Once again, it's draft time, baby. Our team of editors (and one daring editorial intern) took on the task of trying as many chicken sandwiches in Vancouver as humanly possible. Some were fried—actually, almost all were fried, who are we kidding—and many were delicious. Some were worth crossing a bridge for. Read on for our picks of the best chicken sandos in the city.
We put our names into a random draft simulator (snake style, obviously) and off we went. Here are the results and the reasoning behind each pick. Who do you think won? Vote at the bottom.
Downlow Chicken Shack Facebook
1. Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor: Downlow Chicken Shack
I laughed an evil laugh when I got first pick in this draft. We've got some awesome fried chicken in this city, but when it comes to local favourites (especially according to our Instagram comments) there's no topping Downlow and the number two pick, which, after I snagged DL, was about as predictable as Zendaya and Tom Holland's relationship. Go ahead, Neal. Say what we all know you're gonna say.
2. Neal McLennan, food editor: Juke Fried Chicken
Juke. Before you there was a wasteland of nothingness. A vast expanse of only KFC and Church's, a time when we'd lionize spots like Richmond's charming LA Chicken, because the options were so limited. But you arrived, and with you came a dawn of fried chicken opportunity—it's a wave that every other establishment on this list surfed. Your chicken is superlative and you live by the mantra that two sandwiches are always better than one (which has real practical considerations when it comes to how messy fried chicken sandwiches can be).
3. Nathan Caddell, contributing editor: Their There
Well, this has gone exactly as expected so far. So let me go off the board a little bit with a choice that might not seem as intuitive as the first two names that are basically synonymous with fried chicken in Vancouver. But while it’s more thought of as a trendy brunch spot, Kitsilano’s Their There (and its temporarily shuttered nighttime counterparty, Hundy) makes an absolutely delicious chicken sando with buttermilk fried chicken, caramelized onion jalapeno aioli, lettuce, and pickled cabbage.
The only problem these days is that Their There only carries one daily sandwich, so if you’re reading this and want to try something you haven’t had before (we all know you’ve had DL and Juke a million times), make sure you check online first to see if it’s, um, there. Please come back soon, Hundy.
Credit: Chewies Biscuit Website
4. Dani Wright, editorial intern: Chewies Biscuits
This is my first draft and of course, I end up last! Chewie’s sandwiches come in a handful of styles. I will happily eat any one of them for breakfast, lunch or dinner (most often as a mid-Sunday hangover cure). My hands-down fave is the chilichew. It's topped with sambol chili, maple honey butter glaze, and pickled jalapenos – all on a cheddar jalapeno biscuit. It may look small, but this baby is mighty.
5. Dani: Le Coq Frit
Le Coq Frit is my go-to spot. Like twice monthly minimum. The ‘wich comes on toasted brioche with a monster-sized chicken breast, slaw, pickles and house sauce. Plus your choice between classic (soy), sweet and spicy or red (Nashville). The best part? Their chicken somehow remains crazy crisp even though it’s doused in sauce. If you’re looking for a new sandwich to add to your rotation: This. Is. It.
6. Nathan: Burdy
Vancouver has a dire lack of chicken parm options so Burdy—unsurprisingly run by some Ontario expats—has the market more or less cornered at the moment. It’s a good thing that they’re not squandering that opportunity. The classic chicken parm is served up with either basil or spicy mayo on a bun from local microbakery Tall Shadow Breads. Oh, and its “solar-powered food bus” is located outside Container Brewing. I’m not telling you that this sandwich (and all others) is better with a cold beer from one of the city’s more underrated breweries but… actually yeah, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.
7. Neal: Popina
This is an ode to a devotion to quality ingredients that has been the hallmark of Popina since day one. All (well, almost all) of these sandwiches are tasty but the dream team behind Popina not only make an amazing sandwich (and when Hammer's Hot Chicken Sandwich is available, rent a jet pack to get there) but they support local producers and ethically raised birds and then charge only $13. C'mon! The view's not too shabby either.
8. Alyssa: Cream Pony
Picture this. You're determined to get a (chicken) leg up in this draft, so you do something you don't think any of the other competitors are likely to do: drive to North Van. It takes the better part of an hour. Once you get to Cream Pony, you realize you can't very well bring the sando home to eat (it will be cold). You also don't want to dine alone in the restaurant because you are, at your core, deeply insecure. So instead, you opt to sit solo in your car and devour it.
