Graphic: The Daily Meal/Fearing's Restaurant
Fried chicken is much loved in America, yes, but many cultures around the world fry chicken with great success. The best part about fried chicken in America is that these countless international styles of fried chicken, be they Korean or Serbian or anything else, are embraced, and restaurants that serve them have earned their spots in the canon — arguably the most delicious canon in existence. Here are America’s 75 absolute best places to savor this universally loved meal.
Over the past two years we have brought you an extensive roadmap of the country’s best places for fried chicken, as well as our ranking of America’s 50 Best Fried Chicken Spots. With the help of a panel of 38 experts, including South Beach Food and Wine Festival founder Lee Schrager, author of Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken, as well as food experts like John Mariani, Ron Stern, and our city guide editors, we expanded our list to 75.
Let’s talk about what makes good fried chicken. As Lee Schrager 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.
There are many fried chicken spots across the country that did not make it on our list this year but that deserve a mention, such as Birds & Bubbles in New York, which celebrates the concept of pairing this favorite dish with Champagne or sparkling wine, or the now-closed Cardamom Hill in Atlanta, which served a phenomenal Kerala-spiced fried chicken that chef Asha Gomez still makes on Friday and Saturday nights at Spice to Table, an Indian patisserie. Any serious lover of fried chicken would be remiss not to try to attend the Chicken Coupe, part of the New York City Wine & Food Festival, which will happen again this fall. The event is set to take place on October 15 in Central Park, and will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. Many of the places on this list will be there, and you should be, too.The best part about fried chicken in America is that these countless international styles of fried chicken, be they Korean or Serbian or anything else, are embraced, and restaurants that serve them have earned their spots in the canon.
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 to vote on the best fried chicken spots in various geographic areas. As a result, we have a nice, geographically varied roster. The South, particularly Nashville — for who can resist that hot chicken? — reigns supreme, unsurprisingly, but a handful of restaurants in the Midwest, California, and New York have earned their well-deserved spots on this list as well.
We relied on our readers, as well as our experts, to let us know about fried chicken establishments with which we could plump up our list of the 50 best fried chicken spots in America, and we’re happy with the results. So help us out again by letting us know of places we missed by tweeting @thedailymeal or leaving a note in our comments section. Remember, be nice. It’s what a hospitality-oriented Southerner would do.
So let’s enjoy a mental feast of the country’s best fried chicken. Think of this as the first step in planning your next culinary road trip across America.
#75 Jus Cookin's Restaurant, Lakewood, Colo.
Fried chicken in Colorado? Don’t let the unlikely location of this family-owned eatery fool you into thinking it doesn’t have the drumsticks to wow your palate. Jus Cookin’s has been serving some of the nation’s best fried chicken from its unassuming "little yellow farmhouse" since 1988. The restaurant’s humble yet hearty meals have drawn the likes of Katie Couric and former Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook in for dinner.
#74 Tomken's Bar & Grill, Milwaukee
Yelp / H.C.
Tomken’s Bar and Grill serves fried chicken “hobo-style,” with fries, coleslaw, and Italian bread. According to Thrillist, what makes it one of the nation’s best is the slim 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.
Additional reporting by Alexandra E. Petri. For full list, see page 2.