We’ll let the fast-food giants duke it out among themselves in the Great Chicken Sandwich War of 2019. We’ve got plenty of local offerings around the Tampa Bay area worth seeking out. Here are some of our favorites.
The Ciccio Restaurant Group’s chicken-centric concept in St. Petersburg knows its way around a breaded chicken tender. It puts that same vibrantly seasoned coating to good use on its fried chicken sandwiches. There are 10 total, starting with the Number One, a buttermilk fried chicken breast between a potato bun and topped with lettuce, pickles and signature Cluck Sauce. The variety of chicken sandwich here is wide: The Mac and Byrd is topped with bacon mac and cheese; the Benewich comes with an over-easy egg, bacon and spinach. They’re all $6.95; sides are a la carte.
4447 4th St. N No. 1, St. Petersburg. (727) 325-2973. betterbyrd.com.
Comfort food stalwart Datz recently expanded to St. Petersburg, bringing along the wide ranging menu from its original Tampa location. Its claim to chicken sandwich fame is the playfully-named Cluck, YEAH!, a take on spicy Nashville fried chicken with lettuce, pickles and “Nashville” sauce. Served on a challah bun for $12, it’s large and indulgent, like many of the restaurant’s best menu items. Bonus: It’s served with Datz’s signature sweet-and-salty potato chips topped with blue cheese drizzle and green onions.
Tampa: 2616 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 831-7000. datztampa.com.
St. Petersburg: 180 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 202-1182.
The new restaurant inside Pass-A-Grille’s Berkeley Beach Hotel specializes in “modern beach cuisine” and offers a creative and slightly Southern twist on the chicken sandwich. Served on a buttery brioche bun with pimento cheese, bread and butter pickles and a creamy avocado lime aioli, it’s got plenty of crunch and the perfect balance of salty and sweet. At $15, it’s a little pricier than some others on this list, but worth every penny. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
109 8th Ave., St. Pete Beach. (727) 228-1000. berkeleybeachclub.com.
Flock and Stock
Restaurateur Dave Burton opened this chicken and burger joint at Sparkman Wharf, the outdoor food hall in Tampa. At Flock and Stock, you can choose from a handful of sammies on a potato bun, grilled or fried. The Notorious C.H.I.C.K is the classic, chicken breast served with your choice of cheese and sauce and bread-and-butter pickles.
615 Channelside Drive, Tampa. (813) 345-5881. sparkmanwharf.com.
Fork and Hen
This spot in Tampa’s Hall on Franklin has a Nashville hot chicken sandwich (fresno chiili hot sauce, point reyes blue ranch, house pickled vegetables) in addition to its standard fried chicken sandwich, doctored up with house sambal, tarragon aioli, lavender sorghum and pickles.
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1701 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 405-4008. thehallonfranklin.com.
King of the Coop
Nashville-style hot chicken is the name of the game at this Seminole Heights newcomer where the fiery Tennessee-style bird is served on a toasted bun with bread and butter pickles and a shredded slaw ($10). The craggy-edged chicken tenders get a 24-hour buttermilk brine, which renders the meat extra juicy. Diners can opt for the restaurant’s signature Nashville spice level — a warm and tingly heat — or go for the extra hot Coop’s Fury if they’re feeling brave. For an indulgent add-on, the cooling and creamy pimento cheese served on the Dirty Bird is a must. — Helen Freund, Times food critic
6607 N Florida Ave., Tampa. (813) 232-2667. kingofthecooptampa.com.
This diner from prolific Tampa restaurateur Richard Gonzmart opened in 2016 in Hyde Park Village, reviving the original Goody Goody concept that had been around since the 1930s. Full of nostalgia and favorites like the POX burger and butterscotch pie, Goody Goody also has a solid fried chicken sandwich. It’s simple, straightforward and well made, like the best diner food is. For $8.95, you get a battered and fried chicken breast topped with lettuce, spicy-sweet pickles and buttermilk ranch on a toasted bun.
1601 W Swann Ave., Tampa. (813) 308-1925. goodygoodyburgers.com.
Maple Street Biscuit Company
Started in Jacksonville in 2012, this biscuit-focused spot has expanded into Tampa Bay the past couple of years, with locations in St. Petersburg, Brandon and more. It takes the chicken sandwich to another level by encasing the meat with signature biscuits. There are a handful of chicken biscuits to choose from, but our top pick has got to be the sticky, sweet, mouthwatering Squawking Goat: biscuit, fried chicken breast, fried goat cheese medallion and house-made pepper jelly. maplestreetbiscuits.com.
Yes, technically this is a chain. But the first location opened in Tampa in 2011, so we’re counting it as our own. Plus, we can’t deny the fast food spot’s Crispy Chicken sandwich. Served on a brioche bun with mayo, lettuce, tomato and Grillo’s dill pickles, it’s got a substantial piece of expertly breaded chicken anchoring the sandwich, crispier and more flavorful than many of its fast food counterparts. Also worth investigating? The Pimento Crunch, crispy chicken topped with pimento cheese, lettuce, potato chips and bacon.
3 Dot Dash
3 Dot Dash, located inside the Jug & Bottle Dept. bottle shop, is quickly becoming a Seminole Heights favorite by serving veganized classic fast food bites, like a convincing In-N-Out knockoff burger with “no animal” style fries. The “chicken” sandwich, though, will make you forget about the real bird. What makes it a perfect vegan facsimile of the Southern staple? The crisp, peppery skin encasing the convincingly chewy “meat.” And the accouterments are spot on: a sharp dill crunch and creamy ranch slaw. Get it Tampaville hot if you like to sweat while you chew. — Steve Contorno, Times staff writer
6203 N Florida Ave, Tampa. (813) 675-4522.
BONUS: Valhalla Bakery in St. Petersburg’s Baum Ave Market occasionally does a very solid vegan “chicken” biscuit worth checking out.