Where's the beef? It got scared off by the flocks of chicken coops taking real estate in Orange County. You may think we're joking, but we were surprised by what a difference a year makes. If you feel like chicken tonight, look no further than our roundup.
McFadden Public Market - Santa Ana
Rooster Republic's Nashville Hot Chicken: A balanced blend of heat and sweet, they're taking flight with this spicy take on our fine feathered friend. Order it in Medium, Hot, Wild or Intense. And throw in some mashed potatoes with red gravy for good measure. Insider tip: If breakfast is more your thing, then order Rooster's hot chicken biscuit (served only on weekends). 515 N Main St, (714) 850-0241; www.eatroosterrepublic.com.
Lot 579 - Huntington Beach
Southern Fried Chicken Biscuit Sandwich from Burnt Crumbs: Available all day, every day, this handy meal is all about that country gravy. Then we get pulled in by Sriracha honey and garlic potato spread. One of many choices that'll have you needing a nap right after, the Burnt family does chicken right. If you can't make it out to HB, you have a second chance in Irvine's Los Olivos plaza. 21058 Pacific Coast Hwy, (714) 374-0777; www.burntcrumbs.com.
Anaheim Packing House
Sweetbird's Chef-Driven Fried Chicken Sandwiches: Our newest entry is found on the first floor of Packing House (R.I.P. Vitaly). A trio of flavors include a Citrus (Our favorite!), Smokey and their Original Sweetbird. Imagine a hot, honey-glazed fried chicken on custom OC Baking Company bread and crunchy slaw tossed to-order. Now after you wipe the drool off, be sure to include a side of crisp smashed potatoes with your meal. Future iterations of the Sweetbird will offer multiple heat levels to choose from. 440 S Anaheim Blvd, Ste 107, (714) 905-9832; www.eatsweetbird.com.
Union Market - Tustin
The Kroft's Country Fried Chicken Poutine: While their Fried Chicken Sandwich is one of the standout menu items, there's definitely something to be said for nuggets of meat layered over cheese curds and fries. Then again, their Japanese Katsu Curry version has togarashi and radish (Who are we kidding? We heart katsu curry!) Originating in Anaheim, Kroft brought its goodness and beer taps to Tustin. Now we never have to drive near the Orange Crush to get our fix. 2493 Park Ave, Ste 2, (714) 259-1132; www.thekroft.com.
4th Street Market - Santa Ana
Wingman Kitchen's Main Chicks: These finger-licking good wings are spiced to-order and come in 6, 10 or 15 piece batches. The fan favorite is their Cluckin' Good style (sweet garlic soy). For something different, order the Buff Chick infused with Sriracha. Just don't rub your eyes afterwards. 201 E 4th St, (714) 486-0700; www.4thstreetmarket.com/wingman.
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TRADE - Irvine
Mac & Cheese Fried Chicken Burrito at Two Birds: An off-menu item, their picture speaks a thousand words. It's exactly what it sounds like. We're pretty sure you can request your bird grilled or fried, but you already know the right answer to that question. We think it's good use of our lunch money. Hint: Sauce your bird with both their signature sauces and bottles of heat! 2222 Michelson Dr, Ste 216, (949) 932-0420; www.twobirdsrestaurant.com.
The OC Mix - Costa Mesa
Eggslice's Chicken Schnitzel: A chicken dance isn't complete without our new favorite brekkie at The OC Mix. Toasted, buttery brioche is slathered with Bill's chilli jam mayo. An over medium egg sits atop panko-crusted chicken breast. What's not to love? Served on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings inside Shuck. Taste what you've been missing out on. 3313 Hyland Ave, (714) 912-2492; www.eggslice.com.