The 75 Best Fried Chicken Places in America from The 75 Best Fried Chicken Places in America for 2018
The 75 Best Fried Chicken Places in America for 2018
The 75 Best Fried Chicken Places in America
Is there anyone out there who honestly, seriously hates fried chicken? The answer to that question is no, because fried chicken is physically impossible to dislike. When done properly, it hits just about every right note in the culinary book: tender and juicy, salty, crunchy, fatty. There's a reason why it's become a thing of cultish devotion, one of the primary reasons being that it's much harder to get right than you might think. Some places, however, don't just get it right; they turn the dish into a transcendent experience. These 75 places do it best.
To compile our ranking of America’s fried chicken spots, we assembled a list of more than 200 popular fried chicken joints, from Seattle to Miami, and asked our panel of food — and especially Southern food or fried chicken — experts to vote on the best fried chicken spots in various geographic areas. The South reigns supreme (unsurprisingly), but restaurants from all across the country have earned their well-deserved spots on this list as well (You can find out where to find the best fried chicken in your state here). Read on to learn which 75 fried chicken spots are America's best.
#75 Birch & Barley (Washington, D.C.)
Located near Logan Circle in Washington, D.C., Birch & Barley bases its diverse and deceptively simple dishes around the complex flavors of its collection of 555 artisanal beers. Since 2009, it’s been serving up a wide variety of styles and flavors, including a fair share of fried delights. Some might be drawn to the fried peach pie, but the real treat is the fried chicken and waffles with buttered pecans and maple-chicken jus served during brunch. Food & Wine rated it as some of the best fried chicken in the nation, and named chef Kyle Bailey the People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic. Famous patrons who couldn’t resist some down-home cookin’ include Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Kevin Blackistone, and Pauly Shore. It must be the sweet/savory balance that Birch & Barley so skillfully strikes, with its heavily breaded, flavorful chicken and the hearty pecan-waffle combination.
#74 400 Degrees Hot Chicken (Nashville, Tennessee)
Tucked into a small food court, 400 Degrees’ hot chicken is the real deal, available in four heat levels from zero to (you guessed it) 400 degrees. Owner Aqui Simson’s creation maintains a crisp crust under all that heat, and it has locals lining up every day to try it. Their massive fried pork chop sandwich is also worth seeking out.
#73 Tomken's Bar & Grill (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Yelp/ Brian H.
Tomken’s Bar and Grill serves fried chicken “hobo-style,” with fries, coleslaw, and Italian bread, and the thin batter that doesn’t let the crunch overpower the poultry’s natural flavor. If you’re lucky, your visit might fall when the “sauce of the week” is the Nutty Rooster, which consists of peanut butter loosened with sriracha.
#72 The Dearborn (Chicago, Illinois)
Most fried chicken recipes contain a “secret” or two, but at The Dearborn chef Aaron Cuschieri employs about six or seven signature moves. The first? After the chicken is broken down, it’s brined for 24 hours in pickle brine. Then it’s soaked in buttermilk for four hours before being dredged in seasoned flour (secret ingredients: smoked paprika and oregano) and fried for 15 minutes in 250-degree oil, which ensures even cooking and crispy skin. Finally, it’s tossed in a glaze of maple syrup, Dijon mustard, honey, and cider vinegar. We’ll take two, please.
#71 Maxine's Chicken & Waffles (Indianapolis, Indiana)
The monochrome display of the chicken and waffles at Maxine’s is absolutely delicious — the sweet potato waffle balances the three pieces of savory fried chicken incredibly well, and the house-made peach butter, which sits in the middle of the waffle like a scoop of ice cream, is quite the lip-smacking touch. If that’s not “a taste of love in every bite,” as the restaurant promises, we’re not sure what is.
#70 Trina's Starlite Lounge (Boston, Massachusetts)
Yelp/ Rozzie M.
Trina’s, one of Boston’s quirkier eateries, features delicious, creative renditions of a dizzying variety of cuisines and cocktails in a vintage-noir, vaguely Southern atmosphere. Among other things, head chef Suzanne Maitland tops a buttermilk waffle with a piece or two of fried chicken and drizzles it with hot-pepper maple syrup. Paired with a signature Trina’s brunch cocktail (try the maple bourbon), This meal is not one to miss — and it’s even better paired with a signature Trina’s brunch cocktail (we like the maple bourbon).
