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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shawn Vestal: Some food for thought as you consider your chicken-sandwich budget

I know a place you can get a real good chicken sandwich on Division Street.

They’ve got a drive-thru. You can stay right in your car and everything.

You might have heard of it – it’s been around a while: D.Lish’s. It’s a second-generation Spokane family joint, and it serves mostly hamburgers, but they’ve got a fried chicken sandwich and it’s a good one.

Crispy pieces of chicken on a nice soft bun with a tomato and lettuce. You can also get a version with bacon, and – loath as I am to beat the dead horse of bacon worship – you could do worse than add bacon.

It costs five bucks and change.

So there’s that. You know, if you’re in the market for a chicken sandwich for some reason.

I’ve also had a very solid chicken sandwich at Wolffy’s – a third-generation Spokane diner near Gonzaga where you can also drive thru. Same basic lineup – crispy chicken, tomato, soft bun – and pickle!

Pickle is important.

Chicken sandwiches are good, right? They’re having a moment. We love them. Lots of us have our favorites, and lots of us have been to certain fast-food chain restaurants in other cities that have become famous serving chicken sandwiches, and lots of us thought: Damn. That is a good chicken sandwich.

One of those restaurants just opened here, and I won’t name it because it has already gotten more media attention than the Zags’ COVID report. Mercy. This restaurant has become a kind of culture-war locus – offering what fans and critics might consider a traditional-marriage chicken sandwich – because its ownership has a history of opposing marriage equality.

I am, to the dismay of some of my fellow travelers, not a purist on the question of not eating these sandwiches. I have eaten them in other cities, and liked them, and I will do so again (though I would encourage you, if you must have a chain-restaurant chicken sandwich, to head to Post Falls for the glory of a Popeye’s sandwich.)

But: We have a whole lot of good chicken sandwiches in this town. A whole lot of good chicken sandwiches served at restaurants owned by people who live here, employing people who live here. You could eat a good chicken sandwich at a different local restaurant every day for weeks, if you wanted.

The owners of these restaurants are living through the direst financial pressures of their lives. Some probably won’t make it. Many people who rely on them for jobs are without work, or working less, or hanging fire in a very precarious situations.

Do we want to help the people who own and work at these restaurants? Do we want to help them make it to the other side?

Sometimes a chicken sandwich is more than a chicken sandwich.

We are up to our hips in good, local chicken sandwiches in Spokane. We’ve got fast-food varieties, as I noted, and we’ve got those with more cheffy flair – those that reflect the wonderful richness of our food scene.

Incrediburger, the downtown joint that’s part of Adam Hegsted’s regional food empire, has three great chicken sandwiches – one with Korean flavors, one straight-up Southern version, and a breakfast sandwich.

I would not be the man I am – by which I mean the man with my waist size – if I couldn’t tell you firsthand that each of the three is very good.

I have not had a chicken sandwich at Chicken-N-Mo, mostly because I usually have regular fried chicken there, but I feel confident in vouching for their chicken sandwich, which comes in single or double patty versions.

I have also heard hosannas sung to many others – raves about the sandwich at Logan Tavern and the Jamboni at Hogwash Whiskey Den. No-Li Brewhouse, whose owners, John and Cindy Bryant, are among the most community-minded businesspeople in the city, is said to have a great one, and I believe it.

Wooden City Spokane. Downriver Grill. Cascadia Public House. Lucky You Lounge (which has sadly shuttered for the time being). This is just a brief list of places with sandwiches I have heard or read of others praising. You can do a lot with your chicken-sandwich dollar here. Go a lot of different directions.

There is, for heaven’s sake, a turducken sandwich at Gander and Ryegrass, which makes killer sandwiches. Heck, you’re covered even if you don’t eat chicken at all – Rüt Bar & Kitchen’s fried not-chicken sandwich.

I, however, do eat chicken. So, in honor of Spokane’s big week in chicken, I added another notch to my belt.

I had not tried the chicken sandwiches at Stella’s, which is one of Chef Tony Brown’s spots. I would eat a shoe if Tony Brown put one on a menu, and I want to live in the version of Spokane where he – and all the other creative local chefs and restaurateurs now treading water – can thrive.

So on Wednesday, as the cars were snaking around you-know-what up on Division, I called up Stella’s – but I was too late. Sold out. Good for them.

I called again early Thursday and ordered three: one Nashville Hot Chicken and two Old-Fashioned. I went – without police escort or media coverage – and picked them up and brought them home, where my family and I performed column research.

I didn’t eat all three myself.

But damn. It seemed for a moment like I might have to.

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