Good taste: Love and Honey's hot chicken sandwich

The Nashville hot chicken sandwich from Love & Honey.

Good fried chicken is not easy. But a good fried chicken breast sandwich? It might be the hardest of all. With no bone to anchor the lean flesh and keep it juicy, fried chicken sandwiches have ranged in my experience from dry to rubbery to weirdly overbrined, or sealed inside a crust so thick and over-seasoned the chicken inside is incidental. Well, we have a new contender.

Todd and Laura Lyons, the couple behind Love & Honey (“we’ve been grossly in love for years,” Todd says, explaining the name) have put their Culinary Institute of America pedigrees to work to create what I think are easily some of the best fried birds in town at their Northern Liberties storefront, which also specializes in pies. Their traditional fried whole chickens are outstanding, cooked to order and juicy beneath crust that has a buttermilk batter’s ridgy texture without being overly thick, and a light dappling of clover honey to counter the zesty seasoning in the crunch.

Camera icon CRAIG LABAN / Staff
Nashville hot fried chicken sandwich on schmaltz-toasted bun from Love & Honey, 1100 N. Front St.

The chicken sandwiches, however, are especially notable, and not only because they come on brioche buns toasted with schmaltz. These five-ounce Coleman Natural breasts get brined overnight (but not too much), and when they’re cooked to order — a feature that puts a small but worthwhile pause on the “quick-serve” aspect of this concept  — they’re incredibly moist and flavorful inside without being undercooked or salty. You can get the “O.G” version, which comes with spicy slaw, or dial up the heat factor to Love & Honey’s take on Nashville hot chicken, which was my lucky choice. These do not have quite the lip-singeing effect Kevin Sbraga’s Nashville chicken used to have at his dearly departed Fat Ham. But the shine of this spicy oil glaze is fiery enough, blending with the creamy coleslaw and sweet fresh pickle juice to form creamy orange rivulets that ran down my hand every time I took a bite. Is this the best fried chicken sandwich in Philly right now? We have so many options, from Federal Donuts (of course) to the molecular-tech fried chicken sandwich at the new Yards Brewery to the new Redcrest on East Passyunk Avenue I’ve yet to try that it’s almost pointless to say. But Love & Honey’s Nashville heater is good enough that it’s recently graduated to an all-day option from its lunch-only debut. And I’d return for another indulgent schmaltz-toasted fistful of chicken goodness anytime, with a fresh slice of flaky coconut cream pie to celebrate and cool the glow. Because that Southern spice lingers long after that chicken is gone.

— Craig LaBan

Nashville hot chicken sandwich, $7.75, Love & Honey Fried Chicken, 1100 N. Front St., 215-789-7878; loveandhoneyfriedchicken.com

From industry to fried chicken: Love & Honey occupies a century-old building in Northern Liberties where ship engines used to be prepared.