#69 Motor City Soul Food (Detroit, Michigan)
The inside of Motor City Soul Food doesn't look like much, but you'll forget about the decor as soon as you take a bite of their fried chicken — in fact, you’ll be grateful that the setup makes the wraparound line move so much faster. This spot is not shy of the Southern classics that restaurants up north are too afraid to put on the menu, such as oxtails and chitterlings; Andrew Zimmern even paid it a visit when he was in Detroit. Oh, and the fried chicken, especially when paired with candied yams or mac and cheese? It’s divine.
#68 Whole Truth Lunchroom (Wilson, North Carolina)
The Whole Truth Lunchroom began as a church lunchroom before eventually opening as a full-service restaurant. Their fried chicken, which is served on a paper plate or in a bag, is not to be underestimated, especially when followed by their banana pudding or sweet potato pie. Fresh and simple, this is where you should go if you want to taste true home-style fried chicken in the South.
#67 Martha Lou's (Charleston, South Carolina)
Yelp/ Joe K.
“If you want a fancy ambiance with a fancy price tag, you'll have to go elsewhere,” warns Martha Lou’s website. But trust us: You don’t want to go elsewhere. The experience of eating this chicken, which is lightly dredged in flour and dipped in milk batter before being fried to perfection, is truly unique. What makes it even more worthwhile is that the eatery sits in a proudly feminine pink shack — the restaurant is run by Martha Lou Gadsen, her daughters, and her granddaughters.
#66 Shirley Mae's Cafe (Louisville, Kentucky)
Yelp/ Matthew T.
The large pieces of Southern fried chicken wings at Shirley Mae’s Café prove that the restaurant doesn’t fool around when it comes to providing you with soul food that really fills you up. No item here is complete without a side of their hot water cornbread. It's a true family-run business: Shirley Mae and her older daughter cook, her son waits, and Mae’s other daughter handles the music. Feels like home? You bet.
#65 Old Country Store (Lorman, Mississippi)
According to the Food Network, when Alton Brown wants fried chicken, he will eat only his own or the fried chicken at the Old Country Store. Located in a century-old general store, this comfort food buffet includes fried chicken that is well-seasoned and crispy, but doesn’t have that hard, manufactured shell of breading you’ll find in many chains. Arthur Davis, the owner, is known to break out of the kitchen and sing a song or two to diners while they feast.
#64 Gemini (Chicago, Illinois)
At this Lincoln Park neighborhood spot, fried chicken is only available on Sunday nights, and only while supplies last. But it’s worth the journey, because this chicken gets some serious TLC during the three-day preparation process. It starts with Amish chicken, which is brined for a day in garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, salt, pepper, and sugar before getting a buttermilk soak for another full day. It’s then dredged in flour and the same spices that went into the brine before being fried twice — once at low heat and once at high heat — to ensure a shatteringly crisp crust and juicy meat inside. It’s served alongside house-made honey hot sauce, mashed potatoes, and a Cheddar biscuit.
#63 Magnolia 23 (Asheboro, North Carolina)
The fried chicken at Magnolia 23 has gained a loyal customer base and many fans. Make sure you include their mac and cheese in your order of meat and three sides; you’re already savoring deliciously browned chicken, so there’s no point in salvaging a diet now.
#62 Alpine Inn (Omaha, Nebraska)
Alpine Inn might seem unassuming from its exterior, but their fried half-chickens served with large potato wedges should not be overlooked. In business for more than 40 years, the spot (which doubles as a biker bar at night) has been known to feed the roughly 50 local raccoons their leftover chicken scraps. But don’t be scared off by their furry friends; we promise this dish is worth it.
#61 Zehnder's of Frankenmuth (Frankenmuth, Michigan)
Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth is a 1,500-seat institution that is famous for its all-you-can-eat German-style fried chicken dinners. Kitsch is the game here, as the restaurant is associated with a waterpark (and its adjoining hotel), but don’t let that fool you into thinking their fried chicken tries too hard. It is simple, salty, and keeps Midwesterners coming back for more.
#60 Max's Wine Dive (Austin, Texas)
Yelp/ Irisa D.
"Fried chicken and Champagne?… Why the hell not?!" That is the question. It’s also the slogan of this Texas joint. The Austin location of Max’s Wine Dive features casual, industrial décor and top-notch food. Don’t miss their house-made jalapeño- and buttermilk-marinated chicken, deep-fried slow and low, served with mashed potatoes, collard greens, and Texas toast.
