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.
What makes for perfect fried chicken, exactly? As Lee Schrager, the founder of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, puts it, “I always look for something that’s perfectly crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside.” Dominique Love, founder of the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, says: “Perfect fried chicken will burst with juicy flavors. If you don’t have to wipe juice from your chin, then your chicken missed the mark.” And how do we achieve that kind of flavor at home? “Personally, I’m a fan of the brining process (or, hint, get a kosher chicken if there’s no time to brine) and skillet frying,” says Schrager. “No overcrowding the skillet, though!” Love agrees that it is all about the brine.
To come up with this comprehensive list of America’s fried chicken spots, we started with a short-list of nearly 100 fried chicken-serving establishments, from Seattle to Miami, and asked our panel of food — and especially Southern food or fried chicken — experts (including Lee Schrager, John Mariani, Ron Stern, and our city guide editors) to vote on the best fried chicken spots in various geographic areas. The South, particularly Nashville — for who can resist that hot chicken? — reigns supreme (unsurprisingly), but restaurants from all across the country have earned their well-deserved spots on this list as well. Click here to learn which 75 fried chicken spots are America's best.