A collection of the top-ranking establishments serving this iconic American dish.
Marc Glosserman and Elizabeth Karmel had already done more than anyone could have imagined for New York City’s barbecue scene by launching Hill Country, so any other culinary accomplishments would be above and beyond. But that’s just what they’ve done with Hill Country Chicken: standardize New Yorkers’ understanding of what a 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). And when you bite into that crispy crust… well, don’t take our word for it; just try it.
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. 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.
Alpine Inn might seem unassuming based on the building's 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.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room is an Atlanta institution and has been serving flocks of happy diners since 1945. Its 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 the 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 potlikker and a piece of corn bread?
This late-night spot has been serving up fried chicken and waffles since 1975, 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; 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 potential sogginess
Though it is more than 70 years old and located in upstate New York, Hattie’s Restaurant 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 is sublime.
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 cornbread since 2009. Run by chef Joey Chmiko, this gastropub has mastered one of the world’s finest combinations: fried chicken and beer.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar brings a Southern charm and influence to Miami, a place known for its Cuban and Spanish food. Former chef Jeff McInnis, who has since moved on from Yardbird to open Root and Bone in NYC, is said to have boiled this fried chicken recipe down to a science: brining the chicken for 27 hours before dredging it in cayenne-spiced flour and then frying it. Yardbird’s fried chicken has received numerous accolades in recent years, including earning a spot on the list of the best fried chicken in the U.S. by Food and Wine, named one of the best places in the South for fried chicken by Southern Living, and one of the 33 most iconic dishes in Miami according to Eater.
The fried chicken at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant has been called the best in New Orleans, and owner and chef Leah Chase is a legend and one of the best Creole cooks in the States. Chase uses a recipe that makes the chicken extra crunchy and turns out a dish that once again became this New Orleans’ neighborhood’s saving grace as it came out of Katrina devastation. You can trust this local landmark to always have a line out the door.
Martha Lou’s is the perfect example of that age-old expression, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Though this unseemly pink restaurant may not look like it would wow you with its food, Martha Lou’s Kitchen has been serving great Southern-style soul food for more than 30 years. This is said to be some of the best fried chicken you’ll find in the South. The chicken is lightly dredged in flour and dipped in milk batter, and then fried in some peanut oil until it is the perfect level of crisp.
Jestine’s often has lines trailing out the door, which has led some naysayers to dismiss the spot as a "tourist trap," but 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.
Not many piano bars can also claim the best fried chicken in the city. But in Miami, Magnum Restaurant & Lounge is the exception. In 2010, they won "Best Fried Chicken" in Miami from New York Times and CBS Miami, thanks to none other than the owner’s mother herself. Though Magnum is currently closed for renovations, the venue will open again in mid-to-late October under new management; however, there is nothing to worry about as this Miami hotspot will keep its colors.
We often think of fried chicken as a Southern delicacy, but this Chinese restaurant has managed to adapt the old classic into something newly delicious, not to mention 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 from 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.
The Whole Truth Lunchroom is pretty bare bones, but who needs frills when you have fried chicken like theirs? It began as a lunchroom for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith in Wilson, N.C., and eventually opened as a full-service restaurant in a building that is owned by the church. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a traditional restaurant, but the chicken, banana pudding, and sweet potato pie will definitely not disappoint.
With two locations in St. Louis and an interesting story behind its creation, Sweetie Pie’s Kitchen offers some great soul food, heavy on the soul. The brainchild of longtime performer Robbie Montgomery, or Miss Robbie (who was once a backup singer to 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 some top-secret fried chicken breading and for the cooks to fold and tuck the wing tips into the shoulder before deep frying the chicken.
Voted one of the best restaurants in the South as well as one of the best spots for fried chicken in the South by Southern Living, Little Donkey in Birmingham, Alabama, brings you fried chicken with a twist. At Little Donkey, fried chicken is brined overnight with a mixture of three chiles to bring you some added heat.
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 the favorite order of former Rockies pitcher and Jus Cookin’ regular Aaron Cook? That fried chicken.
