For years, roast chicken occupied a “throwaway” spot on menus nationwide, serving a perfunctory role as a middle-of-the-road dish that the least adventurous diners could order and be satisfied with. But times have changed, and some restaurants are finally giving chicken the respect it deserves. These 10 spots are serving what very well might be the country’s absolute best roast chickens.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, chicken is one of the most versatile meats in existence; because of the relative ease with which it can be cooked and its mild flavor, it works well in just about every savory application you can think of. But roasting a chicken whole is a lot more complicated than it may appear, and many chefs actually consider it to be a challenge: How do you keep the breast from drying out while making sure that the dark meat is cooked through, all the while making sure that the skin is crisp? For that reason, if you’re at a fancy restaurant nowadays and see roast chicken on the menu, it’s usually an indication that the chef spent a lot of time working on perfecting his/her formula and is proud to show it off.
Roast chicken is usually regarded as an inexpensive dish, and indeed several of the chickens on our list are cooked rotisserie-style and are weeknight-affordable. But many of the finest roast chickens carry shockingly high price tags for several reasons: One, the time and effort that went into developing the recipe and perfecting the technique. And two, the quality of the chicken itself. For the most part, these restaurants aren’t serving the same commodity chickens you’ll find at your local supermarket; they’re serving breeds of chicken with names like Sasso, Brune Landaise, and Plymouth Barred Rock, which command high prices and have a flavor that will change your entire perception of chicken.
As New York City was ground zero for the burgeoning roast chicken revolution, the majority of the restaurants on this list are located there. But there are plenty of lesser-known gems all throughout the country with chefs who are striving every day to serve a chicken that’s anything but a boring throwaway. So if you haven’t ordered a roast chicken in a while, consider opting for it the next time you drop by your favorite spot for a special occasion. We bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.