Santa Barbara is not exactly known as a hotspot for fried chicken, but there are comfort-food connoisseurs in town who know how to satisfy your hankerings for this classic, crispy dish. Whether nestled in a sandwich, heaped over potatoes, or paired with a sweet accompaniment, this Southern staple provides a hearty base for a number of preparations. Below are the spots that do justice to this delicacy!
FINCH & FORK: Topped with a zesty kale slaw, pickles, and smoked honey mustard, Finch & Fork’s fried chicken sandwich is a tower of goodness that makes the perfect lunch. But if you really want to nestle into their cozy leather booths, order the buttermilk fried chicken dinner. This tender and lightly breaded Jidori chicken is heaped on a fluffy bed of garlic mashed potatoes. “We brine it for 12 hours,” said Chef Peter Cham. Pair your meal with one of their outstanding champagnes, and you just may never leave this heavenly respite.
31 W. Carrillo St.; (805) 884-0300; finchandforkrestaurant.com
THE SHOP KITCHEN: “We really prioritized food we’d enjoy eating rather than adhering to one particular style,” said The Shop Kitchen’s co-owner Chris Vigilante. That means fresh California standbys as well as Southern influences on the menu. Using only dark meat, each fried chicken dish is flavorful and tender. Their sandwich The Sanders sings with apple slaw, sweet-and-sour carrots, and spicy mayo. “It’s a high-ranking chicken sandwich,” Vigilante said about its nod to the famous general. Don’t sleep on the YOLO — though you may need a nap after. It features house-made sausage gravy, buttermilk fried chicken, and a fried egg lavishly laid atop an ethereal buttermilk biscuit. The Tugboat enlivens eggs benedict with fried chicken, avocado, poached eggs, and smoked tomato hollandaise served atop those beautiful biscuits.
730 N. Milpas St.; (805) 845-1696; shopbrunch.com
BARBAREÑO: Barbareño brings Central Coast flair to their fried chicken and ranch dish. Inspired by our neighbors in Hidden Valley, where ranch dressing was invented, executive chef Julian Martinez combines fresh herbs, homemade buttermilk, Greek yogurt, and liquid aminos to complement their juicy, high-quality Mary’s chicken. Their luscious carrot purée is served alongside a clever play on carrots and ranch. Start your meal with another ode to regional cuisine: the eggamuffins, with cornmeal blini, seascape mousse, and cured egg yolk. That’s their take on the Egg McMuffin, invented here in Santa Barbara.
205 W. Canon Perdido St.; (805) 963-9591; barbareno.com
BOSSIE’S KITCHEN: First-generation Korean-American Christina Olufson was inspired by her grandmother to create Bossie’s Kitchen’s wildly popular Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich. “I grew up eating homemade Korean food prepared by my grandmother, and it by far remains my absolute favorite to indulge in and is the ultimate comfort food for me,” Olufson said. She and co-owner Lauren Herman came up with the sandwich that includes the perfect interplay of flavors and textures. The organic chicken is perfectly crispy on the outside yet juicy, coated in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce, topped with a refreshing sesame slaw, and piled high on a homemade brioche bun. Finish with a slice of their decadent house-baked chocolate layer cake to really taste the love.
901 N. Milpas St.; (805) 770-1700; bossieskitchen.com
YELLOW BELLY: For a fresh take on the classic, try Yellow Belly’s buttermilk fried chicken sandwich. “Our friend always makes a zesty light slaw for backyard BBQs, so we used that as inspiration to come up with our cabbage, jalapeño, and parsley slaw, using a vinaigrette instead of mayo,” said Tracy Clark, who owns the restaurant with Alex Noormand. Pickled onions are added before it’s sandwiched between their incredible buns from Baker’s Table in Santa Ynez. Pair it with a side of garlic parmesan fries, a Pliny the Elder or Brander Sauvignon Blanc, and gaze up at the sunset-bathed mountains from the patio for a true slice of Santa Barbara comfort.
2611 De la Vina St.; (805) 770-5694; yellowbellytap.com
HELENA AVENUE BAKERY: To boost your morning mood, try Helena Avenue Bakery’s fried chicken breakfast sandwich. “An authentic Southern approach, which takes me directly back to my Texan roots,” said Chef Jason Paluska of what sets it apart. “I have family in Tyler, Texas, and this is how it’s done properly.” Every ingredient is meticulously sourced, from the Wayne Farms chicken thighs to the jalapeño pepper jam and California wildflower honey finish. With black-pepper bacon nestled inside a warm, buttery biscuit, this breakfast dish may have you thinking you’re still in a dream. For the night owls, The Lark next door features Chef de Cuisine Logan Jones’s sophisticated yet playful Southern fried chicken dish with Calabrian chili oil, bread-and-butter pickles, and smoked date caramel.
131 Anacapa St.; (805) 880-3383; helenaavenuebakery.com
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