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.

Decent Fried Chicken at Dave’s Hot Chicken

Dave's Hot ChickenLocation: 2066 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.daveshotchicken.com/

Dave’s Hot Chicken is an American fried chicken chain with a couple of locations in the city, and one more on the way.  It’s easy to be cynical about the explosion of fried chicken restaurants in the city (Nashville hot chicken in particular), but aside from the fact that now is not exactly an easy time to be a restauranteur, fried chicken is delicious.  Nashville hot chicken is delicious.  So sure, why not?

Dave's Hot Chicken

The menu here consists pretty much entirely of fried chicken tenders that you can either get on their own, or in a sandwich.  You can pick from seven levels of spiciness ranging from “no spice” to “reaper.”

I went with the sandwich and got it hot, which was milder than you’d expect — it has a noticeable kick, but it’s not exactly going to get anyone too hot and bothered.  If you have any kind of tolerance for heat, extra hot or even reaper is probably a better choice.

Dave's Hot Chicken

Otherwise, it was pretty tasty — the white meat is a bit on the dry side, but it’s really well seasoned and quite tasty, with an exterior that’s noticeably crispy, but not overwhelming.  It’s topped with a zingy special sauce, pickles, and coleslaw, which all do a great job of cutting through the richness of the sandwich.

It comes with crinkle-cut fries that are battered and seasoned; I’m normally not crazy about battered fries, but these were pretty good (I think it’s mostly that tasty seasoning, which would probably make anything taste good).

Dave's Hot Chicken

As far as fried chicken in the GTA goes, this isn’t on the level of local joints like Chica’s or PG Clucks, but for a chain it’s not bad at all.

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.

A Tasty Bowl at Musoshin Ramen

Musoshin RamenLocation: 9 Boustead Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://www.musoshin.com/

I think ramen might be my favourite dish of all time, which means the last year and change has been a long, sad, ramenless slog.

(Yes, there is instant ramen, but that’s not even remotely the same.  You could also make it yourself, but that’s an all day project and it’s never going to be as good as what you can get at even a half-decent ramen shop.)

Musoshin Ramen

Well, ramen is finally back in my life, and, of course, it’s delightful.  Musoshin is actually a small Japanese ramen chain (they have three locations in Kyoto) that recently opened in Toronto, and yeah, it’s good.

I started with the karaage, which features very crispy pieces of juicy boneless chicken thigh; this was maybe slightly too salty, but was otherwise packed with flavour and was top-notch fried chicken.

Musoshin Ramen

Next up was the ramen: I went with the namesake Musoshin Ramen, which features a porky tonkotsu broth — it has a very rich, roasty flavour with a lot going on (is it made with seafood, too?  Because it definitely has some subtle seafoody notes).  It borders on being a bit overwhelming in its flavour, but it never crosses that line.  It’s very tasty.

Musoshin Ramen

The noodles were quite good, too, with a springy texture and a satisfying level of thickness.  The egg costs extra, but it’s nice and creamy and worth the two dollar surcharge.

The chashu, on the other hand, is the bowl’s clear weak spot.  It was pretty dry and had a very pronounced gamy, leftovery flavour.  Everything else is delicious enough that this doesn’t really matter, but it’s a bummer nonetheless.

Musoshin Ramen

I had the strawberry mochi for dessert, and it was the perfect way to end the meal.  Featuring a full strawberry surrounded by sweet red bean paste with a chewy mochi wrapper, this was a delightful mix of chewy and creamy with a perfect level of sweetness.

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.