2022 BOTV Taste Test: Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Editorial StaffJuly 1, 2022
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Phoenix Mercury sharp-shooter Sophie Cunningham grew up on a farm in Missouri with the expected supper staples: barbecue, corn on the cob and, yes, fried chicken, which makes her the ideal judge for this momentous BOV celebrity food bracket. Universally beloved, fried chicken isn’t especially common as a standalone dish on restaurant menus. But fried chicken sandwiches? They’re everywhere. We presented eight juicy, mouthwatering specimens to the four-year WNBA pro, who managed to taste and evaluate them without dribbling. 

When & Where: Thursday, June 9, at the PHOENIX office. The blind tasting began at 4:12 p.m.

The Rules: For the purpose of a level playing field, “classic” crunchy chicken sammies only; no Nashville-style “hot” versions. And all local. (Sorry, Chick-fil-A!)

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No. 1 

Worth Takeaway 

“Mmm, sweet… kind of a sweet sauce,” the Scottsdale resident says, picking up on the honey sriracha in the ciabatta-encased Mesa offering. “And nice crunch from the pickles… [but] the chicken is a little dry.”

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No. 2

Rocket Burger & Subs

“A potato bun, I like that!” Cunningham enthuses, betraying her Midwestern roots. And that wasn’t all she liked about this come-hither specimen from Glendale: “The chicken is crunchy, but moist… just so good.”

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No. 3

Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles

“Thickums!” Cunningham exclaims upon laying eyes on the aptly named Phat Azz Samich, a monstrous knife-and-fork number crowned with a generous slice of cheddar. “Very good… tender and crispy,” she says after managing a bite.

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No. 4

Eat Up Drive In

“Cute little thing,” our judge gushes – with some relief after the Lo-Lo’s ordeal. “I want to like this, but [the chicken] is just too dry. The taste is good, though.”

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No. 5

The Lola AZ

“It almost looks like a pork tenderloin,” Cunningham says, initially thrown by the Glendale gastropub offering’s rubied appearance. But: “The bread is fluffy, the pickles have good crunch, the chicken is really moist. It could use some cheese, but good.”

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No. 6

Fryd Bird

“Yum,” Cunningham says simply, impressed by the Tempe restaurant’s lunchbox-style “original” sandwich on toasted bread. “I like the cheese, I like the mayo. It’s just got a lot of everything.”

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No. 7

The Hot Chick

Though it specializes in Nashville-style hot chicken, the Scottsdale fast-casual also does a traditional crispy chicken sandwich, and Cunningham is impressed. “It has a simple little look, almost like a fish fillet. I love the proportions, and the relish mayo.”

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No. 8

Ingo’s Tasty Food

“Ooh, a sesame bun,” she coos. “And I see [aioli]. I’m happy so far.” Biting into the award-winning sandwich, she gets happier: “Mmm. That’s good. I hear the crisp [of the sandwich’s signature apple slice].”

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Quarterfinal Winner 

 Rocket Burger & Subs

“100 percent this one!” Cunningham says decisively, handing a surprise victory to the West Valley burger counter over its well-regarded East Valley opponent. 

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Quarterfinal Winner 

Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles

In the end, the Valley soul food institution beats the Arcadia drive-in upstart, on the strength of its substance rather than its girth. “The bun could be a bit bigger, though.”

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Quarterfinal Winner

The Lola AZ

The first true toss-up of the day. “The chicken is better on [the Fryd Bird sandwich], but… the overall flavor and design is just better [on the Lola offering],” she says. 

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Quarterfinal Winner 

The Hot Chick

If this tasting had a No. 1 seed, it was certainly perennial BOV winner Ingo’s, but in the best tradition of March Madness, the Arcadia favorite falls to the Scottsdale underdog. “Just too good to resist,” Cunningham says, singling out the succulent chicken and its crown of saucy slaw.

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Semifinal Winner

Rocket Burger & Subs

“I could eat 10 of these a day,” Cunningham says, her ardor for the Glendale sandwich unfazed after seven other tastings. “When you eat it, it’s such a good combo.”

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Semifinal Winner

The Hot Chick

“That relish-y mayo slaw!” our judge testifies, swayed by the classic condiment favored by pitmasters on their pulled pork sandwiches. She deems Lola’s bird a bit “jerky-ish” after a second pass.

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Champion!

Rocket Burger & Subs

Like teams trading buckets in the final seconds of a hard-fought final, the two sandwiches both see sunlight, but Cunningham ultimately opts for Rocket. “Better, simpler, the potato bun… it’s gotta be this one,” she says of the West Valley’s finest fried chicken. Buzzer, beaten.

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