And it's totally worth it. Hot, crunchy, and THICK - there's no cheaping out on the chicken here. The bun, cheese and pickle are classic fast food fabulous. Tots are also excellent.
9. Alyssa: Bells and Whistles
Bells and Whistles was a no-brainer third pick for me. Food like this often gets labeled a "guilty pleasure," which I don't like (equating our food intake with morality is mega-harmful!) but I also think it's fair to say that we generally don't emerge from housing a fried chicken sandwich feeling like the picture of health. This one was an exception for me—something about the bun-to-chicken ratio and the crisp shredduce and pickles made it feel indulgent but not super greasy.
10. Neal: Potluck Hawker Eatery
Oh man, this was a steal! This sandwich—a genre-bending salted egg-yolk wonder—isn’t always on the menu, so I was pretty sure that none of my competitors/mortal enemies were going to choose it, but man was I nervous waiting for my turn to come. The truth is that for the most part all the sandwiches on this list taste broadly the same—there are style and quality variations of course—but this wonder from Potluck Hawker really is a whole different beast. Marinated in coconut milk, breaded with tapioca flour and salted egg goodness, it's real and it's spectacular.
11: Nathan: Peri Peri Shack
Back when I was a young, impressionable teenager growing up on the mean streets of Kerrisdale, there were a few places you’d go that felt like a legitimate treat, somewhere in which it felt like the culinary boundaries were truly being pushed.
Anyone who has read one of these drafts knows I’m going to call to White Spot (very sorry I couldn’t find room in this draft for my go-to ferry order of the spicy ultimate crunch), but there was also the dearly departed, deliciously grimy Red Onion and the flame-grilled peri-peri chicken franchise that is Nando’s.
So I was particularly stoked when The Peri Peri Shack opened just off Fraser and Kingsway for that same feel. Here’s the (spicy) rub, though: not only is The Shack in a more convenient location for me, it’s also... much better? The peri-peri fries are delicious (yes, I drafted them in our fries draft) and the sandwich absolutely slaps. Don’t let the lack of an online presence fool you—whenever I go in there, scores of DoorDash and Uber Eats drivers are waiting to make their pickups. So if you do order, plan ahead.
12. Dani: The Frying Pan
The Frying Pan combines the two best types of fried chicken (Korean and Nashville) into the sandwich of your dreams. The chicken is light in texture, crispy but it’s not going to rip your mouth to shreds. You can’t go wrong with any of their options, but the hot chicken is my number one. Also, while you’re here order a side of bulgolgi fries. You won’t regret it.
13. Dani: Tokyo Katsu-Sand
I walked past this unassuming katsu spot a hundred times before I was finally lured in. I don’t know what took me so long. All their katsu sandwiches are superb, but the chicken-katsu rocks my world with the ideal combination of just-toasted white bread, high-crisp katsu, shredded cabbage and not one but two sauces: house-made chicken-katsu sauce and mustardy mayo. Yes, it’s indulgent (aren’t all of these choices?) but it also somehow feels light enough that I’ve justified it as a pre-dinner snack.
14. Nathan: Fable Diner
Sometimes when a place is just so consistently solid it becomes underrated. That has happened to Fable Diner. All it does is crank out delicious food brunch after brunch and dinner after dinner. And yet, it doesn’t have the fanfare that’s afforded to some other spots. But I think that’s probably just fine for the folks at Fable Diner, who just announced a second location downtown.
The Buttermilk Fried Chicken Burger is excellence served up with jalapenos, lettuce and housemade ranch. It’s just simple, elegant and fun without even trying particularly hard. In other words, it’s Vancouver at its absolute best.
15. Neal: Nancy Go Yaya
I knew no one would choose this because technically you have to order the roti john—it itself a legend of a sandwich—and then you add some cereal fried chicken to slide between the two slices of milk bread, curried egg and sweet chilli mayo. Like my #3 pick it’s utterly original and once you taste it you can’t imagine the genius of a mind to come up with such a brilliant twist on such a tired and true genre. This may be the greatest 4th rounder of all time.
Credit: Havana's Facebook.
16. Alyssa: Havana
This is my only pick I didn't eat within a week of this draft (so yeah, as much love as I have for all of these spots, I'm retiring from the chicken sando game for at least a little while). It also wasn't fawned over on our social channels the way that DL and Juke are, likely because Havana isn't really known for fried chicken. But this sandwich is really good. Called "The Commercial Club," it has chicken, bacon, buttermilk coleslaw and a brioche bun. It's a bit of a level up and it's awesome.