#59 Becky's & Mary's Restaurant (High Point, North Carolina)
There is something about fried chicken spots on the road less traveled that makes the food so appealing. It could be that you’re paying almost a quarter of what you’d be paying in New York or Miami, or that the recipe is so specific to the family that runs the restaurant that it makes for an especially memorable experience. Becky’s and Mary’s Restaurant is like that. Don’t be fooled by the Styrofoam plates and the menu scribbled on the whiteboard above: the fried chicken tastes absolutely glorious.
#58 Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter (New York, New York)
Yelp/ Allene T.
The fried chicken at this East Village mainstay is about as good as you’ll find in New York — which is saying a lot. Dark meat pieces are marinated in sweet tea, dunked in buttermilk, and dredged in seasoned flour before being cooked in a pressure-fryer, which imparts a crisp and brittle, nearly greaseless crust to the chicken.
#57 Mrs. White’s Golden Rule Cafe (Phoenix, Arizona)
Most people probably don’t associate soul food with Phoenix, but Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe might change that. Chef Beau MacMillan described this spot’s fried chicken on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate as, well, the best thing he ever ate. Could the “golden rule” have something to do with the technique that makes this fried chicken such a warm, inviting gold color? We can’t be sure, but here’s a golden suggestion: come early, because at lunch this place is packed.
#56 Ma'ono (Seattle, Washington)
Twice fried and umami-spiced, the Hawaiian-style fried chicken at Seattle’s Ma’Ono is served with kimchee, rice, and chile sauce. You can order either a half or a whole bird, and a gluten-free option is available. If you have green sensibilities, you can rest assured that your chickens were raised naturally in Mount Vernon, Washington. Don’t forget to check out their extensive list of whiskeys to wash it all down.
#55 Blue Door Kitchen & Garden (Chicago, Illinois)
Yelp/ Colleen G.
Chef Art Smith has a few secret spices up his sleeve for his famous buttermilk fried chicken at Blue Door (a holdover from the restaurant's days as Table Fifty-Two), but we do know that this bird is brined for three days before being dredged and fried. If you have room in your stomach, round off your meal with Smith's hummingbird cake, a banana-pineapple spice cake with cream cheese frosting.
#54 Hill Country Chicken (New York, New York)
Marc Glosserman had already done more than anyone could have imagined for New York City’s barbecue scene by launching Hill Country and standardizing New Yorkers’ understanding of what this well-done Southern staple should be. Hill Country Chicken celebrates the home-style cooking of Glosserman’s grandmothers, Elsia and Betty (Elsia was the buttermilk-brined chicken expert, and Betty knew pies). You can order your chicken traditional or "Mama Els Style," which is skinless and crunchier. They're both astounding.
#53 Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (Miami, Florida)
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar brings a Southern charm and influence to Miami, a place better known for its Cuban and Spanish food. Its main claim to fame is its fried chicken, made using a recipe passed down by owner John Kunkel's grandmother; chicken is brined for 27 hours before being dredged in cayenne-spiced flour, fried, and served alongside watermelon and waffles. Yardbird’s fried chicken has received numerous accolades in recent years, and for good reason. You just have to taste it yourself to see what the fuss is all about.
#52 Sweetie Pie's (St. Louis, Missouri)
The brainchild of longtime performer Robbie Montgomery, who was once a backup singer for Ike and Tina Turner, Sweetie Pie’s has thousands of customers coming in each week who are devoted to the fried chicken, which calls for the cooks to fold and tuck the wing tips into the shoulder before deep-frying the bird.
#51 Hollyhock Hill (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Since it opened in 1928, Hollyhock Hill has grown from a 30-guest restaurant to one that holds 70 patrons to, finally, its current 150-seat location in Indianapolis. But while the seating count has changed multiple times, the "Hoosier pan-fried chicken" recipe has stayed the same. This four-ingredient chicken is cut through the breast crosswise instead of lengthwise, leaving the wishbone intact.
#50 Chicken Annie's (Pittsburg, Kansas)
Chicken Annie’s is known throughout Pittsburg, Kansas, for its signature fried chicken. The restaurant had humble beginnings; when founder Ann Pichler’s husband was injured in a coal mine accident in 1934, she began serving fried chicken out of their home to support the family. Word quickly spread of the delicious fare, and in 1972 the restaurant moved from her home to its present building. The homestyle hospitality, however, has never gone away. The family continues the tradition of excellent food with their thin-crust fried chicken and house-battered onion rings.
#49 Rita’s Seaside Grille (Folly Beach, South Carolina)
Rita’s Seaside Grille is well known for creative twists on the classics, like their blackened tuna nachos with watermelon pico de gallo, and, of course, their fried chicken, served only for brunch, which comes sanwiched between two pancakes. This meeting of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, is well worth the journey to their fantastic location, right on Folly Beach.
