In 2015, American food writer Helen Rosner wrote an article for Guernica Magazine called “On Chicken Tenders,” an unapologetic ode to the humble chicken strip, the “king of all perfect foods,” as she describes it. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who felt this way. The piece struck a chord and went on to win a James Beard award for food writing.

chicken sandwichWhether the chicken strip deserves this level of praise or not, there’s no denying the popularity of fried chicken. And the fried chicken sandwich, in particular, is high on the list of the most popular takeout food of the past year. You don’t have to be a genius to realize why: the sandwich travels well, ticks all the boxes as ideal comfort food and is easily enjoyed on the couch in front of Netflix. Sandwich in one hand, remote in the other.

But even before the pandemic, the fried chicken sandwich was quietly being promoted, moving  beyond a fast-food-only option to a more up-scale, in-demand menu item at finer dining establishments. Truth is, we might actually have the “chicken wars” between Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A to thank for this increase in popularity. Described by Popeye’s as their “biggest product launch in the last 30 years,” their buttermilk-battered, spicy chicken sandwich introduced in 2019 exceeded expectations with skyrocketing sales, inciting a Twitter “war” between the two restaurants. This battle over chicken sandwich supremacy is still going strong, with KFC, McDonald’s and Wendy’s entering the field with their upgraded chicken sandwich options.

Whether this surge in popularity is the reason this sandwich is popping up on menus around town  is anyone’s guess. But we’re not complaining. With so many restaurants now in the game, Calgary boasts a long list of amazing chicken sandwiches.

“A classic chicken sandwich with its various riffs rarely disappoints,” says Madeline Needles, general manager at Donna Mac. “Our sandwich has been a hit from day one and an OG menu item long before pandemic times.” Their sandwich, a buttermilk-brined boneless chicken thigh topped with gochujang sauce on a brioche bun, became one of their best-selling take-out options during recent restaurant closures.Hot Chix sandwich

For Chef Jinhee Lee, who opened Jinbar in 2020, fried chicken is nostalgic, bringing back comforting memories of her childhood growing up in Korea. “When I create a new dish, I always think about my childhood food memories. When I was little my dad came home with fried chicken and ice cream every payday. It was a precious time for our family.” Jinbar’s sandwich consists of a double-fried boneless chicken thigh marinated for 12 hours then topped with a choice of five Korean flavours, tangy pickles and hot aioli.

Dean Symonds, co-owner of Gorilla Whale in Inglewood, summed up our love for this sandwich perfectly: “Fried chicken on its own is amazingly delicious. But in a sandwich with the crispy, juicy seasoned fried chicken, soft bun, and tangy spreads, it becomes pretty solid comfort food. So satisfying that we somehow convince ourselves it’s healthier than say a beef burger. And a little self-deception is okay once in a while.”

Check out Tanya’s fried chicken recipe: Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich with Siracha Mayo

City Sandwiches

If your only experience with the fried chicken sandwich is the kind you find at fast-food chains (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it might be time to branch out. The list of great sandwiches in this city is too long to print, but here are a few offerings.

Alumni Sandwiches

Hot Chicken Sandwich
Spicy crispy chicken, slaw, pickles, comeback sauce, brioche bun

Blue Star Diner

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich
Crispy capicola, raw honey, Tuscan mixed greens, tomato, pickled red onion, roasted shallot, mayo, Korean chili flakes, brioche bun.

Chix Egg Shop

Hot CHIX Sandwich
Crispy hot chicken, pickles, cage-free fried egg, crispy iceberg lettuce, buttermilk mayo

Donna Mac

Fried Chicken Sandwich
Buttermilk-brined chicken thigh, Gochujang, house pickles, iceberg lettuce, mayo, brioche bun

Flirty Bird Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken Sando
Boneless breast, slaw, comeback sauce, pickles, butter bun

Gorilla Whale

Karaage Chicken Burger
Karaage fried chicken, smoked bacon, American-style cheddar, coleslaw, spicy kewpie, grilled bun


Jinbar Sando
Fried chicken, vinegary slaw, bread and butter pickles, brioche bread, savoury & spicy aioli. Choice of sauce: Original, Honey Garlic Butter, Jalapeño soy, Korean chili glaze, or Buldak

Modern Steak & Modern Burger

Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Crispy fried chicken, buttermilk coleslaw, pickles, lemon aioli with a side of hot sauce