Food & Drink

Sacramento Kings fans, say hello to the doughnut chicken sandwich

Meet the doughnut chicken sandwich at Golden 1 Center

At Golden 1 Center, an innovative sandwich awaits to bring new excitement to Kings games.
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At Golden 1 Center, an innovative sandwich awaits to bring new excitement to Kings games.

Last year, the Sacramento Kings pitched their new downtown arena food options as serious cuisine — healthy, classy, and locally produced.

This year, Kings fans, say hello to the doughnut chicken sandwich.

It’s the team’s take on a national sandwich trend that’s lauded as fun food by some and dismissed as a culinary oddity by others.

The website calls doughnut sandwiches “awesome.” But a New York publication, Bedford + Bowery, calls the trend “blechtacular” and the “weirdest use of fried chicken we’ve seen since the chicken-in-a-cone.” NPR’s Sandwich Monday team didn’t know what to make of the sandwich, but offered: “It looks like a UFO from planet Faturn.”

Golden 1 Center’s doughnut sandwich is a bit of a misnomer. The bun is really a brioche, with more eggs and butter than a doughnut, but light and airy, with a sugar glaze on top. Inside, with the chicken, there’s tangy sriracha and buttermilk coleslaw.

Chef Michael Tuohy, head of Golden 1 Center’s culinary team, describes it as the result of brainstorming among staff members, including arena pastry and dessert chef Rodrigo Cuadra.

“We needed to get a fried chicken sandwich into the building,” he said. “Chef Rod has a thing for doughnuts. They are phenomenal. Someone said, ‘Chicken and doughnuts!’ 

Cuadra said the brioche, which he calls the mother dough, is supple and “doesn’t break up on you like a doughnut.” Some doughnut sandwiches are built with two doughnuts. In this one, the doughnut is cut in half, Cuadra said, so the sandwich has some grip, allowing fans to bring it to their seats without having the chicken sliding into their lap.

The sandwich is being offered at a new food stand called Sweet Bird, perched high in the back of the upper concourse. It serves a variety of big-flavored treats, including cinnamon rolls (“Our answer to Cinnabon,” Quadra said), fried apple pies, a dozen types of ice cream, including a purple almond macaroon and vanilla bean offering, and another sweet and salty sandwich, this one a honey-glazed-biscuit chicken sandwich with bacon and jam. “A little southern flair going on here,” Tuohy said.

The Sweet Bird stand replaces a Tandoori stand. The Kings will still have a Tandoori cart on the lower concourse.

A second new stand, called Smokehouse, adjacent to the Sierra Nevada Draught House, takes advantage of the arena kitchen’s massive slow cooker, offering 12-hour smoked brisket sandwiches, and a complex concoction called a grass-fed beef chili jalapeño cornbread bowl.

The cornbread is molded into a bowl to hold the chili, which gets its flavor edge from one of a handful of Golden 1 Center housemade spice blends.

“We can do real damage with a lot of tasty animal parts,” Tuohy said. The grass-fed beef is “really a cut above, pardon the pun. We’re supporting grain local farms that are doing the right things from a sustainable practice” approach.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak