SF Chickenbox’s Fried Chicken Sandwiches Are a Love Letter to San Francisco

Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
January 11, 2024

SF Chickenbox at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. From left to right: Pedro, Jordan, Amanda, and Christian.

SF Chickenbox’s chef and owner, Christian Ciscle, named his business after two things he vehemently loves, the “Sucka Free City” of San Francisco and the uncomplicated deliciousness of perfectly crisp fried chicken. 

With a clear vision for an easy-to-love menu, Christian started SF Chickenbox in 2019 and has since navigated the challenges of a changing San Francisco landscape. In 2023, SF Chickenbox joined the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, where Christian continues to share his love of all things fried chicken and build relationships with Bay Area neighbors.

SF Chickenbox's signature halal fried chicken sandwich

Cooking in San Francisco’s Soul Food Scene

Fried chicken is the food that Christian knows best. He’s from Baltimore, where he fondly recalls being able to find a good chicken box “almost at every corner.” In San Francisco, he worked as a chef at different Soul and Southern food restaurants for over a decade, including Little Skillet, Blue Jay Cafe, and Farmerbrown. He also takes inspiration from other restaurants, including Bistro Aix, J’s Pots of Soul, and Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement.

While Christian was fixing orders of chicken and waffles, he was also cooking up a plan for his own business. “I’d always wanted to do something just focused on fried chicken,” Christian explains. “I wanted to have a very simple concept. Fried chicken seems like a universal food for all different kinds of people.” 

In 2019, SF Chickenbox came to fruition, starting as a pop-up in the back of a bar on Folsom. Then, the early pandemic years were marked by moving from temporary space to temporary space. Toward the end of 2022, Christian and his close-knit team settled into their permanent location in North Beach, at 464 Broadway. 

In all its forms, SF Chickenbox represents the same keystone concept: a simple menu that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. “We try to be accessible to everybody, with the food that we make, how we price it, and how we treat people, including ourselves and our customers,” says Christian. Everything on SF Chickenbox’s menu is made fresh, halal, and allergy-friendly.

SF Chickenbox's original chicken box with fried chicken, pickles, coleslaw, and a butter mochi muffin
SF Chickenbox’s original chickenbox. Photo by SF Chickenbox.

Keeping It Simple with Irresistible Fried Chicken

SF Chickenbox’s signature fried chicken sandwich is a mouthwatering masterpiece. Each bite of the generous piece of chicken, hugged by the softest hamburger bun, is so juicy and tender that it wipes away any memories you might have of dry poultry experiences. It’s complemented but not overpowered by a tangy and sweet housemade Creole-style remoulade sauce and a touch of crisp lettuce. (Heat lovers can add an original habanero sauce at their own risk.)

Christian insists that there’s “no secret sauce,” but he admits that freshness plays a part in why their fried chicken is so tantalizing that it’s made it onto the San Francisco Chronicle’s list of best in the city and Eater SF’s picks. The sandwiches are made-to-order at SF Chickenbox’s farmers market stand. Before frying, the chicken breasts  are brined with kosher salt to help with flavor and moisture retention. Then, a light flour coating just barely fuses to the chicken before a quick turn in the fryer transforms it into a thin, flaky crust. 

For those enjoying SF Chickenbox at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Christian adds that cooking and eating the chicken outside enriches the chicken. “Everything is bomb when you get it at the shop. But there’s just something about eating this outside. It tastes better outside,” he says.

You can also pair one of their signature fried chicken sandwiches with housemade sides like creamy macaroni or potato salad and crunchy coleslaw and pickles. For something sweet, try a chewy mochi muffin on the side in the original butter flavor or rotating flavors like mango, coconut, and ube. Christian first tried Hawaiian butter mochi in Japantown, and it inspired him to riff on the cornbread you might expect alongside fried chicken.

Two of SF Chickenbox's mochi muffins, one pandan and one ube flavored

Navigating a Pandemic-Impacted Restaurant Climate

SF Chickenbox made its debut just months before the start of the pandemic. “Going through the different phases of the pandemic was insane,” says Christian. In the first year of the pandemic, 546 restaurants in San Francisco closed, and those remaining are adapting to a changing restaurant scene.

Since the days of shelter-in-place, the impact of food delivery apps has felt somewhere between a savior and a scourge for small restaurants like SF Chickenbox. On one hand, they were a power tool for businesses to continue operation when indoor dining was disallowed; however, they notoriously take up to 30% commission for each order

“It’s all a challenge,” Christian says. “Day to day, it’s still about survival. The city has changed so much. Even before we opened the business, this city was incredibly difficult for small businesses and restaurants, nearly impossible.” 

Deepening a Love for San Francisco at the Farmers Market

Unsurprisingly, small business owners like Christian often prefer direct-to-consumer business. In 2023, he fulfilled a long-time dream of joining the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. “The farmers markets help us a lot because we serve a lot of people in a smaller amount of time, and we’re doing business directly, not through delivery apps,” he says.

Even though farmers markets are demanding, Christian says that Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are the best days of the week. Meeting customers in person isn’t just good for business, but it affirms what it’s all about: the people of San Francisco.

“I did say how difficult the city was, but there’s something that keeps us all here, trying to make it work,” says Christian. “All the people around us, the different businesses, artists, musicians, all the creative people, the activists, they’re super inspiring to us. We’re very, very fortunate to still be here.”

Enjoy SF Chickenbox at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays (back plaza) and Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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