Pies 'n' Thighs: Brooklyn, N.Y.
The fried chicken at this 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, with tables lined with gingham tablecloths and enough seating for only a few lucky guests at a time. The flaky homemade biscuits and rotating selection of pies make for outstanding accompaniments to the juicy, expertly executed chicken.
Momofuku Noodle Bar: New York City
Rack and Soul: New York City
Charles’ Country Pan-Fried Chicken: New York City
Harold’s Chicken Shack: Chicago
Known as President Obama’s favorite fried chicken place in Chicago, Harold’s has become a small local chain as it has expanded due to popularity. But despite having numerous locations across the city, 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.
Big Jones: Chicago
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.
Central Michel Richard: Washington, D.C.
Cork Market & Tasting Room: Washington, D.C.
Jestine’s Kitchen: Charleston, S.C.
Jestine’s often has lines trailing out the door, which has led some naysayers to dismiss the spot as a "tourist trap" — whatever your opinion, Jestine’s fried chicken is worth the wait. It’s been lauded as not only the best in the city, but also in the state, the world, the galaxy, and even the universe. The fried chicken served here is traditional, pure Southern comfort, and is available in all-white and all-dark meat orders. The kitchen serves up all things thoroughly Southern, and both Rachael Ray and Anthony Bourdain have graced its seats. Jestine’s made Food Network’s "Best Of," Oprah Magazine’s "O’s Charleston’s Travel Guide," and it received the Reader’s Choice Award from Southern Living magazine in 2009. The kitchen is named after Jestine Matthews, who kept house and cooked for generations of owner Dana Berlin’s family. She lived until the age of 112, proving that no amount of fried-chicken indulgence is guaranteed to do you in.
Husk: Charleston, S.C.
Martha Lou’s Kitchen: Charleston, S.C.
Jus Cookin’: Lakewood, Colo.
Fried chicken might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re in Colorado, but the family-owned and operated Jus Cookin’ has been discretely serving up some of the nation’s best from its unassuming "little yellow farmhouse" location in Lakewood. The chicken is hand-breaded, prepared to order, and served with Southern fixin’s on the side, and Food & Wine voted Jus Cookin’s chicken the 23rd best fried chicken in the United States. Owners Steve and Char Modlich have been making their chicken this way since 1988, and their family-centered approach makes for an authentic and delicious dining experience. Jus Cookin’s humble yet hearty meals have drawn the likes of Katie Couric in for dinner, and former congressman Tom Tancredo comes in on Tuesdays for the beef barley soup. But the favorite order of former Rockies pitcher and Jus Cookin’ regular Aaron Cook? That fried chicken.
Tom’s Home Cookin’: Denver
White Fence Farm: Denver
Resurrection Ale House: Philadelphia
Named by Bon Appétit as one of the best places for fried chicken, this self-defined "neighborhood beer bistro" in Philly has been serving up twice-fried chicken with a spiced honey drizzle and a side of German-style potato salad since 2009. Run by chef Joey Chmiko, this gastropub has mastered one of the world’s finest combinations — fried chicken and beer.
Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant Bar Lounge: Philadelphia
Federal Donuts: Philadelphia
Ma’Ono Fried Chicken & Whisky: Seattle
Ma’Ono is the re-vamped version of Seattle favorite Spring Hill, known for its wildly popular Fried Chicken Mondays. The new-and-improved concept is in the same location, featuring the same chef, Mark Fuller, but with a Hawaii-inspired menu that features fried chicken every night of the week, served alongside kimchee, rice, and dipping sauces. And for those with green sensibilities, you can rest assured that your chickens were raised naturally in Mt. Vernon, Wash. Don’t forget to check out their exhaustive list of whiskeys to wash down all of the fried chicken.
Ezell’s Famous Chicken: Seattle (Widely known as Oprah’s favorite fried chicken spot)
The Kingfish Café: Seattle
Max’s Wine Dive: Austin, Texas
"Fried chicken and champagne? … Why the hell not?!" That is the question. It’s also the slogan of this Texas joint. The Austin location features a casual, industrial décor and top-notch food from chef Erica Beneke. 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.
The Highball: Austin, Texas
Willie Mae’s Scotch House: New Orleans
Miss Willie Mae has been serving up mind-blowing fried chicken from a shack attached to her home for more than 30 years. The low-key operation remained a local treasure until 2005 when the James Beard Foundation honored it with its "American Classic" award and let the rest of the nation in on the secret. A few weeks after winning the award, Willie Mae’s Scotch House was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, so members of the Southern Foodways Alliance pulled together to rebuild the cherished chicken establishment. Mae’s great-granddaughter runs the Scotch House now, upholding the same dedication to unadulterated Southern cuisine that the restaurant is so well known for.