#48 Price's Chicken Coop (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Price’s Chicken Coop, a Charlotte institution, is as renowned for its chicken liver and gizzards as they are for its fried chicken. The chicken is tossed only in seasoned flour, and relies solely on the moisture from the poultry to make the flour stick. Apparently, it works like magic.
#47 Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room (Savannah, Georgia)
The family-run Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room has been open since 1943. The menu at this Savannah institution changes every day, but you can rest assured you’ll get your fried chicken fix, so long as you don’t mind waiting in line. Expect crowds to start forming at around 9 a.m. You’ll be seated at communal tables of 10, so expect to be forced into making small talk with your neighbors, whether you want to or not.
#46 Mama Dip's Country Cooking Restaurant (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
In 1976, Mildred Council (also known as Mama Dip) opened this Chapel Hill restaurant with $64 to her name. When her food sold out in just a few hours, she knew she had something special, and Mama Dip’s Country Cooking Restaurant was born. Mama Dip learned to cook by watching family members in the kitchen expertly eyeballing measurements until the meals came out perfectly. Her fried chicken, one of the best-selling items on the menu, is an old family tradition. Council passed away earlier this year, but her legacy lives on through her restaurant and her Mama Dip’s Kitchen cookbook.
#45 Little Donkey (Birmingham, Alabama)
Little Donkey, a Mexican restaurant, serves their fried chicken with a twist: it is brined overnight with a mixture of three chiles, and splashed with a house-made vinegar made from morita and habanero peppers to impart some added heat. It comes with two sides, and with options like elote (corn-on-the-cob) and chipotle slaw, you’re set for a truly delicious meal.
#44 Jestine's Kitchen (Charleston, South Carolina)
Photo Modified: Yelp / Nick G.
Jestine’s is one of those so-called "tourist traps" that is totally worth your time. The kitchen is named in honor of Jestine Matthews, who kept house and cooked for generations of owner Dana Berlin’s family. The menu here is pure Southern comfort, with fried green tomatoes, okra gumbo, and, of course, fried chicken, which is available in all-white and all-dark meat orders. Equally famous is their marshmallowy Coca-Cola chocolate cake.
#43 Café Dupont (Birmingham, Alabama)
Café Dupont offers a "fresh perspective on regional ingredients" to create a menu bursting with traditional flavors and contemporary flair. This is most evident in their signature buttermilk-fried chicken with a lemon basil sauce, served atop warm creamed potatoes. You can thank the strong relationships chef Chris Dupont fosters with local farmers for the top-quality produce and meats that you’ll taste in every bite of their specialties.
#42 Beasley's Chicken + Honey (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Don't leave North Carolina having only eaten barbecue; the pressure-fried bird at Beasley’s Chicken & Honey is an absolute must. The combination of steaming and frying chicken keeps it super-moist, and a drizzle of honey — which chef Ashley Christensen includes as a tribute to her beekeeping father — gives this spot a personal and literally sweet touch.
#41 Babe's Chicken Dinner House (Multiple Locations in Texas)
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House is a fried-chicken empire in the good old state of Texas that has its origins in Dallas, where it is called Bubba’s. Expect plates with perfectly breaded fried chicken piled sky high — as they say, go big or go home. And the best part? The quality of the chicken absolutely matches the generous portions.
#40 Belgrade Gardens (Barberton, Ohio)
Barberton is known as the “Chicken Capital of the World” because it serves seven and a half tons of chicken a week between just four restaurants, the oldest of which is Belgrade Gardens. The restaurant, which opened during the Great Depression, serves fried chicken in the Serbian-American (or “Barberton”) style. This recipe relies on fresh (never frozen) bird, lard, and no seasoning. The fact that this creation tastes so good without seasoning is truly something worth going to Ohio (or Belgrade) for.
#39 Watershed on Peachtree (Atlanta, Georgia)
Though Watershed on Peachtree changed locations in 2012 and received a new head chef earlier this year, moving from Decatur to Buckhead, it still serves some of the best fried chicken in Atlanta. Named one of the best new restaurants of 2013 by Condé Nast Traveler, Watershed on Peachtree is famous for their brined and buttermilk-soaked chicken that is fried in lard and ham fat before being presented to you. But be warned: Watershed only sells fried chicken three nights a week, and in very limited quantities.
#38 The Local (Miami, Florida)
The Local serves their fried chicken a few different ways: in a bucket, in a sandwich, and just the leg as an entrée. Each preparation is phenomenal. The leg comes with cornbread, bacon dressing, split peas, and country ham reduction, and the sandwich is served with a buttermilk emulsion. It may sound unusual, but these fancy sauces pair wonderfully with this simple, beloved dish. Wash it down with something from their excellent craft beer list.
#37 Dooky Chase's Restaurant (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant began in 1939 as a sandwich shop and lottery ticket outlet, and grew to become a spot where Civil Rights leaders met to discuss politics and culture. Owner and chef Leah Chase is a legend who is often referred to as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine;” there’s even a portrait of her in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. The secret to her must-try extra-crunchy fried chicken is the evaporated milk that’s used in the egg wash.
#36 The Dutch (New York, New York and Miami, Florida)
The fried chicken at The Dutch, which was originally only available for lunch but is now for sale during dinner hours as well, definitely lives up to the hype. The buttermilk their chicken is soaked in includes a winning mix of cayenne, Old Bay, honey, and Tabasco, and a honey drizzle completes the package. This popular SoHo spot also has a location in Miami.
#35 Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles (Multiple Locations)
Everything is made from scratch at this Phoenix mainstay, which has five locations in Arizona, one in Las Vegas, and another in Southlake, Texas. The seasoning blend on the chicken has been passed down through several generations, and the waffle batter recipe yields a light and fluffy waffle with an almost creamy center.
#34 The People's Pig (Portland, Oregon)
Yelp/ Dave M.
Bird at a pig joint? It’d better be good. The People’s Pig, which was once a food truck, smokes their chicken before frying it, lending it a deeply burnished crust and plenty of complex, smoky flavor. And if you go back for another meal, which you should, get their equally famous porchetta.
#33 Hard Water (San Francisco, California)
While Hard Water is better known for being a New Orleans-style whiskey bar, their fried chicken, which comes two ways — “Hard Water-Style” with a buttermilk biscuit and pepper gravy or “Spicy Nashville-style” with Parker house rolls and butter pickles — gets its unique taste from being dry-brined in salt and garlic powder, left alone for a day, then dredged in a spice mix with turmeric and coriander before landing in the deep-fryer.
#32 Maharlika (New York, New York)
New York’s Maharlika serves a “batterless” Filipino-style fried chicken. No batter or breading; just marinated and deep-fried. And it’s delicious. Served on top of a purple yam waffle with anchovy-bangoong (fish paste) compound butter and caramelized macapuno syrup, this fried chicken is unlike any other you'll ever try. Don’t miss other fantastic menu items like arroz caldo (spiced chicken and rice porridge), Spam fries, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, try the balut (boiled duck embryo).
#31 Coop's Place (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Located in the French Quarter, Coop’s Place serves Cajun fried chicken seasoned with a house-special bayou blend alongside rabbit and sausage jambalaya — a distinctly New Orleans twist one can only expect from such an institution. Bear in mind that those under 21 years of age are not allowed inside, due to the presence of video poker machines.
#30 Sweet Chick (New York, New York)
This chicken and waffles joint, which is co-owned by rapper Nas, has done gangbusters since the first location opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn a few years back, with three additional locations in New York and one in Los Angeles opening since then. The chicken and waffle choices here are plentiful and creative, with waffle options including bacon-cheddar, dried cherry, rosemary-mushroom, apple cinnamon, and spiced pecan; you can also order your chicken Buffalo-fried with a celery and carrot waffle, Cordon Bleu style with a Gruyere and thyme waffle, or with General Tso’s sauce and a rice and broccoli waffle.
But if it’s your first time, you’ll probably just want to try the classic version. The chicken is sweet tea-brined, seasoned with oregano, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, and paprika, buttermilk-dipped, dredged in flour and cornstarch, and fried in a cast iron skillet; and the waffles are light and airy on the inside and crisp on the outside.
#29 Fearing's, Dallas
Located in The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, Fearing’s features modern Southwestern-American cuisine with a farm-to-table approach (think chicken-fried Maine lobster or barbecued shrimp taco with mango and pickled red onion salad). But the real treat comes during the weekend brunch, which features Granny Fearing’s "Paper Bag Shook" fried chicken, served with whipped potatoes, green beans, and tomato gravy. The ebullient chef Dean Fearing is often present.
