What’s with all the people milling around The Runaway? They’ve come for Korean-style fried chicken—in sandwiches, rice bowls, and served straight up with a compulsory pile of napkins. In this context Korean doesn’t imply spicy (that’s what the sauces are for), but rather a delicate, shattering crust. It’s more akin to a Pringle, in the best possible way. Chef Brian O’Connor is a veteran of Skillet Diner and Roux, as evidenced by Bok a Bok’s perfect biscuits. But the rest of the counter-service menu nods hard to the East, like a chicken sandwich with yuzu aioli and charred Korean chilies alongside the requisite spears of pickle or kimchi mac and cheese. First opening in White Center 2016, Bok a Bok has since expanded to the Capitol Hill counter, and, more recently, a second proper restaurant in Burien.
What started as a popular food truck back in 2015 later settled into a permanent home inside The Woods—a tasting room shared by Two Beers Brewing, Seattle Cider, and Sound Seltzer. The gastropub-vibe remains, and a roomier kitchen space means a more expansive menu than on the truck (rest assured the classic circus burger, piled high with bacon, white American cheese, and pickled red onion, remains). Hearty options include a pork belly reuben and vegan burger, but it's the apps we're after, like gnocchi tots, duckfat popcorn, gochujang chicken wings, and blueberry cheesecake churros.
Windy City Pie was the best deep dish in town—until it spun off this destination for sourdough-crust pies inside Beacon Hill’s Clock-Out Lounge. It’s all that crisped cheese goodness, now with a saltier, slightly tangy crust, a style that hovers somewhere between Chicago and Detroit. The Pepperoni Paint Job, with its dual layers of meat, is a great introduction, but owner Dave Lichterman’s experimental specials, like a slice inspired by biscuits and gravy, are bizarre and wonderful.
The mega popular fleet of taco trucks went full brick-and-mortar back in 2013 with a cheerful spot in Ballard, and more recently a counter inside Fremont brewery Hale's. The new Leary Way counter comes at a good time too, as the Ballard restaurant recently shuttered to make way for an apartment building. It’s mostly the same menu as the trucks—now with more platos and fried tacos dorados. It’s hard to go wrong with the massive burritos and careful tacos, especially when they can be taken to-go or devoured at the bar with a Supergoose IPA.
In the walk-up window space formerly home to Neon Taco (inside Capitol Hill bar Nacho Borracho), Ricardo Valdez fuses Mexico and the Pacific Northwest. El Xolo focuses, like its predecessor, on tacos, with digressions into things like nachos, California burritos (french fries inside), or tlayudas (an Oaxacan dish similar to a quesdilla). The corn comes from Central Mexico and is ground daily to make fresh tortillas, which are then filled with ingredients sourced largely from local farms: meat from Anderson Ranch in Oregon, Alvarez Farms chiles fermented into hot sauces, foraged nettles, steelhead, maybe some beans from Willowood Farm.
The Ma'ono fried chicken sandwich—you know, that perfectly seasoned, spicy concoction on the oversize King’s Hawaiian bun—can now be found at counters inside the Capitol Hill and University Village outposts of Rachel's Ginger Beer. For a guy who established his career in fine dining, Mark Fuller is really good at making pragmatic decisions feel fun (see also: his newer full-service spots, Supreme and New Luck Toy). Setting up shop inside readymade spaces, with a built-in customer base, helps the bottom line, he allows. But his sandwiches are destination worthy in their own right, a labor-intensive sequence of both dry and buttermilk brines, Japanese-inflected seasoning, and a fiery lard paste reminiscent of Nashville-style hot chicken. Even the mild version is piquant; the extra-hot iteration has its own masochistic fan base.
Georgetown's Side Hustle Doughnuts has a kind of symbiotic relationship with Lowercase—the brewery isn't just home to the mini doughnut shop, but also provides an essential ingredient for the freshly fried goods: spent-grain from beer. That Side Hustle takes a "waste" product of the beer-making process and repurposes it carries over into the packaging too, with mini doughnuts presented in (compostable) egg cartons and cold brews in mason jars. Outside those environmentally friendly quirks, it's a no-nonsense spot for doughnuts and coffee, with flavors like raspberry cream, chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon sugar, and coffee cream, plus americanos, horchata lattes, and Mexican mochas. Get there early; these doughnuts move fast.
In the midst of a fried chicken revolution, sometimes toppings like crunchy cabbage slaw and pickles camouflage sad, dry, overfried chicken, but not here: Dimas fries thighs, not breasts. Each sandwich contains two pieces, threatening escape from the bun with each bite, but the juicy meat and crispy crust make the extra mess and effort totally worthwhile. The menu balances Southern overtures (fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, pimento cheese) with a beautiful wedge salad and the decidedly nontraditional General Tso sandwich. After departing its original home inside Rachel’s Ginger Beer, Monica Dimas's Sunset Fried Chicken Sandwiches has since resurfaced inside Capitol Hill's Queer/Bar (and a Sea-Tac location is forthcoming too).