Chefs' Picks: Favorite Spots for Crispy, Fried Chicken

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

As Memorial Day comes around, and with it, picnics to kick off summer — hopefully with crisp, golden fried chicken. We asked chefs across the country for their go-to bird suggestions, both homemade and at restaurants from coast to coast.

Martha Lou’s Kitchen, Charleston, S.C.

At the ripe age of 34, Henry Hané of Bachour Bakery + Bistro in Miami has already seen much of the world. He was born in Lima, Peru, to a Colombian father and Peruvian mother, educated in Boston, then trained in Miami before taking off for England, Spain, Thailand and Singapore. His favorite fried chicken in all the world is at Martha Lou’s in Charleston, S.C.

“It was the absolute best piece of fried chicken I’ve ever tasted — an immaculately seasoned, crisp crunch on the outside and ridiculously juicy and tender inside,” he explains. “The breast paired perfectly with the smoky acidity of the collard greens and the ultra-cheesy mac. To top it off, Martha Lou was actually the one cooking it, which made me even happier.” He is in great company: Martha Lou’s Kitchen was named the No. 1 best spot for fried chicken by Top 5 Restaurants.

Blue Plate, San Francisco

When Souvla chef Tony Cervone isn’t slow-roasting his own birds at his Greek sandwich shop, he heads to nearby Blue Plate. “I love the smoked jalapeno buttermilk ranch-ish dressing it is served with, how tender the chicken is and how crunchy the fried outside is.”

Homemade Sweet-Tea Fried Chicken

Though he now works at Manzanita in Lake Tahoe, Calif., Texas native Ryan Dawson dreams of Southern-style fried chicken. His favorite version combines a beloved Southern summer drink with some Lone Star State spice: sweet-tea fried chicken, ideally served with spicy coleslaw, fried jalapenos, fried pickles and jalapeno honey. The bird is marinated in buttermilk and homemade lemon-spritzed sweet tea, then breaded and thrown into the fryer.

“My mom used to make our own homemade sweet tea outside in the sun during the summer,” says Dawson, calling it “a family tradition and childhood favorite that I enjoyed while growing up.”

Reddi Rooster, Stamford, Conn.

Since moving away from Stamford, Conn., Stephanie Izard, chef-partner at Girl & the Goat in Chicago, has made an indelible mark on the American culinary scene. She won Top Chef. Her restaurant Girl & the Goat was nominated Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011, and two years later she took home the Beard award for Best Chef Great Lakes. Still, her best-loved fried chicken comes from her hometown, at Reddi Rooster.

“It’s still my favorite fried chicken to this day,” she says. “It’s just so good, and they use Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. I used to go on Sundays and order fried chicken with fries and a Diet Coke.”

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Homemade Piri Piri Chicken

Like Dawson’s, Chef David Santos’ chosen chicken variation comes from his mother. Mama Santos marinated her poultry the night before with salt, pepper and either vinegar or piri piri. In the morning, she simply floured and fried it and let it cool. For his Portuguese family, says Santos, trips to the beach were a must. Every weekend, they’d pack up the car — and the chicken — and head to Sandy Hook in New Jersey. “We ate it [fried chicken] in the late afternoon as we enjoyed the sun and fishing and just simply growing up with the ocean as part of our lives,” he adds.

For more great chicken ideas, check out the Top 5 Fried Chicken Dishes in America.

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