Chicken Annie’s is known throughout Pittsburg, Kan., for its signature fried chicken and guaranteed hospitality. 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 fried chicken, and in 1972 the restaurant moved from her home to its present building. Now, the family continues the tradition of excellent food and warm hospitality with their "thin crust" fried chicken and famous home-battered onion rings. Chicken Annie's was on Travel Channel's Food Wars in 2010.
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.
"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 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.
Belgrade Gardens claims that it has the greatest chicken in the world, and with good reason. Located in Barberton, Ohio (a suburb of Akron), and open since 1933, this spot serves a special style of fried chicken called "Barberton Chicken," which is fried in lard and has a distinctive shape and color. They serve their chicken the old-fashioned way, giving customers a choice between wings, drumettes, breasts, legs, thighs, and backs. You can be sure none of their precious chicken goes to waste.
On the menu at Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder is a buttermilk fried chicken that has earned the restaurant a devoted group of fried chicken fans and is easily the most popular dish on the menu according to chef Mike Moore. The fried chicken at Seven Sows comes with a gravy inspired by the chef’s grandmother; the sauce uses chicken parts that would otherwise be discarded and that makes for one soulful gravy. The dish also comes with some pimento cheese beautifully prepared on top of the chicken, just as Moore’s grandmother used to serve it.
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 top 10 places for fried chicken in the country in 2010. 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.
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!
Known for using the freshest ingredients and 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.
In 1976, Mildred Council, known as Mama Dip, opened Mama Dip’s 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.
Coop’s Place is a French Quarter favorite that is considered by many to be one of the best places in New Orleans to get fried chicken. On the menu at Coop’s is a Cajun fried chicken that is seasoned with the restaurant’s own bayou blend and served with rabbit and sausage jambalaya (another Coop’s specialty) and some coleslaw.
Though Watershed on Peachtree changed its location in 2012 when it moved from Decatur to Buckhead, it still serves some of the best fried chicken in Atlanta. Named one of the best new restaurants of the year by Conde Nast Traveler, Watershed on Peachtree is famous for its brined-and-buttermilk soaked fried chicken that is then fried in lard before being deliciously presented to you on a plate. But be warned: Watershed only sells fried chicken for lunch and dinner on its special Fried Chicken Wednesdays, so be sure to get in early. You’ll be lucky if there is any fried chicken left past 7 p.m.
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 extensive list of whiskeys to wash down all of the fried chicken.
Many might not associate soul food with Phoenix, but Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe is out to prove you wrong; the fried chicken at Mrs. White’s Golden Rule can certainly compete with that of fried chicken joints in the deep South. This very simple, straightforward establishment serves a tremendous portion of golden brown Southern fried chicken. Get in early, because come lunchtime, this cafe is the place to be.
Out on the West Coast, fried chicken and Ad Hoc, an eatery in Yountville, California, go hand-in-hand. Chef Thomas Keller has developed a buttermilk fried chicken recipe that is so popular the dish is a restaurant favorite. Keller’s process seems simple enough: an unbeatable brine, add on some buttermilk, and give it a flavor-filled coating, but it’s the chef’s golden touches that keeps diners coming back for more. An added plus – or an addendum if you – is that Keller's Addendum restaurant serves boxed lunches to go Thursdays through Saturdays, which include a lunch choice of the famous buttermilk fried chicken.
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.
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. Make sure to leave room for dessert; it’s included!
Beasley’s Chicken & Honey is proof that North Carolina does more than good barbecue. Under the guidance of lauded chef Ashley Christensen this Raleigh hotspot knows what good fried chicken is all about. Christensen pressure fries her chicken, which calls for a combination of steaming and frying the chicken and keeps it extra moist with each bite. To finish it off, Christensen drizzles some honey over the chicken as a tribute to her father, who has a passion for beekeeping.
We know they love their sweet tea with just about everything down South, and it seems the folks at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, have coupled that much-loved drink together with another Southern staple: fried chicken. Blackberry Farms stands out as a favorite of fried chicken connoisseur Brian Lee Schrage, who loves the sweet-tea-brined fried chicken, which is coated in masa harina.
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." The establishment has won multiple awards, like the James Beard Award for Excellence in the Home Style category, and has been featured in The New York Times, Bon Appétit, and Gourmet over the years. Along with the chicken, customers rave about the mashed potatoes and cinnamon rolls, which are decadent additions to a meal, but certainly worth the extra calories.