McHardy’s Chicken & Fixin’: New Orleans
Jacques-Imo’s: New Orleans
Coop’s Place: New Orleans
New Golden Daisy: San Francisco
We often think of fried chicken being a Southern delicacy, but this Chinese restaurant has managed to adapt the old classic into something newly delicious — and incredibly addicting. New Golden Daisy serves platters full of their famous fried chicken drumsticks for just about $5 a pound and fans of this place can’t get enough. The skin is perfectly crispy with hints of ginger, garlic, and scallion, and the meat is tender and moist. SF Weekly recognized New Golden Daisy for its surprisingly flavorful drummettes that stand out amongst the rest of the menu, so next time you’re in San Francisco, be sure to stop by for a pound or two or three of these exquisite little chicken bites.
Ad Hoc: Yountville, Calif.
Little Skillet: San Francisco
Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles: Los Angeles
This late-night spot has been serving up fried chicken and waffles since 1976, 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 the regulars include Snoop Dogg and Larry King — even President Obama made a pit stop at Roscoe’s during a visit to Los Angeles. The chicken is fried fresh to order and make sure to ask for your waffles to be cooked extra-crispy to avoid the potential for sogginess.
Son of a Gun: Los Angeles
Campanile: Los Angeles
Magnum Restaurant & Lounge: Miami
Not many piano bars can boast about having the best fried chicken in the city. But in Miami, Magnum Restaurant and Lounge is the exception. In 2010, they won "Best Fried Chicken" in Miami from NewTimes and CBS Miami, thanks to none other than the owner’s mother herself. Jeffery Landsman, owner of Magnum, and Miami food lover, uses his mother’s fried chicken recipe to bring the piano bar’s famous dish to life. The chicken is crusted in a robust combination of flour, salt, garlic, and secret spices, fried for exactly 17 minutes, and served atop creamy mashed potatoes with Southern gravy and steamed vegetables.
Joe’s Stone Crabs: Miami
Yardbird: Miami Beach
Located in The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, Fearing’s features modern Southwestern-American cuisine with a farm-to-table approach (think barbecued duck tamales or Nantucket scallops with pecan-crusted short ribs). But the real treat comes during the weekend brunch, which features Granny Fearing’s "Paper Bag Shook" Fried Chicken — an authentic version of the Southern classic. Choose from one of the many dining venues on-site, from the outdoor patio to the more upscale Gallery; if you’re dining chef-side in Dean’s Kitchen, or at the Chef’s Table, look for the ebullient chef Dean Fearing himself, who is often present.
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House: Roanoke, Texas
Bubba’s Cooks Country: Dallas
Two Sisters Kitchen: Jackson, Miss.
In a charming two-story Southern house, Two Sisters Kitchen opened in 1989 and has been serving up fried chicken and other Southern favorites ever since. The favorite dishes at Two Sisters Kitchen are endless, from the macaroni and cheese to the bread pudding, but ultimately the fan favorite is the Southern-style fried chicken. All of the favorites are available daily during a lunch buffet. When diners are too full from the buffet, the owners have been known to wrap up dessert for diners to take home — one of life’s simple pleasures.
Simpatica Dining Hall: Portland, Ore.
Known for using the freshest ingredients and for butchering their meats on the premises, Simpatica is dedicated to expertly executing dishes from start to finish — so, it is no surprise that its fried chicken has become a favorite. Although the menu changes weekly, diners anxiously wait for the fried chicken to come up in the regular rotation. The signature dish is often paired with gravy and biscuits or waffles for brunch.
Pine State Biscuits: Portland, Ore.
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack: Nashville, Tenn.
Located in Nashville, Prince’s Hot Chicken is widely recognized as one of the best dives for fried chicken. The chicken is available in four different levels of spice — mild, medium, and hot, and extra hot , but unlike chicken wings that are dripping in sauce, Prince’s chicken is generously seasoned and fried to perfection.
Bailey and Cato: Nashville, Tenn.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room: Atlanta, Ga.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room was first opened in 1945, post-World War II, when owner Mary McKenzie started serving up Southern favorites, and the legacy still continues more than 60 years later. Mary Mac’s Tea Room has preserved its traditions and recipes, cooking in practically the same way since the day it opened its doors. Self-acclaimed (and confirmed by many) as the best restaurant in the South, Mary Mac offers a wide variety of options, but one of its most notable is the fried chicken. When ordering this entrée you get two sides of your choice, but the fried chicken is definitely the star of the dish.
Greenwood’s: Roswell, Ga.
