Fried chicken on a bun seems pretty basic. So why is a truly tasty example so scarce? Diligent searching eventually led us to these two beauties with toppings that elevate them to hand-held splendor.
MRK Public (above)
1402 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente,
➜ The meat is steeped in buttermilk and Frank’s RedHot sauce, then coated in flour, masa, and Old Bay Seasoning, for a craggy, flavorful crust. ($12)
➜ Buttery and finely textured, the brioche bun from Bread Artisan Bakery keeps things together with a hint of refinement.
➜ Herby buttermilk dressing and sliced tomato provide a chord of acidity that balances the crunchy-but-succulent chicken
➜ A rasher of applewood-smoked bacon adds porky spunk and extra flavor, and leafy romaine lends just the right vegetal crunch.
2920 Bristol St., Costa Mesa,
➜ Herbed oil marinates the chicken before its buttermilk bath. Then it’s dredged in seasoned flour before the final dive into the fryer. ($14)
➜ A faintly sweet, sturdy egg bun from OC Baking Company carries this flavor bomb’s considerable heft and helps keep it from exploding in your grasp.
➜ Thick, toothy Daily’s bacon is the smoky bass note that adds some welcome richness to this chicken breast’s delicate flavor.
➜ Full-flavored cheddar adds reinforcement; house-made ranch dressing keeps it moist and tangy without turning the crunchy chicken soggy.
MRK Public’s polished composition wins, and we’re not surprised it’s a bestseller with San Clemente diners.