#28 Blue Ribbon Brasserie (New York, New York)
The fried chicken recipe created by brothers Bruce and Eric Bromberg more than 20 years ago helped give rise to a mini-empire of Blue Ribbon-branded restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, South Beach and Las Vegas, and South Beach, and it's still the best thing on the menu at the three locations of Blue Ribbon Brasserie (and its new York spinoff, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken). To make this dish, chicken pieces are dipped in egg white and coated in a combination of matzo meal, flour, and baking powder before being deep-fried. After coming out of the oil, they're dusted with salt, pepper, peprika, cayenne, basil, parsley, and garlic and onion powders, and the end result is spectacular.
#27 The Chicken Shack (Evanston, Illinois)
The salt and pepper-coated bird at the Chicken Shack in Evanston attracts way more people than just hungry Northwestern University kids. With sides like phenomenal biscuits and house barbecue sauce, this casual eatery is certainly worth its salt.
#26 Charles' Country Pan Fried Chicken (New York, New York)
Charles Gabriel of Charles’ Country Pan Fried Country in Harlem, New York, has been pan-frying chicken since he was a kid growing up just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. Using nothing but a couple of pans and his mother’s recipe (which calls for the chicken to be turned and flipped over frequently), Gabriel has made his shop a New York institution; this no-frills joint serves some of the best fried chicken in the city, and his culinary contributions were recently acknowledged by the James Beard Foundation, by which he was nominated for 2018’s Best Chef: New York City award.
#25 Holeman & Finch (Atlanta, Georgia)
We know the burger at Holeman & Finch Public House is one of America’s best, so it should come as no surprise that they do fried chicken very well too. They serve their “hot chicken,” a tribute to the cayenne pepper-heavy style mastered by Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday nights only. Nestled under pickles and atop a thick slice of white bread, this beloved restaurant’s take on the popular dish is not to be missed.
#24 Loveless Cafe (Nashville, Tennessee)
Loveless Cafe, named after founders Lon and Annie Loveless, has an ironic name. Not only is their fried chicken one of the city’s most beloved dishes, but a lot of love goes into their food — and has for over 60 years. The fried chicken recipe, which has remained unchanged since 1951, uses self-rising flour and a special house blend of spices. Other famous items from the Loveless Cafe menu include Kentucky Bourbon Peach Shortcake and the Bee Sting Moonshine Cocktail.
#23 Red Rooster (New York, New York)
The fried yard bird chicken at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster is the most satisfying of all the dishes at the popular Harlem restaurant, thanks to its “candy-like” crust and well-chosen accompaniments of spicy collard greens and mace gravy. Samuelsson channels his Ethiopian roots to make this chicken stand out, using a berbere spice blend on his chicken before frying it twice. He also adds coconut milk to the buttermilk, and uses bunches of rosemary in the frying oil. All of this results in some of the America’s best fried chicken.
#22 Longman & Eagle (Chicago, Illinois)
This gastropub might be a hipster haven, but its chicken and waffle game is still very strong. The leg and thigh from Slagel Family Farms are fried in a batter that generously soaks up maple syrup, and a crispy, crunchy waffle serves as a sturdy base. And don’t forget about the sweet potato and pork belly hash that’s served with it; it’s far tastier than it has any right to be.
#21 Arnold's Country Chicken (Nashville, Tennessee)
Arnold's Country Chicken has been serving homestyle "meat and three" platters (a meat entrée with three sides) and delectable fried chicken in Nashville for more than 30 years. The secret to their famous fried chicken recipe is a kosher salt and ground black pepper brine, a Louisiana-style hot sauce wash, and a cayenne and garlic powder dredge. The result of is nearly perfect fried chicken that has folks lining up well past the door. Don’t forget to try the grilled cornbread and famously creamy banana pudding.
#20 Honey's Kettle (Culver City, California)
You might not be vegetarian, but the chicken that you’ll eat at Honey’s Kettle certainly was. Humanely raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken and a crispy, golden batter that could make for a delicious dish on its own are key at this airy, no-frills eatery in West L.A.
#19 Biscuit Love (Nashville, Tennessee)
Husband-and-wife team Karl and Sarah Worley began Biscuit Love as a truck in 2012, but have since opened a brick-and-mortar brunch spot with a much larger menu. Their hot fried chicken is as good as ever, though, as is their “Easy Nasty”: fried chicken thighs with aged Cheddar and sausage gravy.
