Media Noche

Can a fried chicken sandwich corrode the soul?

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

Dear Mark,

The first time I went to Media Noche, the Cuban-fusion restaurant on 19th and Lexington, I ordered the Chef’s Cubano. This sandwich was so special, it seemed, it didn’t have a price or a description: A customer didn’t even have to know what they were buying or for how much — that’s how good it was. Maybe that’s just the nature of a special item at a restaurant. But, usually, you get something amazing — or, at least, something that tries to be amazing.

Not the case here.

Chef’s Cubano came, and it was tiny, its diameter perhaps only slightly larger than that of a McChicken sandwich. Maybe. Yes, it was filled with pork belly — and, yes, it tasted fine. But $15 for something so small? I felt played, and vowed never to return!

But on my way out, I noticed something I had not seen on the menu: a fried chicken sandwich. The “Celia” was described as “island fried chicken, coconut slaw, avocado, and famous green sauce.”

Okay. I went back a few weeks later and ordered it.

There’s no beating around the bush here, Mark. This was one of the worst fried chicken sandwiches I have ever had. It might even be the worst sandwich I’ve ever had, period (and it’s competing with a lot of hot cases in a lot of gas stations — and a lot of PB&Js from my elementary school daycare).

First of all, coconut??? I understand the Media Noche crew does not know I hate this stuff, but even so: it made the sandwich way too sweet. It didn’t help that the bread was also sweet.

Second, the chicken was your personal favorite: a milanesa. While Los Picudos knows how to work with the pounded, thinly breaded chicken cutlet — and knows how to prepare it so that works with the rest of the torta — Media Noche’s chicken was rubbery and laborious and lacked any flavor at all.

And the “famous” green sauce? Well, if this is actually famous — and I doubt it is — I have no idea why. It’s sauce and it’s green! That’s it. And there was not enough of it on the sandwich. I had to add extra just to counteract the sandwich’s overwhelming sweetness.

Mark, for all our differences when it comes to fried chicken, you and I do agree on one thing: that work degrades the human soul. Getting through Media Noche’s sandwich was work — a lot of work — so I think, next, I’ll have to have to review a traditional Southern fried chicken sandwich just to rejuvenate my battered soul.

No point breast beating. The Fried Chicken Sandwich Desk may seem like a plum to the precariat, but like any job, it’s an existential crisis waiting to happen.

As I am partial to things and foods Cubana, I was intrigued to hear Media Noche had a fried chicken sandwich on the menu. I had not been impressed with their ropa vieja, which, looking back, should have been a warning.

Despite my ropa vieja blahs, I had great expectations for a sandwich, “Celia” which shares a name with one of Fidel’s most revolutionary lovers, Celia Sanchez.

Expectations can be killers. Ask Che.

I contacted a friend who should have been Cuban. What had she heard on the island? Do Cubans claim a fried chicken sandwich? Did she have anything to share regarding coconut slaw?

“Bah! Another example of gentrification in the Mission,” she texted (She should text! She lives in Queens!)

As I should have known, the “fried chicken” turns out to be a slice of chicken floured and fried in a pan for decades. It may have been marinated at some point in its miserable existence. Who could tell?

No need to repeat Julian’s competent review of the ingredients, including the “famous green sauce” which is undeniably green. He did leave out one rather critical feature, which, to my mind, makes the sandwich truly stand out.

The chicken, coconut slaw, green sauce and avocados: they stuff it all into a torta then mash it all together in a hot press.

What emerges is an unsightly and tasteless glop.

If Cuba were still communist, the Drudge Report would mark this sandwich Exhibit A in its case against forced collectivization.

I had a sudden memory flash of the paste we used to chew on in first grade.

Julian, you are to be recognized for uncommon valor in the line of duty for working your way through the sandwich. I raised the red, or white, flag after less than halfway. Life felt as hopeless as watching the Niners.

Mission Local is all about impact. (Foundation Program Officers take note!) Recently, the Fried Chicken Sandwich Desk dissed Frjtz’ sad, soggy, second-rate, double-fried french fries. Nowhere near the fries at Trick Dog. Well, good news Frjtz heads: our latest investigation turned up fries that were crispy on the outside, silky on the inside.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

Mark Rabine has lived in the Mission for over 40 years. "What a long strange trip it's been." He has maintained our Covid tracker through most of the pandemic, taking some breaks with his search for the Mission's best fried-chicken sandwich and now its best noodles. When the Warriors make the playoffs, he writes up his take on the games.

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  1. Julian, Mark –
    You may want to get to Connecticut Yankee while you can still sit in the sun on the patio.
    Or not; it’s a great place inside as well!

    Corner of 17th Street and Connecticut.

    Ask for your bun ot be toasted.

    – Judy B

  2. It’s sort of bizarre that you went straight to an obscure lover of Fidel and not Celia Cruz, Cuban icon, for the Celia. Did they tell you that was the namesake?

    FYI, the bread’s sweetness is the most authentic part of what I agree is an otherwise completely inauthentic (but I think quite tasty) sandwich.

    Every time I’ve been to Media Noche there is a description of the special on the wall. Not hard to see. Also on their Instagram regularly, since they rotate it regularly, in partnership with a variety of chefs around the area. Tracking them over time would be a great story for the “global neighborhood” paper, actually.

    To be clear, I’m personally sort of conflicted about Media Noche; nothing about the place is at all authentic but I still find it pretty tasty.