You have to be fast to get a piping hot fried-chicken sandwich; wait too long and the moment passes, leaving you with cold comfort. The nationwide flap over the Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen versus Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich war had nearly everyone waiting in line for the taste of the new Popeyes sandwich — which is now a thing of the past (at least for now). But don't fret over fast-food fixations; instead, find a fine chicken sandwich at one of these top locally owned poultry purveyors.
800 East 26th Avenue, 720-361-2976
1701 Wewatta Street, 720-572-8799
1535 East Evans Avenue, 720-242-8106
The Park Burger team knows sandwiches, so swapping out a burger patty for a crispy, juicy, fried-chicken breast seems like just more of a good thing. Put it on a toasted, squishy bun and add savory sauces and click-bait toppings like smoky bacon and coleslaw studded with blue cheese, and you've got a recipe for lines out the door. The restaurants are stripped back and streamlined, keeping prices low and quality high. What's for dessert? Make it a red-velvet milkshake for a full-on Southern onslaught.
The Budlong Hot Chicken
3501 Wazee Street
Chef Jared Leonard spend months researching fried chicken before opening the Budlong. The Chicago transplant studied Nashville-style hot chicken across the South, starting with Prince's in Nashville (where the style originated), then testing recipes until he perfected his version. The Budlong serves spicy bone-in chicken and sandwiches at Zeppelin Station, where a cold can of Colorado beer makes a perfect pairing.
3200 Pecos Street (at Avanti Food & Beverage)
2927 Larimer Street (at Finn's Manor)
A transplant from San Diego, Chicken Rebel descended on Denver in 2017 amid much fanfare before landing a permanent spot inside Finn's Manor, the indoor/outdoor food-truck pod and bar space. This summer, owner Lydie Lovett expanded to Avanti F&B and will soon have her own restaurant in LoHi. Chicken Rebel makes a variety of sandwiches, but the Nashville hot is a favorite. Slathered in a fiery sauce that resembles barbecue sauce, the hot chicken here doesn't have a traditional appearance, but the cayenne bite makes your mouth remember what this dish is all about.
Little Beast Street Food
2730 East Colfax Avenue
Little Beast is new to the sandwich scene, taking over the former home of Uber Sausage earlier this summer. The Korean fried-chicken sandwich is an immediate favorite, though, for its light breading that resembles that of country-fried catfish, a funky topping of kimchi and a zingy smear of housemade gochujang. Little Beast proves that small can be mighty.
Lou's Food Bar
701 Grant Street
Frank Bonanno perfected his fried chicken after a 2012 trip to Nashville to eat at the restaurants where hot chicken was born. At Lou's, sandwiches are kept simple: You can order hot, medium or naked, and with a few toppings that don't steal the thunder from the crunchy-coated star. You can also find Bonanno's fried chicken in sandwich form or on the bone at Lou's Hot and Naked inside the restaurateur's downtown food hall, Milk Market (1800 Wazee Street).
The Post Brewing Company
2200 South Broadway (and three other locations)
Founded in a former Lafayette VFW Post building in 2014 and now with four locations, the Post is equally known for its perfectly done fried chicken and its easygoing, award-winning brews. The restaurant's slogan is "Hot Chicken Loves Cold Beer," which was exactly the case with its fried-chicken sandwich. The spicing here, while very tasty, comes as much from the pickled-pepper relish as it does from the chicken breast. Comfortingly situated on a sesame-seed hamburger bun, it also includes Dijonnaise, pickles and onions.
A chicken thigh is a wise choice when building a better fried-chicken sandwich; the dark meat has more fat and flavor than the breast, so it cooks up juicy and rich, not dry and boring. The thigh is the sturdy foundation of Royal Rooster's craveable and crunchy sandwiches from chef/restaurateur Justin Brunson. Keep it simple with a squishy potato bun, pickles, lettuce and mayo, or go fancy with the French Rooster with River Bear ham (the chef's own brand), Swiss and thyme, if you're in a Cordon Bleu mood. Find Royal Rooster inside Broadway Market, or for the same tasty experience in a slightly posher setting, drop in at Old Major (3316 Tejon Street) for a happy-hour chicken sandwich.
3330 Brighton Boulevard
Follow the scent of smoke to chef Bill Espiricueta's RiNo barbecue joint at the Source, then fight your cravings for smoky meats and opt for the hot chicken sandwich instead. It's a beast, but it's cooked just right so each bite is juicy and bold with the chef's special seasoning blend. Housemade pickles and ginger slaw add a tangy counterpunch to the zingy chicken.
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2501 Dallas Street, Aurora, 720-259-2393
7450 West 52nd Avenue, Arvada, 720-510-8411
2525 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-532-4596
Yellowbelly builds its sandwiches with breaded chicken tenders for a lighter bite than some of the competition, but ups the flavor with house special sauce or ranch dressing, or by adding diced chiles directly to the breading on its Barn Burner. Add a side of Yellowbelly's "macaroni pie" — mac and cheese baked in a tiny pie pan — for a down-home, comforting meal.
Zig Zag Smokin' Burger
9220 East Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village
Zig Zag took over where Gunther Toody's closed in Greenwood Village, but it's run by the same family, and there’s even a nod to a Gunther Toody’s breakfast menu item, the #6 special, which was a hearty plate of fried chicken and eggs. The #6 Crispy Chicken Sandwich presents a large, hand-breaded piece of chicken breast underneath a sunny-side-up egg and comeback dipping sauce (a traditional Louisiana condiment) on a Kaiser bun with a side of coleslaw. This chicken sandwich is no yolk.