#18 Hattie’s Restaurant (Saratoga Springs, New York)
Though it is located in upstate New York, Hattie’s Restaurant has managed to achieve Southern-style charm in a historic setting — it’s been open for 80 years. The restaurant stays true to its Southern-comfort feel with a swinging screen door, checkered tablecloths, and, most importantly, its authentic menu. Hattie’s serves traditional dishes like Creole jambalaya and gumbo of the day, but it is most famous for its fried chicken, which is prepared exactly the same as it was in 1938.
#17 Federal Donuts (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Philadelphia has long been food-famous, but just for cheesesteaks and pretzels, right? Not so for the past few years, since Federal Donuts opened; it's currently up to six locations, with a best-selling cookbook, to boot. While they are celebrated for their doughnuts, which come in unusual flavors like lavender, their tasty Korean-style fried chicken is also a force to be reckoned with. Every order of chicken includes Japanese cucumber pickles and a honey doughnut, and is served with your choice of dry seasoning (coconut curry or za’atar buttermilk ranch) and glaze (chili-garlic or honey ginger).
#16 Mary Mac's Tea Room (Atlanta, Georgia)
Mary Mac’s Tea Room is an Atlanta institution that has been making diners happy since 1945. The fried chicken is one of the best dishes there, and it’s easy to see why. Mary Mac’s Tea Room makes a double-battered fried chicken that comes as a four-piece set with the legs, breast, thigh, and wing, or as a fried chicken plate of three wings or one chicken breast. Did we mention that upon your visit to Mary Mac’s you’re entitled to a complimentary cup of pot likker (the juice left in a pot after collards cook) and a piece of cornbread?
#15 Husk (Charleston, South Carolina)
Yelp/ John B.
Chef Sean Brock's Husk, which opened in Charleston but today has locations in Nashville, Greenville, and Savannah, serves some absolutely stunning fried chicken. Once upon a time, diners had to call ahead and place an order with the chef himself two days in advance, but now the fried chicken is a staple on the daily-changing lunch menus of all locations. The secret is fat: The chicken is fried in butter, chicken fat, bacon fat, and country ham fat.
#14 Blackberry Farm (Walland, Tennessee)
Sweet tea and fried chicken? Welcome to Tennessee. At Blackberry Farm, not only can you drink sweet tea alongside fried chicken, but there is sweet tea in the brine used for the masa harina-coated fried chicken, which is brined for three days before being fried.
#13 Stroud's (Kansas City, Missouri)
Yelp/ Judy K.
In business since 1933, Stroud’s is known for their famous pan-fried-to-order chicken served out of "an expanded 1829 log cabin and farm house." In fact, as an indication that the restaurant still does things the old way, one of their mottoes (available on popular T-shirts) is "We choke our own chickens." Along with the chicken, customers rave about the mashed potatoes and cinnamon rolls, which are decadent additions to your meal, but certainly worth the extra calories.
#12 Root & Bone (New York, New York)
The sweet tea-brined, pickled lemon-dusted crispy fried chicken with spiked Tabasco honey at Root & Bone may sound super “New York,” but it’s really just a really well-executed, slightly fancy version of this classic dish. This is the kind of thing people talk about and create a destination around, and with good reason. While you’ll just have to go there and wait in line for fried chicken, we have a few of their recipes — such as the macaroni and cheese casserole and corn spoon bread — right here.
#11 Harold's Chicken Shack (Chicago, Illinois)
Harold’s has become a small local chain, and it continues to grow in popularity. But despite having numerous locations across the region, Harold’s never sacrifices the quality it’s known for. The chicken comes simply with white bread and hot sauce, and there are no frills about it — but with a product that tastes this outstanding on its own, there are no embellishments needed.
#10 Ad Hoc/Addendum (Yountville, California)
You can always count on Thomas Keller for excellent food, and the fried chicken at Ad Hoc, in Yountville, California, is no exception. At Ad Hoc, every weeknight has a special menu, and while spectacular food is always a given, customers disproportionately requested reservations for fried chicken night. So Keller did everybody a favor and opened Addendum, which serves boxed lunches to go Thursdays through Saturdays. The most popular option? You guessed it.
#9 Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles (Multiple Locations in California)
This late-night spot, originally located in Hollywood, has been serving up fried chicken and waffles since 1975 — when owner and Harlem-bred Herb Hudson brought some recipes from home to the West Coast — and has since expanded into a small local chain of restaurants. The list of celebrity diners is endless (which is no surprise, considering its Los Angeles locale), but regulars include Snoop Dogg and Larry King. The chicken is fried fresh to order, and make sure to ask for your waffles to be cooked extra-crispy.