Restaurant Eugene: Atlanta
Mama Dip’s Country Cooking Restaurant: Chapel Hill, N.C.
In 1976, Mildred Council, known as Mama Dip, opened her restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., with just $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. Her goal is to create a comfortable environment and serve up food that reminds customers of home. Mama Dip learned to cook by watching family members in the kitchen, using no recipes and just eyeballing measurements until the meals came out perfectly. Her fried chicken, one of the best-selling items on the menu, is from an old family tradition and the recipe can be found in her Mama Dip’s Kitchen cookbook.
Café Dupont: Birmingham, Ala.
Café Dupont offers a "fresh perspective on regional ingredients," using organic foods and fresh produce to create a menu bursting with traditional flavors and contemporary flair. Owner and chef Chris Dupont, a New Orleans native, is the mastermind behind Café Dupont’s eclectic menu and has developed strong relationships with local farmers to help fuel his dishes. In 2005, Café Dupont’s fried chicken was ranked number 13 on the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel's list of 100 Dishes You Must Eat in Alabama. This might come as no surprise, however, because this is not your average fried chicken. Dupont serves buttermilk-fried chicken with a lemon basil sauce, served atop warm creamed potatoes. Sounds like award-winning fried chicken to us!
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken: Mason and Memphis, Tenn.
The original Gus’s is in Mason, with a second location in the nearby city of Memphis — both locations take their time when it comes to frying chicken, often taking twice as long to complete an order than the estimated time, but the wait is nothing once you take a bite of the heavenly chicken. The golden-brown crust on the outside locks in the juicy exterior, just as it should, and the seasoning of salt and cayenne shines through. So kick back at a gingham tablecloth-covered table, listen to the tunes playing from the jukebox, and await the arrival of a meal well worth it.
Hollyhock Hill: Indianapolis
Hollyhock Hill is a Midwest country-style restaurant that prides itself on creating a welcoming environment for all its patrons. Since it opened in 1928, Hollyhock has grown from a 30-guest restaurant to one that holds 70 guests and finally to its 150-seat location in Indianapolis, where it is today. Though Hollyhock has undergone changes over the years, it still makes food from the original 1928 recipes using the founders’ techniques and philosophies. Its fried chicken, dubbed "Hoosier pan-fried chicken," can be ordered in-store or for takeout, and customers can choose from chicken breasts, thighs, legs, wings, livers, and gizzards, all fried to perfection.
Hattie’s Restaurant: Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Though it is more than 70 years old and located in upstate New York, Hattie’s has managed to retain its historic, Southern charm. The restaurant has stayed true to its Southern-comfort feel with a swinging screen door, checkered tablecloths, and most importantly, its authentic menu. Hattie’s serves up 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. Hattie’s fried chicken was even featured on Bobby Flay’s Food Network show Throwdown and proved on national television that its fried chicken rocks.
Trina’s Starlite Lounge: Boston
Trina’s has a lot of things going for it, as one of Boston’s quirkier eateries featuring delicious, creative renditions of a dizzying variety of cuisines and cocktails. Since 2009, people have been drawn to the vintage-noir, vaguely Southern vibe of the place, but others head to Trina’s for its famous chicken and waffles, which got the restaurant named one of Bon Appétit magazine’s 2010 top 10 places for fried chicken in the country. 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 (like maple bourbon), this $14 meal is not one to miss. Thankfully, even overworked restaurant industry employees can enjoy a leisurely brunch at Trina’s — they host a special "industry brunch" from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday to cater to industry schedules.
Summer Shack: Boston
Highland Kitchen: Somerville, Mass.
The Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill, a work of chefs and restaurateurs Bruce and Eric Bromberg, is located in The Cosmopolitan resort and casino. Their rendition of the comfort classic — an ultra-crunchy fried chicken made with matzo meal crust and served with wasabi and honey — was featured in Food & Wine’s "Best Fried Chicken in the U.S."
Barbecue Inn: Houston
The Barbecue Inn has been a part of the Skrehot family tradition for more than 65 years. The restaurant promises customers that at least one Skrehot is present at all times, and this definitely helps to ensure that their award-winning fried chicken is up to par. Food & Wine, Eater.com, and Fox all recognized The Barbecue Inn for having the best fried chicken in the U.S., and we have to agree. This chicken is uniquely cooked to the diner’s liking, with a crispy, flavorful encrusting of the tender, juicy chicken meat. Unlike many deep-fried chicken dishes in the area, The Barbecue Inn’s chicken isn’t dripping in grease, making it even more appealing. It’s no wonder why they’ve been in business since 1946: who wouldn’t want incredible fried chicken without the guilt?!
Frenchy’s Chicken: Houston