Remember the whole Popeyes chicken sandwich thing? Remember how it captured everyone’s attention, and lines were around the block, and many stores ran out of ingredients, and it triggered a national fried chicken sandwich craze?
That was a little less than two years ago. A lot has happened since then. And yet, people still love their fried chicken sandwiches (typically breaded and fried breast, pickles, slaw, and some kind of mayo-based sauce between a soft bun), so much so that a number of restaurants specializing in the item have opened (and are thriving) since then.
Of course, a basic fried chicken sandwich is one thing. Hot chicken, or spicy chicken, or Nashville hot chicken, is another thing altogether. We’ve combined the basic and the blazin’ into one hefty list: Our guide to the best fried chicken sandwiches in Houston.
One of Houston’s top chicken sandwiches resides in Downtown’s Underground Hall. Here, the bird is fried to a crispy crust, then it’s dunked in a cayenne-infused butter glaze. The amount of peppers in the glaze depends on your heat level—everything from no heat to reaper, which just glistens and feels like an inferno in your mouth. Some pickles, slaw, and tangy aioli help cut the bite a little.
Occupying what looks like a main-stage concert setup at the Galleria Food Truck Park, Clutch City Cluckers certainly has a presence. Its chicken makes a statement, too: Get Cluck It Like It’s Hot, the sandwich of chicken tenders (one or two) with pickles, slaw, and a special tangy sauce. Heat levels? Mild and medium won’t cause damage, but Cluck It Like It’s Hot will induce tears—the good kind.
This Fort Worth-based, fast-casual restaurant dropped its hat in the local fried chicken sandwich ring in early 2021, and ooh, what a stylish hat it is. Not only is the place bright and welcoming, but the Cookshack serves a mean, heavily breaded breast of chicken with five heat levels: not hot, mild, medium, Texas hot, and AMF (not hard to understand that level). The sandwiches are simple—slaw, pickles, mayo sauce, and soft brioche bun—but tip your cap to Cookshack: they’re very flavorful.
Like a chicken tikka taco or maple-bacon burger, Dish Society’s hot chicken sandwich extras up an original with fun results. Here you still have breaded and fried chicken breast, but it’s then tossed in hot sauce, drizzled with honey, and topped with pickled onions and slaw coated in dill ranch dressing. Oh, also, it’s on a pretzel bun. So extra and so indulgent.
For those who get anxiety just looking at those heat levels when ordering a chicken sandwich, FM makes it easy. No levels. Just order the spicy fried chicken sandwich and experience moderate, manageable heat. The skin—crispier than with most sandwiches—is infused with just a hint of chili pepper spice, and a couple of pickled jalapeños and chipotle aioli offer some (but not too much) bite. Lettuce and tomato help cool things down, and it’s all on a soft potato bun. This is the perfect starter hot chicken sandwich.
How can you possibly improve upon the tried-and-true chicken sandwich? When your name is “Howdy,” the answer is to add Texas toast (and cheese). Yellow American cheese melts as you bite into the Texas Toast Sammie, and the thick bread is perfect to keep everything together. The heat levels here go from harmless to hello to heat up to howlin’ to—fixes coif—have mercy.
In the battle for Nashville hot chicken supremacy, Main Chick wants to be your … well, you get it. The food truck opts for multiple breast tenders over a hefty single breast cut, breading each in a spicy mix, frying them, then finishing them with a glaze. You can go naked, mild, medium, or spicy, and, as per usual, the ‘wich comes with pickles, slaw, and a special tangy sauce. But here’s where Main Chick really raises the bar: It also has a (let’s be honest) more flavorful dark meat chicken sandwich.
The lines can get long at this bright red Heights outpost with plenty of outdoor seating. Why? Well, this might just be the best version of a fried chicken sandwich in the city, established just before the Popeyes-led craze in summer 2019. The sandwich is called the Sammich: a massive breaded chicken breast—with your choice of mild, medium, hot, or x-hot spice rub—plus pickles, slaw, and a creamy mayo, served inside a soft bun. Hot and x-hot will make you sweat.