When a Feast reader emailed to recommend a fried chicken sandwich, it piqued my interest. Mostly because at mere whisper of the words “fried chicken,” I’ll develop a craving. However, the description of this sandwich proved especially tempting: fried chicken breast topped with smoked gouda, pickles, and fried lemon slices.
3225 Business Park Dr., Vista
The maker of this $9.95 sandwich is one Carlsbad Ranch Market. And as my first attempt to find the sandwich taught me, it’s not the original one, a little shop down the road from the Carlsbad Flower Fields. This sandwich is a specialty of Carlsbad Ranch Market & Grill, a newer location in Vista that opened late last year with a larger footprint and a bigger kitchen.
Though not as comprehensive as a supermarket, the shop offers an appealing selection of produce and gourmet foodstuffs. It is not a hundred percent devoted to local products, but there’s an effort to support homegrown vendors. The seasonal produce section included locally grown oranges, dried sage, and Maui sweet onions. The drinks cooler featured plenty of local brews, including bottles of Turquoise Barn Cider, made and bottled in Ramona, and canned beers from breweries within a few-mile radius, such as Carlsbad’s Rouleur Brewing Company and Vista’s Helia Brewing, which has been open barely seven months.
You’ve gotta admire such home-team support. And the sample of cold pressed in-house watermelon juice offered at the deli counter when I ordered my sandwich. Cold pressing juice requires a lot of fruit, so $4.99 for 12-ounces of cold pressed juice is a good value, considering many charge $7 and up. But for $5.69 I set my eyes on the winning spicy root juice blend: beet, carrot, lemon, jalapeño, ginger, and turmeric.
I picked up a bottle and continued browsing the shop until staff let me know my sandwich was ready. There’s a dining room in back, but the sun was out, so I hit the pergola-covered patio, a pleasant outdoor space framed by stone walls and succulent plants.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t initially impressed by the side of potato chips served with my sandwich, but the house-fried chips turned out to be about as good a potato chips get. They were better than a lot of french fries I’ve eaten this year, and good enough to distract me from the fried chicken.
Served on a toasted bun, the crispy, battered-fried chicken was well seasoned with paprika, cayenne pepper, and more. The smoked gouda and fried lemon helped it feel indulgent without being decadent. The lemon and pickle sliced brought competing acidities, seeming to serve the same purpose. I could have done without one or the other, but either would have been great on its own.
As much as I enjoyed the sandwich, the big win here in my estimation was the recommendation of Carlsbad Ranch Market itself. It’s a market with a growing selection of thoughtfully assembled hot sandwiches, including burgers and reubens. The juice bar and local brews put it over the top.