It was supposed to be the golden-fried era of the chicken sandwich.
Back in February, Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton declared that "We've Officially Reached Peak Fried Chicken Sandwich Mania." He was late to the party in Portland, which has seen a slew of high-profile new shops.
And yet, until last week, I thought the best in the area was (gulp) Chick-fil-freakin'-A. Then I tried Basilisk—named after the legendary chicken monster made famous by Harry Potter.
Taking over the Rua space—it has the same owner, and the guy running food is still wearing a Rua hoodie—at the Zipper food court on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, this coop serves a towering fried chicken sandwich ($8) with a crisp crust and drippy, juicy flesh. It gets a few bright pickled cucumbers made in-house and a butter-kissed bun. The whole thing gets stabbed with a steak knife, and the finished thing is too tall to stand steadily on its own. Pair it with a bag of sturdy, salty fries—they're twice-fried, absorbing enough oil to have the heft of a gummy worm, meaning the $3 paper sack weighs about as much as a softball and will feed three.
The other thing Basilisk does pretty well, and which no one else has bettered, is the hot chicken ($8). I ordered mine extra-super-duper hot, hoping for an approximation of the stuff you get in Music City—it wasn't, but the dark maroon sauce does offer a sample of the creeping heat. It's the right drug, if not the right dosage. That platter also offers a hefty portion, pretty much covering two slabs of Texas toast. You can douse the heat with the house's Kool-Aid-flavored soft-serve—on my visit, greenish mixed berry with a soft sugariness.
What not to get? The airy fried tofu sandwich ($7). The silky tofu isn't pressed long and hard enough to have a texture resembling meat, and loses half its batter on the first bite.
If you want a vegetarian sandwich, there's already a great french-fry po'boy next door at Bywater Grocery.
EAT: Basilisk, 820 NE 27th Ave., 503-234-7151. 11 am-10 pm daily.