Spicy New Orleans-style chicken burgers and wings

There are no burgers at Ace Burger, a tiny restaurant on Valley Boulevard on the same block as Pepe’s Finest Mexican Food. But there is a small menu of New Orleans-style chicken burgers and chicken wings.

The chicken burger isn’t the chicken burger you’re probably thinking of. No minced meat is used in the production. It’s essentially a fried chicken sandwich constructed like the cheapest version of a fast food hamburger: a breaded and fried chicken thigh placed on a plain bun with mayonnaise and iceberg lettuce.

“It’s a Chinese-style chicken burger,” explains Ace Burger owner Kai Jiang. He opened the Alhambra restaurant three years ago and has since added another location in Irvine.

“You know the chicken sandwiches at Popeye’s, McDonald’s and KFC?” he says. “It’s different. “It’s something that’s very popular in China.”

The Chinese chicken burger is a sandwich served in a particular style of restaurant that I’ve been seeing popping up in the San Gabriel Valley recently. Typically, it’s a fast-casual restaurant with a menu that includes chicken burgers, popcorn chicken, something called “New Orleans-Style Chicken,” and some other fried delicacies (mozzarella sticks, squid rings, fries, etc.). .

Macho burger

The Macho Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Macho Burger in San Gabriel.

(Jenn Harris/Los Angeles Times)

Nowhere is the chicken burger trend more evident than in the three-story shopping center next to the San Gabriel Hilton, where you’ll find two chicken burger restaurants on the ground floor.

Macho Burger is a chain with multiple locations in California including Arcadia, San Gabriel, Rowland Heights and Sunnyvale. It’s not the restaurant with a similar name in China, which was forced to close after slim waiters flexed their muscles, fed women mouth-to-mouth and danced provocatively.

San Gabriel Macho Burger is a small fast-casual restaurant with a bright red and yellow logo that evokes an American fast food vibe. The brand’s mascot is a cartoon character with strong arms, wearing a red tank top, sunglasses and a baseball cap with a top that looks like a sesame seed bun. The word “steroids” tends to come to mind, but steroid burger doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

The menu includes chicken burgers, large fried chicken cutlets (like the extra large cutlets you find at an Asian night market), a so-called tender beef wrap, which looks like a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme but with sliced ​​steak, fried Fish sandwiches, a macho cheeseburger that’s actually a beef patty, and grilled Orleans wings (more on that later).

The Macho Burger Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich is served on a soft, golden potato bun. It’s a hefty sandwich with a huge chicken leg that’s significantly larger in circumference than the bun. The meat is juicy, salty and a little stringy, with a thick, craggy crust seasoned with an excessive amount of black pepper. Although it’s advertised as spicy, it has about as much kick as a jar of mild salsa.

Chickii Fried Chicken

Signature Spicy Chicken Burger from Chickii Fried Chicken in San Gabriel.

(Jenn Harris/Los Angeles Times)

On the north side of the square is Chickii Fried Chicken, another restaurant offering chicken burgers, chicken wings, large fried chicken cutlets, chicken wraps and mozzarella sticks. Chickii also advertises durian pizza and Macau-style egg tarts, but neither was available when I visited.

The spicy chicken burger is served on a slightly dry sesame seed bun. It consists of two chicken thighs that don’t quite line up on the sandwich, so the whole thing falls apart after about three bites. The chicken is moist enough and well fried, but has no flavor other than the searing heat of what looked like chili powder crusted under the skin.

MBL&Q Burgers

MBL&Q Burger’s mascot is featured on the restaurant’s menu.

(Jenn Harris/Los Angeles Times)

MBL & Q Burger is located in the back of a food court in a Rowland Heights strip mall on Colima Road. I’ve found other places that seem related in Philadelphia and New York, but only one in Southern California. The restaurant’s mascot is an angry, screaming burger with four limbs.

How do I know the burger screams? His eyebrows are raised alarmingly and his mouth is wide open. He also holds a spoon in one hand and a pot of rice in the other. He’s wearing a bow tie and has all the makings of a line of cute Angry Burger Man merch.

Like the other chicken burger restaurants, you’ll find chicken burgers, a short list of other fried delicacies, and “New Orleans fried chicken.” But the menu appears to be broader, with crab, shrimp and fish burgers, grilled fishball skewers, nori-wrapped fried chicken rice balls and so-called chicken enchiladas, which look like fried chicken squares.

The MBL&Q chicken burger has a strange artificial cheese powder smell that doesn’t quite penetrate the actual flavor of the chicken. The coating is pale rather than golden, but still crispy and the bun is soft, fresh and free of sesame seeds. It’s a well-oiled sandwich with a sweet mayonnaise spread and topped with iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato.

Ace Burger

The spicy chicken burger from Ace Burger in Alhambra.

(Jenn Harris/Los Angeles Times)

I stumbled upon Ace Burger by chance while eating at another restaurant nearby. I googled the name and found out that it was another chicken burger restaurant (with a quote from Guy Fieri in the “About” section of the website).

“I grew up in China eating hamburgers that taste like that,” Jiang said during a recent visit. “I prefer the taste of American hamburgers, so I opened this place.”

Jiang’s Spicy Chicken Burger has the distinct fast-food flavor of warm iceberg lettuce in mayonnaise and the weight of a double cheeseburger. It’s served on your standard seeded hamburger bun, nicely toasted on both sides.

His chicken is juicier than the versions above, with hints of soy and white pepper in what Jiang calls his “secret marinade.” The coating is jagged, crispy and flavorful. It’s generous with the shredded lettuce and mayonnaise.

The New Orleans-style chicken wings from Ace Burger in Alhambra.

(Jenn Harris/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s more of a Shanghai flavor because I’m from Shanghai,” he says. “But it’s a secret.”

At Ace Burger, I finally broke down and ordered the New Orleans-style chicken wings that I had discovered at a few other chicken burger restaurants. “In China they call it New Orleans style,” says Jiang. “But I do not know why.”

The chicken wings are coated with a slightly sweet glaze that is reminiscent of barbecue sauce.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, KFC China took credit for inventing New Orleans wings more than two decades ago. Tyson Foods makes New Orleans-style wings available at members-only outlet stores in China, and Jiang says it’s a popular food found in restaurants across the country.

I didn’t get much New Orleans energy from the wings, but I wish I had a cup of ranch.

Where do you get a chicken burger?

Ace Burger, 525 W. Valley Blvd. Ste. b, Alhambra, (626) 766-1967, aceburger.net/menu/57602933

Macho Burger, 227 W. Valley Blvd. Ste. 108-B, San Gabriel, 626) 766-1766

CHICKII, 227 W Valley Blvd #168A, San Gabriel, (626) 747-4747

MLB&Q Burger, 18457 Colima Rd., Rowland Heights, (909) 696-1133, www.mengbaolaica.com

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