Pecos, I decided to hold strong and just order sparkling water. And then, remembering why I wandered into this strange wilderness, I order a fried chicken sandwich.
Toasted sesame bun. Juicy chicken whose batter was brittle, sweet and well-spiced, very nicely soaked by the “mole aioli” (although I had a little bit of trouble finding the mole). The slaw pleasantly resembled the bottom of a big bowl of salad — a panoply of the good stuff: for our purposes, cilantro and cotija cheese. Adding to that was what I call batter debris, the small flakes that detach from the chicken and latch onto the slaw or fall onto your plate. Give me a bowl of that stuff.
I wanted more — more of one of these great chicken sandwiches. I wanted to hunker down in this slice of suburban paradise and stay there until I had three kids and a second mortgage. But then, through the haze, I looked outside across 24th Street, saw life and color again, and I heard the calling of 24th Street and a little hole-in-the-wall across the way called Los Picudos.
Mark: I hear this place has a great chicken milanesa torta. I think it’s our next stop, my friend, whether you like it or not.
By the way, Son’s never quite filled up.
Fried chicken, and by extension, the fried chicken sandwich, is a global product, echoing the early cotton trade. A 1747 British cookbook called for floured pieces of chicken to be fried in hog’s lard. The dish became a hit in the colonies, especially in the slave kitchens of the south, where the meat was brined and the batter stirred with spices from West Africa, giving birth to “southern fried chicken.”
The African connection did not play well in the late 19th and early 20th century as the image of fried chicken was used to stigmatize and dehumanize African Americans in post-Reconstruction America.
And now it’s perched on the menu at a nuevo bruncheria on 24th Street, Son’s Addition.
I should have gone on Saturday, but backed myself into Sunday. They were fully booked, so I got a sandwich to go.
Mindful of your (unwarranted) complaints concerning my time experiments, I kept the slaw separate until I got home.
Wow! What can I add to what you’ve written? Why should I? Other than to say, without hesitation, the best example of the All-World fried chicken sandwich I’ve encountered during the Spring of 2018.
(It is spring, right? — I mean, all the wind, all the fog, it’s not summer yet, is it?)
OK, I will add some marginal notes since you got carried away again and skipped over two critical points.
One, the “mole aioli.” You couldn’t taste the mole? As you have yet to learn, a fried chicken critic cannot simply eat a sandwich and be done with it. It must be a lived experience.
I approach a sandwich thoughtfully, slowly, objectively. I not only tasted the mole, a twist of sweet in a tangy sea, I found it exciting. At first a bit strange. Then … delicate … original. Bravo.
The other point, not a small one, the slaw. Son’s Addition, however suburban it appears to your precariat prejudices, understands that the function of slaw is to complement, not take over, the chicken. A model Sancho Panza, Sons’ slaw is cabbage; dark and savory, with a dry wit.
Onto Los Picudos to satisfy your mythologized “old school” fantasies. Don’t suppose we’ll find much mole aioli there.
Donors take note: Mission Local gets results!
After our review, (there must be a connection!) Salumeria ditched its Pepto Dismal pink slaw juice. Although they still insist on piling heaps of slaw onto the bun (which can easily be scraped off), the brine, spiced batter, and Aleppo pepper can now be fully appreciated. As can the crunch. And your pants are not splotched in pink when you leave.
Congrats to Salumeria.
The fried chicken showdown begins at the Salumeria, Dec. 7, 2017
The fried chicken showdown takes a detour to Wes Burger, Dec. 18, 2017
The fried chicken showdown goes to Monk’s Kettle, Jan. 4, 2018
The fried chicken showdown goes to Rhea’s cafe, Jan. 23, 2018
The fried chicken showdown at Buttermilk, Feb. 22, 2018
The fried chicken showdown at Bi-Rite, March 30, 2018
The fried chicken showdown stops at West of Pecos, April 23