Jalapeno Popper Fried Chicken Sandwich from Chica’s Chicken

Chica's ChickenLocation2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.chicaschicken.net/

I’ve written about Chica’s Chicken many, many times on this blog.  I’ve mentioned that I think they serve the best fried chicken in the city, and that’s still probably true — even if I wasn’t crazy about this particular sandwich.

The Jalapeno Popper Sando, as per their menu: “boneless fried chicken topped with chipotle aioli and pickled jalapeños, served on a toasted brioche bun.”

The fried chicken is as delicious as ever; it’s the perfect combo of crispy (but not overbearing) exterior and juicy interior.  It’s so damn good.

Chica's Chicken

I’m not quite as sold on the rest of the sandwich, however.  It’s that chipotle aioli.  It’s sweet.  I like the sweet/salty combo as much as the next guy, but holy moly the level of intense sugariness here is a bit intense.  It overpowers the other flavours of the sandwich.  I find the Sweet Heat sandwich at Chica’s to be a bit on the sweet side, and this one is even sweeter, somehow.  Between the sweet sauce and the sweet brioche bun, the flavour is extremely one note.

It also tastes absolutely nothing like a jalapeno popper, which is odd.  The whole point of a jalepeno popper is the contrast between the tangy cream cheese and the spicy bite of the jalapeno, and I don’t think there was any cream cheese here??  Or if there was, I couldn’t taste it over the aggressive sweetness.

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever had a jalapeno popper that was even remotely sweet.  Am I the weird one, or is Chica’s?

Oh well.  Everything else on the menu is so good that I don’t particularly care, but this is still an odd misstep from an otherwise great restaurant.

Great Fried Chicken and Pie at Aloette

AloetteLocation: 171 East Liberty Street (Unit 127A), Toronto
Website: https://aloetterestaurant.com/

Aloette was forced to become a take-out joint last year (for obvious reasons) and I guess that’s worked out for them, because they’re leaning into it; their second location, in Liberty Village, is take-out only, with a selection that mostly consists of fried chicken, burgers, and a handful of salads.

Aloette

I ordered the fried chicken sandwich, which is simply topped with aioli and pickles.  It’s a top-notch sandwich; the chicken is satisfyingly crunchy and very nicely seasoned, with what seemed like an Asian-inspired flavour that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but that I thoroughly enjoyed.  The zingy pickles and creamy aioli complement it well, and the bun is nice and fluffy, with just enough heft to hold up to the substantial piece of fried chicken.

Aloette

The chicken itself is ever-so-slightly on the dry side, and the crunchy exterior is maybe slightly too aggressive (it actually cut the roof of my mouth), but those are both minor complaints.

Aloette

They have a couple of tempting sundaes for dessert, but I couldn’t resist the lemon meringue pie; it’s a mainstay on Instagram, but is definitely more than just a pretty face.  It’s luxuriously rich and creamy, and has a perfect tart/sweet balance.  My biggest problem here is the crust: it’s mostly decent enough, but then you get to the big hunk at the end and it’s thick and gummy and, eaten on its own, kinda unpleasant.

Tasty Sandwiches at Chen Chen’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot ChickenLocation: 1184 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.chenchenshotchicken.com/

It’s hard to eat a Nashville hot chicken sandwich in the GTA without comparing it to Chica’s Chicken, a place that serves what might just be some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

No, the sandwich from Chen Chen’s isn’t on that level, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it; it’s quite tasty.

Chen Chen's Nashville Hot Chicken

You can choose from five spice levels: Southern (which they describe as “no heat”), mild, medium, hot, or poultrygeist (which they describe as “extra HOT!!”). I went with hot, which is very spicy but not face-meltingly so.

The chicken is tender thigh meat — always a good thing — and the exterior is satisfyingly crunchy. My biggest issue here is that it’s a bit bland; outside of the cayenne-infused heat, the chicken doesn’t have a ton of flavour. It’s underseasoned.

The sandwich is topped with zingy pickles, coleslaw, and aioli, which all does a pretty decent job of bringing the sandwich some flavour. But the chicken’s blandness does mar an otherwise above average sandwich.

Sweet Heat Sandwich from Chica’s Chicken

Sweet Heat Sandwich from Chica's ChickenLocation: 2853 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.chicaschicken.net/

I’ve written about Chica’s many times on this blog, so I’ll make this brief.

Most importantly: yes, their fried chicken is just as good as ever.  And the restaurant was packed (the other times I’ve visited it’s been half full at best), so I think the word is finally getting out that Chica’s is doing something amazing.

The sweet heat has been an occasional special up to this point, but they’ve recently added it onto the regular menu.  It is predictably delicious.

Sweet Heat Sandwich from Chica's Chicken

It’s maybe borderline too sweet, but it’s balanced out quite well by the vinegary bite of the pickled jalapenos.  It’s probably my least favourite thing on the menu, but that says more about the deliciousness of everything on offer here than it does about this particular sandwich.  It’s still incredibly good.

It’s the fried chicken itself.  It’s magical.  The contrast between the perfectly crunchy exterior and the juicy interior is the stuff dreams are made of.  If you like fried chicken and you haven’t tried Chica’s yet, you’re living your life wrong.

Mediocre Fried Chicken and Poutine at Rudy

RudyLocation: 619 College Street, Toronto
Website: http://www.rudyresto.com/

I love Rudy.  I’m on record calling their burger the best in the city.  So it pains me to say this, but the meal I just had there was not great.

To be fair, I didn’t have a burger; going to a burger joint and not ordering the burger is probably not the smartest thing in the world.

Instead, I got the fried chicken sandwich and the poutine.  Neither was particularly great.

Rudy

The chicken sandwich is dubbed the Valentino: “Fried Chicken Sandwich, Coleslaw, Valentino Sauce, Mild Hot Sauce.”  I’ve had this before and found it to be quite tasty, so maybe they were just having an off day?

The biggest issue is the chicken itself; it was dry, overcooked, and incredibly salty.

The first few bites were outright bad, but then I noticed that the two sauces were actually in little plastic containers on the side rather than on the sandwich.  I’m not sure why they did it that way (I certainly didn’t ask for that), but once I applied them both to the chicken, things improved considerably.  The tasty ranch / hot sauce combo helped to smooth over a lot of the chicken’s faults.

Rudy

As for the soft squishy bun that works so well on the burger — sadly, it has a hard time holding up to the more substantial chicken sandwich.

I also tried the poutine, which Toronto Life recently called the best in the city.  It was fine?  I guess?  The gravy was overabundant and bland, the curds were stale (no squeak to be found), and the whole thing wasn’t hot enough to even vaguely melt the cheese.  It certainly wasn’t unpleasant to eat, but it’s a far cry from the best in the city.

I should note that someone else got the burger and said it was as delicious as ever, so unsurprisingly, the burger is the thing to order at the burger joint.  Who would have guessed!