Who Gives a Cluck About Popeyes and Chick-fil-A?

As feathers fly, here's where to get a great chicken sandwich in Austin

Twitter’s endless capacity for turning seemingly inane debates into battles for glory recalls the alchemical abilities of King Midas. Its newest golden object, the chicken sandwich, may not appear to merit much discussion – how many different variations on white bread, fried chicken, and mayo can you have?

Flyrite Chicken (Photo by John Anderson)

But while the Colonel at KFC has some vegan chicken wings in the works (seriously) and Church’s seems content to sit on the sidelines, two chains have surfaced from the fray to contend for the throne, begging an excruciating choice between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A. Together they have generated enough buzz to significantly increase traffic in some small towns, deplete Popeyes' entire supply of chicken sandwich makings, and provoke a lawsuit. With Popeyes’ resources dwindling and serious ethical complaints about Chick-fil-A, who can we turn to in these dark times? Enlist these local varietals in the great Chicken Wars of 2019.

The Fried Chicken Sandwich

If you’re simply looking for a local version of the Popeyes/Chick-fil-A classic, look no further than Lucy’s (for the traditional lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo combo), Flyrite (for the drive-through experience, plus pickles), and Tumble 22 – a Nashville hot chicken-inspired joint owned by Harold Marmulstein, owner of Salty Sow – that serves their chicken with kale slaw and in varying levels of spice (from “wimpy” to “Cluck’n hot”).

Lucy’s Fried Chicken
multiple locations

Flyrite Chicken
6539 Burnet Rd. & 2129 E. Seventh

Tumble 22
7211 Burnet Rd.

Queen Beak at Bird Bird Biscuit (Photo by John Anderson)

The Chicken Biscuit

In the vein of the legendary HBCB (Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit) from Whataburger’s breakfast menu, the biscuit sandwich is a tried-and-true Southern staple. Try the Casbah Plate at Holy Roller for an upgraded version topped with a fried egg and served with maple syrup, or the Queen Beak at Bird Bird Biscuit for a spicy take, with cayenne black pepper honey and bacon-infused chipotle mayo.

Holy Roller
509 Rio Grande

Bird Bird Biscuit
2701 Manor Rd.

The Chicken Torta

If you’re hankering for smoky, mesquite-flavored shredded chicken, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo on soft telera rolls, jalapeño, fries, and magical creamy green salsa on the side, the chicken torta at El Pollo Regio is for you. This Monterrey-born chicken stand has been around in Austin since the Nineties and has the chops to prove it’s here to stay. Fresa’s and El Tacorrido both do a solid version as well.

El Pollo Regio
multiple locations

Fresa’s Chicken al Carbon
1703 S. First & 915 N. Lamar

El Tacorrido
multiple locations

The Grilled Sandy

The healthier, more sophisticated sibling of the fried chicken sandwich is the grilled chicken sandwich. Sala & Betty does a satisfying version dubbed the Sala, with lemon roasted chicken, greens and cilantro mint yogurt, and fries inside. FoodHeads does regular grilled chicken as well, but their chicken and eggplant sandwich is the real showstopper. Goat cheese, basil pesto, and blackberry balsamic vinaigrette add complexity to this time-honored standard.

Sala & Betty
5201 Airport Blvd.

616 W. 34th St

The Chicken Bánh Mì

Le Bleu's chicken banh mi (Photo by John Anderson)

Austin benefits from several top-notch Vietnamese restaurants serving another classic take on the chicken sandwich: the chicken bánh mì. Van’s Bánh Mì, Pho Van, and Le Bleu offer quality versions of the spicy, fresh sandwich, with warm crusty baguettes and lots of fresh, crunchy veggies to brighten up the experience.

Van’s Bánh Mì
201 E. 53rd

Pho Van
8557 Research #120

Le Bleu
9070 Research #303

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