Where to Find the Best Fried Chicken in San Francisco
From classic Southern-style to Korean fried chicken, here’s where to nab SF’s best birds.
Fried chicken is perhaps one of the best comfort foods to exist, ranked right up there with burgers, bbq, and burritos. First of all, it’s fried. Second, it tastes good piping hot, room temp at a picnic, or leftover and straight out of the fridge. It’s got the perfect mix of textures so that every bite is utterly satisfying. And lucky us, since we live in SF, we can get the best of the best served in a ton of ways, including classic Southern-style, dry fried with Chinese spices, Korean-style, at a fancy restaurant, out of a bucket, and even at a gas station in the heart of the Mission.
Brenda's Meat & Three
One of the best parts of any soul food dinner is the the sides that come with, or as chef Brenda (who grew up on the west bank of New Orleans) calls it, “and three.” The restaurant puts out tasty options that make it hard to choose just three (but since we often have to, our faves are the Cheese Grits, Cream Biscuit, and Andouille Cornbread Dressing). Of course, the real star of the plate is Brenda’s Spicy Fried Chicken, which has the perfect crunch and comes with a side of hot pepper jelly.
How to book: Reserve a table indoors or in the parklet. Order for takeout on Toast or delivery on Caviar.
Anyone who has ever looked down on SF’s “Frisco” nickname will quickly change their mind after getting a taste of the Lemon Pepper Fried Chicken at this soul food spot owned by a San Francisco native. The recipe is his grandfather’s and is definitely the thing to order; we like to get ours with a side of mac n’ cheese and garlic noodles.
How to book: Walk-ins only.
The Front Porch
When dining at The Front Porch, we pretend like we’re “civilized” and order the cornmeal-crusted four-piece fried chicken dinner plate with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy and ham hock collards paired with one of the funky restaurant’s delicious cocktails. When we’re feeling slightly less civilized (or if an edible is in our future), we get a ten-piece bucket and brown-bagged beignets to take home and feast on our couch, opting for paper towels instead of plates. Either way is absolutely the exact correct way to do it.
How to book: Reserve a table on Yelp. Order takeout here.
Hard Knox Cafe
We thoroughly appreciate the option to get our fried chicken atop a waffle, and one of our fave spots to do just that is Hard Knox Cafe, which offers its perfectly crispy and golden brown fried chicken atop a buttermilk Belgian waffle. You can get the chicken regular or spicy, but we prefer spicy.
How to book: Reservations are available for the Outer Richmond location only. Order for pickup or delivery on ChowNow.
Hot Sauce and Panko
The reason you’re getting wings from Hot Sauce and Panko is all in the name—each order of panko-crusted chicken wings is hand-coated in hot sauce. But what kind of hot sauce is up to you. There are over 20 options, including chili lime fish sauce, barbeque and hot buffalo sauce, cilantro, jalapeno, and ginger, a Jamaican jerk rub, peanut sauce… basically whatever your wing-loving heart desires, you’ll find it at this spot.
How to book: Walk-ins only. This is primarily a takeout spot but there are two standing tables.
This mini fast casual Bay Area chain is one of our faves for those Sunday mornings when Saturday night was a little crazier than planned and the only thing that’s gonna fix that is a delivery of fried chicken. All of the chicken is Mary’s free range organic and you can get it fried or flipped (slow-roasted rotisserie). Obviously, we get it fried. Technically, twice-fried since after the bird sits in a rosemary-lemon brine for 24 hours, it’s fried at a low temp and then a higher one for a perfectly crispy and flaky crunch that stays that way even factoring in delivery time. The entree comes with one leg, one thigh, half a breast, a buttermilk biscuit, honey butter, and a tomato cucumber salad. We prefer ours on the hearth-baked roll with mayo, spicy slaw, and a side of sage potato chips.
How to book: Counter service, walk-ins only. Order for pickup or delivery online.
San Tung Chinese Restaurant 山東小館 (San Tung Chinese Restaurant)
It’s worth the wait for the best dry-fried chicken wings in all of SF and possibly the world. Probably there’s some sort of actual magic that makes these sweet and spicy wings so crave-worthy, but other than that, it’s something about the combination of the insane amount of crispiness paired with a sticky red pepper, garlic, and ginger sauce with the perfect amount of heat.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Order takeout online.
We love Toyose’s Korean fried chicken no matter what time of day we indulge, but the fact that it’s available until 11 pm on weekdays and 1 am on weekends is a true gift that makes the fried chicken—served as a whole chicken or spicy chicken wings—even more delicious.
How to book: Walk-ins only. Call 415-731-0232 for takeout or get delivery via Uber Eats.
“Umma” means “mom” in Korean, and the restaurant’s menu pays homage to that style of home cooking. The menu has lots of comforting fare, including kimchi fried rice bowls and jjigae (Korean stew), but you simply cannot dine at um.ma and not get the fried chicken wings which are glazed in citrus gochujang, honey butter, and ginger sesame soy for a sweet and spicy kick with a side of umami.
How to book: Reserve an indoor or patio table on Tock.
Chef Tyler Florence’s signature buttermilk-brined fried chicken is the fanciest fried chicken on this list (and probably the most famous since it’s received national accolades). What makes this chicken so spectacular that hundreds of people order it every day? Something about the fact that the chicken is baked on low heat first and the garlic and herb-infused oil it’s fried in. This chicken absolutely lives up to the hype.
How to book: Order for pickup or delivery on Toast.
Krispy Krunchy Chicken
SF isn’t really a gas station food kinda town but just trust us when we tell you to make an exception for this mega chain’s Southern-style fried chicken, which is consistently everything you want: perfectly seasoned and juicy, with crunchy skin. Plus, you can get a whole meal for under $10.
How to book: It’s inside of a convenience store, so needless to stay, it’s walk-ins only. Or you can get it delivered from most of the major apps.