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 small tables 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.
Cardamom Hill serves Southwestern Indian-style cuisine, and their Kerala-style (in reference to the mountainous spice-growing region of India) fried chicken is something to write home about. Chef Asha Gomez told Lee Schrager in an interview published on The Daily Meal that her mother’s cooking inspired her to make the coconut oil and fried curry leaf dish. With chicken that is "as beloved in South India as in the American South," Cardamom Hill is a go-to spot for an Indian twist on a Southern classic.
Philadelphia has long been food famous, but for cheesesteaks and pretzels, right? Not so for the past few years, since Federal Doughnuts opened. Forget that this list isn’t about doughnuts for a second and understand that these are astonishingly delicious. Now recall that this chef-inspired glory rose to fame thanks to its tasty Korean-style fried chicken. Every order of chicken includes Japanese cucumber pickles and a honey doughnut, and is served with your choice of dry seasoning (coconut curry and za’atar buttermilk ranch) and glaze (chili-garlic and honey ginger). This is fried chicken that people write essays about watching other customers accidentally drop on the floor with outrage and dismay. No joke.
Located in The Ritz-Carlton Dallas, Fearing’s features modern Southwestern-American cuisine with a farm-to-table approach (think barbecued duck tamales or antelope with a cactus pear glaze). 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.
For almost 30 years, Jack and Rose have been the force behind the little red fried chicken restaurant that could. The secret to their famous fried chicken recipe? A kosher salt and ground black pepper brine, a Louisiana-style hot sauce wash, and a cayenne and garlic powder dredge. The chicken is fried in Canola oil, and well… it’s just beautiful and crispy with a little hot punch. Don’t forget to try the grilled cornbread and famously creamy banana pudding
When the recipe for its fried chicken was first perfected, Husk’s Charleston location only sold its fat-drenched fried chicken by reservation; that’s right, diners had to call ahead and place an order with the chef himself, award-winning Sean Brock, 48 hours in advance. Luckily, though, Brock finally decided to put his once-exclusive fried chicken on the menu at both the Charleston location and the Nashville location (the latter is a lunch-time special for all to enjoy).
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, hot, and extra hot. Unlike most chicken wings that are dripping in sauce, Prince’s chicken is generously seasoned and fried to perfection.
Hold on; New York City may be the pizza capital of the United States, but what’s it doing on a list of the best fried chicken spots in the country? Here’s the deal: as with its burgeoning barbecue scene, New York has quickly (and finally, if you ask many transplanted Southerners and Texans) developed a more-than-respectable fried chicken scene. Give a nod to Pies ‘n Thighs for really kick-starting the trend, and then note what former Miami Yardbird chef Jeff McInnis and Australian Top Chef alum Janine Booth are doing on the Lower East Side. This sweet-tea-brined, pickled lemon dusted crispy fried chicken with spiked Tabasco honey may sound super “New York,” but it’s really just a really well-executed, slightly-fancy version of a classic dish. This is the kind of thing people talk about and create a destination around, and with good reason.
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House is a fried chicken empire in the good old state of Texas, and its Roanoke location is the first to visit (since it was the first location to open). This family-fun eatery is Southern-style cooking at its best, and its fried chicken is the kind that customers and fried chicken lovers crave. Expect plates with fried chicken piled sky high and a must-have Texas experience.
The menu at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room in Savannah, Georgia, 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 lining up at around 9 a.m. outside of this local institution, which has tables of 10, so you should also expect to cozy up to some new fried chicken comrades you might be seated with at your table. This family-run restaurant has been open since 1943.
If you find yourself in Los Angeles, then stopping for some fried chicken at Son of a Gun should be at the top of your list (and not just because it’s at the top of ours). This isn’t your typical plate of fried chicken; here, you’ll find a hearty, fried chicken sandwich on the menu. The sandwich is loaded with spicy B&B pickle slaw and some Rooster aioli. This $11 sandwich will be well worth every penny (and bite).
Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City doesn’t just serve fried chicken; Momofuku Noodle Bar serves a feast. Expect to get two whole fried chickens, one Southern style chicken that is fried with a buttermilk and old bay batter, and one Korean style chicken that is 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.
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.
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.