My relationship with chicken is...complicated. As a child, when my mother went back to work, and my father was suddenly the chef for two young children, easy pan-fried chicken breasts and boiled vegetables became a nightly staple in my childhood. Once I was old enough to control my own diet it took years for the chicken to enter my grocery list or even culinary interests.
But everything changed after I ate a crispy chicken sandwich on a curious whim a few years ago. Now, I can’t get enough of them. As for Stephanie Lloyd, the Creative Director of Totally Boise, the classic crispy sandwich has been one of her all-time favorites for years to count.
Together, we are taking on a big task. Eating our way around the Treasure Valley and beyond to find the best chicken sandwich in Idaho.
What Makes A Chicken Sandwich the “Best”?
While food remains one of the most subjective experiences on the planet, I feel passionate about the 6 standards that make a crispy chicken sandwich the epitome of perfect. I will be judging the sandwiches on a scale of 1 - 6, 6 being a perfect score~
Buns - To hold the entire sandwich together, should be two, white bread or brioche sandwich buns, lightly toasted. They should not be too thick, and be the main filler, but also should not be so thin that the sandwich turns into a strange sort of depressing salad.
Sauce - My sauce or condiment of choice is typically mayonnaise, but in many cases, I have found that the house-made sauce can also be a beautiful and welcomed addition. The key is that there IS sauce, otherwise it would be almost impossible for the sandwich to not be dry.
Pickles - These are an absolute MUST. Sliced in no thicker than quarter-inch pieces and in the dill flavor adds a bite of fresh vinegar kick to balance out the other ingredients.
Cheese - This ingredient I judge on a case-by-case basis. I’ve had wonderful crispy chicken sandwiches both with and without cheese added. In my opinion, if cheese is added, I find the best option is Swiss. Its earthy tang blends well with the mix of pickles and chicken especially.
Chicken - The main attraction! Deep-fried and golden brown, crispy chicken remains my favorite and only chicken product that I will consume. The batter should be flakey, giving the crust a satisfying crunch, and keeping the meat below juicy. When you take a bite, the meat should almost fall apart, shredding easily between your teeth.
Spice - Another new element in my diet is spices and hot sauces. Now one of my favorite flavors is Buffalo or any hot oil. Some heat is always welcomed on a chicken sandwich in my book. Something that makes my forehead sweat and nose drip, an odd but common request.
And for you vegetarians, don’t fret. I will be seeking out meatless and vegan alternatives from across Idaho to give you an equally truthful review and search for the best chicken sandwich in the Treasure Valley.
Chicken Sandwiches Tested in The Treasure Valley
State Street Kitchen and Drinkery
Boise Hot Chicken Sandwich - This new State Street business took a stab on the southern classic, the Hot Chicken Sandwich. Between a hot, butter brioche bun from Gaston’s bakery, the sandwich comes with a whole chicken breast that isn’t flattened, which is then double-dipped in the mixture of buttermilk batter, fried and then drudged through their secret hot oil sauce. The chicken is topped with aioli and dill pickle slices.
This was a measurement in just how far I’ve come in training my tastebuds to welcome spicy because HOLY MOLE is this chicken sandwich HOT! Upon the first bite, I sank into a wonderful blur of spicy visions and a sublime of tender chicken. Loyal customers were seated next to me, eating the same Hot Chicken and working through the sweats together. They told me they try to come once a week to eat the State Street Kitchen & Drinkery’s take on a Hot Chicken Sandwich, and I can see why. This sandwich hit every mark for me with a crisp and natural blend of chicken, pickles, aioli, spices, and flakey fresh buns.
Score: A hot 6/6!
Tavern at Eagle Island
Fried Chicken Sandwich - Having been in business in the Treasure Valley for over 15 years, the Tavern restaurants are a much loved Treasure Valley restaurant. The sandwich comes with pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, a healthy stack of sliced dill pickle chips, shredded lettuce, red onions, a buttermilk fried chicken breast and served between a brioche bun. Stephanie regarded that the number of toppings really made the sandwich excellent. So while the fried chicken breast was a tad bland, the toppings made it extra tasty!
The pickles, onions, and lettuce had a pleasant crunch that makes the crispy chicken sandwich so enjoyable when married with a tender piece of chicken. For those of you who are seeking a tame, non-spicy dried chicken sandwich, this option at the Tavern is perfect for you. Stephanie noted that the sandwich was not spicy, making it a great option for sensitive tastebuds. Loaded with flavorsome ingredients, you’re going to want both hands ready to grip onto this crispy, buttery, finger-licking goodness. You can stop at The Tavern in either Bown Crossing, Eagle Island, or in the Owyhee in downtown Boise.
Score: A yummy 4/6
Chicken Sandwich - Westside Drive-In is a Boise Classic. Their high quality of ingredients and uber-friendly staff make this carnival and 50s-themed restaurant a must-try. Before I was handed their Chicken Sandwich by the head chef and son of the owner, Chef Josh, he warned me, “people can’t go back to Chick-fil-A after they eat this.” Enthusiastically, I hurried to reveal the sandwich swaddled in the white paper wrapping. With both hands, I found between a classic white bun with sesame seeds, a thick helping of chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, plenty of mayo, and a substantially sized fried chicken breast. The chicken itself was equally as thick as the other toppings. That mixture of textures - the juicy yet crackling chicken and crunchy vegetables - creates a delicious bite that does just what Chef Josh promised. Never again could I ever accept a meager attempt from Chick-fil-A when I know that this sandwich exists.
To this day, I still daydream back to that first bite. The true champion of this sandwich was the large portion of chicken. With each bite, the tender meat pulled apart from the rest of the sandwich seamlessly. The batter encasing that magical chicken breast had become a sturdy crust, packed full of seasoning. Guy Fieri missed out, but you sure don’t need to. Take some time to sit in line and try this life-changing chicken sandwich for yourself.
Score: A Flavor-licious 6/6
Reviews coming soon:
- Lucky Fins
- Edge Brewing
- Boi Bites at Telaya Wine Co.
If you’re a Crispy Chicken Sandwich lover like me, I’d love to hear where to try next in the Treasure Valley. Send an email of your favorite Chicken Sandwich to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make sure it’s the next stop on our tour to find the best crispy chicken sandwich in the Treasure Valley.