When David Chang opened his fried chicken sandwich shop Fuku last year in New York City’s East Village, the line went out the door, and not just because of its shoebox-size space. Hipsters and culinary trend trackers went crazy for the menu, which only offered one thing: a chicken sandwich. And Chang did it to perfection—a single breast fried in spicy breading, cradled in a smashed bun, adorned with four pickles and swiped with “Fuku butter” secret sauce.
When I visited this spot right after opening, what struck me was the line of more than 10 cooks, crammed into the miniscule kitchen, building the sandwiches with tweezers and the kind of precision and skill that one would expect to find in the kitchen of a French master like Joël Robuchon. It was then that I knew the chicken sandwich would be a trend to be reckoned with in the coming year, and the trickle-down effect into the Las Vegas dining scene is in full swing. Take a bite out of the city’s seven best chicken sandwiches—sadly, Fuku not included.
Chick’N Shack at Shake Shack
It may be missing an ‘e’ in name, but it’s not missing anything else in terms of flavor. This addition to the Shake Shack menu—now with three locations in Las Vegas at New York-New York, T-Mobile Arena and Downtown Summerlin—came on the scene in early 2016. A cage-free chicken breast is slow-cooked in creamy buttermilk marinade. Then, it’s dipped in batter, dredged through seasoned flour and fried crisp. The Chick’n Shack is dressed with pickles, lettuce and buttermilk herb mayo made with chives, parsley and thyme, and served on a potato roll, like the ShackBurger. You will completely forget to ask, “Where’s the beef?” $6.30 at the New York-New York location, 725-222-6730, ShakeShack.com.
Night Market Fried Chicken Bao at Flock & Fowl
At his Hainanese chicken joint adjacent to Downtown, chef Sheridan Su is obsessed with the simplicity of good fowl. And while the star here is the traditional poached chicken dish, Su does a creative take on the chicken sandwich with the Night Market fried chicken bao. Chicken tenders are marinated in buttermilk and seven Asian spices, then dredged in flour and fried. Each is nestled into a puffy bao bun and topped with baby pea shoots, kale and preserved mustard greens, then finished with sweet soy sauce. $3.80 one piece, $7 two pieces, 380 W. Sahara Ave., 636-626-6632, FlockAndFowl.com.
Secret Sunday Chicken Sandwich at Carson Kitchen
John Courtney, culinary director for Simon Hospitality Group and Carson Kitchen, makes a mean chicken sandwich, especially after recently introducing the pasture-raised free-ranger from Crystal Lake Farms in Decatur, Arkansas, to his menu. The Secret Sunday chicken is dipped in rice flour, potato starch, dehydrated buttermilk, a blend of dried chive, parsley, and tarragon, onion and garlic powder, salt and white pepper—a combination that gives it texture without making it taste fried and greasy. The spicy pickle aioli sauce is unique to the rest of the flock—for that, mayo is blended with caper juice and Sriracha dill pickles. $13, 124 Sixth St., 702-473-9523, CarsonKitchen.com.
Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich at Marquee Dayclub
Should you go to a dayclub just to eat lunch? Absolutely, when Marquee’s chef Marc Marrone is cooking up this so-thick-you-have-to-cut-it buttermilk-dipped chicken sandwich with stone-ground mustard slaw, sambal aioli and, of course, pickles. At sister pool club Tao Beach, find the Katsu Club with crispy chicken, avocado, Duroc bacon, Japanese barbecue sauce and chili mayo—two solid reasons why the food doesn’t play second fiddle to the party at these fun-in-the-sun venues. $18, in the Cosmopolitan, 702-333-9000,MarqueeLasVegas.com/Dayclub.
Crispy Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich at Jardin in Encore
Yes, there are two breasts in every bun, which makes this sandwich impossible not to share. But if you do end up keeping it all for yourself, you won’t be sorry because it bears one of the best complements to the fried chicken sandwich not previously found on this list: ranch! But as one would expect of the location, this is fancy house-made ranch, with notes of herb and garlic, from chef Joseph Zanelli. It also features a mound of mustard slaw, making it a two-hander, hands down. $16, 702-770-3463, WynnLasVegas.com.
Biloxi Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich at Honey Salt
At locals favorite Honey Salt, the chicken sandwich gets the Southern treatment, with cole slaw and a mayo and mustard sauce blend created in homage to the famed Durkee spread. This monster is sizable enough to enjoy half for lunch and the other half for later. $14, 1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-445-6100, HoneySalt.com.
The Blue Ribbon at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken
If you are craving a gourmet New York City-style chicken sandwich, head to Downtown Summerlin and hit up the counter at the Bromberg brothers’ fast-casual restaurant. Try the original with secret Blue Ribbon sauce and pickled cucumbers. Not to be overlooked is the Sandwich of the Month; June brings us the Coney Island-inspired Beach Bird, which comes with a grilled beef hot dog and malt vinegar-doused french fries on top of a fried chicken breast. $6.50, Downtown Summerlin, 1770 Festival Plaza Dr., 702-324-9300, BlueRibbonFriedChicken.com.