#8 Momofuku Noodle Bar (New York, New York)
Momofuku Noodle Bar doesn’t just serve fried chicken; Momofuku Noodle Bar serves a feast. This specialty even has its own section on the menu. Expect to get two whole fried chickens, one Southern-style chicken that is fried with Old Bay-seasoned buttermilk, and one Korean-style chicken that’s triple-fried and served with a light spicy glaze. As if that’s not enough, the meal comes with mu shu pancakes, baby carrots, red ball radishes, bibb lettuce, four sauces, and an herb basket. Whether your party is of four or 10, nobody will be disappointed with this delicious feast.
#7 Prince's Hot Chicken Shack (Nashville, Tennessee)
Prince’s Hot Chicken is widely recognized as one of the best dives for fried chicken. The chicken is available with four different levels of spice: mild, medium, hot, and extra hot. So famous and legendary is Prince’s Hot Chicken shack that the fried chicken at Holeman & Finch Public House is a tribute to Prince’s. In fact, this place is widely regarded as the inventor of Nashville hot chicken! If that’s not reason enough to visit, then we’re not sure what is.
#6 Hattie B's (Nashville, Tennessee)
The chicken at Hattie B’s is not for those who are afraid of heat, though there is a no-spice option available for people who just want to enjoy the perfectly crisp, not-too-thick texture. The secret to the perfect spice is actually a little bit of brown sugar to lighten up the cayenne. Expect to wait in line for at least an hour, but also expect to not regret doing so once you get this incredible plate of chicken.
#5 Pies 'n' Thighs (Brooklyn, New York)
The fried chicken at this beloved Williamsburg gem is seasoned liberally with black pepper, cayenne, and paprika, making for a potent and flavorful golden brown crust. The atmosphere is laid-back, yet charming, and the place fills up quickly. The flaky homemade biscuits are almost croissant-like, and the rotating selection of pies (try the lemon chess pie) make for outstanding accompaniments to the juicy chicken.
#4 Howlin' Ray's (Los Angeles, California)
Howlin’ Ray’s owner Johnny Ray Zone has spent time working for some of the world’s most renowned chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, Joël Robuchon, and Nobu Matsuhisa, but he found his true calling on a trip to Nashville. What started as a food truck is now a tiny Chinatown storefront that’s packed from open to close, serving fresh-from-the-fryer hot chicken made screamingly hot with help from cayenne and extracts of habanero, ghost pepper, and red savina. But before the heat kicks in, you’ll have a few seconds to recognize that this also happens to be great fried chicken.
#3 Lucy’s Fried Chicken (Austin, Texas)
The folks behind Lucy’s Fried Chicken know when to stick with the classics and when to experiment; in this case, always stick with the classics. Their menu offers fried gizzards and fried livers alongside the expected fried chicken basket, with no fancy explanation as to why the chicken tastes so good. They even serve a cold fried chicken that’s also delicious, and that’s saying something. It’s in their other menu items that they get creative: see the grilled diablo oysters, Mexican Coke sweet potatoes, and sweet tea cheese pie.
#2 Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (Mason, Tennessee)
The original Gus’s is in Mason, but itn recent years it's expended to 25 locations across the country, with more in the works. The wait is notoriously long — not only because there are plenty of people in line, but also because Gus’s has been reported to take twice as long to complete an order than their estimated time. Still worth it? Most definitely. The golden brown casing keeps the interior juicy, and the simple but effective team of salt and cayenne make for a seasoning that lingers on your lips (and is most welcome there).
#1 Willie Mae's Scotch House (New Orleans, Louisiana)
You haven’t truly had fried chicken until you’ve had it from Willie Mae’s, the legendary restaurant located in New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood since 1956. Look around the two no-frills dining rooms and you’ll see nothing but fried chicken, even though other offerings, like smothered veal, are available (and delicious). But if it’s your first time there, take a cue from the regulars and pilgrims alike. The chicken, perfected by Willie Mae Seaton (who passed away in 2015 at age 99) and today safeguarded by her granddaughter Kerry, is, simply put, otherworldly. Fried to order, the crust is shiny, craggy, light, not greasy, and shatteringly crisp and crunchy, coming away cleanly as you take a bite without dragging the rest of the breading with it. Underneath, the chicken is impossibly moist and juicy. We almost lost Willie Mae’s after it was destroyed during Katrina, but the community banded together to rebuild the restaurant exactly as it was before. It should come as no surprise that the restaurant that serves America's best fried chicken is also one of its 101 best casual restaurants.
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