Chefs from Boston to Los Angeles are brining, buttermilk-soaking, boldly spicing and frying it up with winning results. Here's where you'll find FoodNetwork.com's editors' favorites. Whether they're served with cream gravy and collards, waffles and syrup, or Sriracha and kimchi, these birds all have one thing in common: They're downright irresistible.
Atlanta: Watershed on Peachtree
The menu changed a bit when this beloved institution moved from Decatur to Buckhead, but the fried chicken recipe never will. On Wednesday nights, locals show up early for Southern-style birds that are salt-brined for two days, buttermilk-soaked for another 24 hours, then, on the fourth day, fried in a mix of lard, butter and ham. The juicy, crispy, uniquely porky chicken is served alongside flaky cream biscuits and family-style sides. One bite and you'll see why they tend to run out by 7:30.
Boston: Trina's Starlight Lounge
At this retro diner in a Boston 'burb, you'll find comfort foods like flavor-packed fried chicken (a piece each of white and dark meat) atop a plate-size buttermilk waffle. Before you dig in, be sure to drizzle on the diner's signature hot pepper syrup. This sweet-savory-spicy combination hits the spot any time of day — it's a favorite on the brunch and dinner menus.
Chicago: Harold's Chicken Shack
No conversation about fried chicken in Chicago could exclude Harold's, a local chain that started frying more than 50 years ago and now boasts more than 60 outposts. Though each franchise is a little different, all serve up well-seasoned, always fried-to-order chicken. On the side: slices of white bread and crinkle-cut fries.
Dallas: Babe's Chicken Dinner House
The original Roanoke, Texas, location has expanded to several Texas towns, but the quality of Babe's fried chicken remains consistent. Some outposts have expanded menus, but locals know it's all about the golden-brown, juicy chicken with cream gravy and a side of buttermilk biscuits.
Denver: Tom's Home Cookin'
It's all about simplicity at this lunch-only weekday spot, where you'd better make it an early lunch if you want to dig into piping-hot fried chicken before it runs out. Seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, it's lightly dusted with flour and fried until the super-crunchy coating reaches a deep shade of copper.
Detroit: Palms Krystal Bar & Grill
"Chicken in the Rough" is the name of the game at this 80-year-old institution in the Detroit suburb of Port Huron. Once a nationwide chicken chain, Palms Krystal keeps the signature recipe alive. Go for a two- or four-piece chicken dinner, spiced and fried to perfection, then topped with a mound of crispy shoestring potatoes. A drizzle of honey is the condiment of choice.
Houston: Barbecue Inn
This third-generation family business specializes in classic Southern fried chicken. Opt for all white meat, all dark meat or a combo, and be prepared to wait 25 to 30 minutes while it's all fried to order. Loaded baked potatoes make a nice side, but who are we kidding? This virtually greaseless fried chicken needs no accompaniment.
Los Angeles: Kyochon
Watch out, Colonel Sanders. A new kind of KFC — Korean fried chicken — is making waves across the country, and this West Coast outpost of the Kyochon chain fries up some of the best. Locals flock to Koreatown for earth-shatteringly crisp twice-fried chicken marinated in a secret blend of spices and garlic. It comes in two flavors, spicy-sweet or in an umami-rich soy glaze, both of which are amazing. While you wait for your order (the double-fry process can take a while), whet your appetite with a snack of pickled daikon.
Chef Jeff McInnis was bold enough to name his South Beach restaurant Yardbird, so his skillet-fried chicken better be good. And it is. His secret "27-hour" recipe yields supremely tender meat and crispy skin. Try it tucked into buttermilk biscuits with pepper jelly, or enjoy it as a main plate with Tabasco-spiked honey.
Photo courtesy David Cabrera
Minneapolis: Left Handed Cook
At a little counter in the Midtown Global Market, Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard are serving up fried chicken that's worth a special trip. Cloaked in 21 spices, the boneless pieces are served with Asian-accented dipping sauces like gochujang-soy. There's not much room to sit in the market, so this chicken is perfect for takeout — but it'll take willpower not to dig in right on the spot.
Nashville: Prince's Hot Chicken Shack
Nashville fried chicken is its own subspecies of the Southern tradition: They like it hot. At Prince's, fall-off-the-bone chicken comes in four heat levels, and even the mild version has a kick. Graduate to medium, hot or extra-hot (we warned you!), and you'll be grateful for the cooling dip of ranch dressing and a pile of napkins to wipe the tears from your eyes. The fiery spice blend is a closely guarded secret.
New Orleans: Willie Mae's Scotch House
Now helmed by founder Willie Mae Seaton's great-granddaughter, this Treme hole in the wall is a fried chicken mecca. How do they achieve that audibly crisp, melt-in-your-mouth skin? And such succulent meat — even the breast? The recipe is a family secret, but some believe it involves a Coca-Cola brine. Red beans and rice on the side are a must.
New York: Momofuku Noodle Bar
When you book a table for Momofuku's epic fried chicken feast, a parade of condiments arrives first: mu shu pancakes, Bibb lettuce, shiso leaves, crunchy radishes and four sauces ranging from spicy bibim to savory-sweet hoisin. They're all accompaniments for the main event: a towering pile of fried chicken prepared two ways, Old Bay-spiked Southern and triple-fried Korean. A friendly argument will undoubtedly ensue as to which version is better while you wrap up the meat and its crispy skin in pancakes, make lettuce wraps or just eat it straight.
Philadelphia: Federal Doughnuts
Chef-owner Michael Solomonov's ode to the deep fryer has three items on the menu: doughnuts, fried chicken and coffee. Customize your twice-fried, Korean-style chicken with a choice of dry seasonings (try the Middle Eastern za'atar) and glazes (chili-garlic or honey-ginger). Each order comes with a handmade honey doughnut. Come early — both outposts close when the chicken runs out, and given how much locals love these spots, it happens fast.
Phoenix: Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe
Old-school comfort food doesn't get much better than a plate of fried chicken and two sides at Mrs. White's, a beloved soul-food eatery in downtown Phoenix. The chicken is always piping hot and golden brown, leaving you with only two decisions to make when you walk in the door: white or dark meat, and which sides to pick from a roster scrawled on the wall.
Portland, Ore.: Screen Door
"Good fried chicken takes time. Please consider this when ordering." The menu warning proves that this place is serious about fried chicken. Buttermilk-battered and served with tasso ham gravy, mashed potatoes and collards, this chicken provides a rare taste of the South in the Pacific Northwest (the owners are originally from Louisiana). The chicken and waffles is one of the most coveted brunch dishes in town, prompting lines out the door on weekend mornings.
San Francisco: Brenda's French Soul Food
New Orleans native Brenda Buenviaje's cozy cafe is a cult favorite for brunch, when San Franciscans line up around the block to chow down on her Southern-accented fare, like fried chicken eggs Benedict with Creole hollandaise. That secret-recipe chicken can be found as B.F.C. (best fried chicken) on the lunch and dinner menus, served with hot pepper jelly and a superlative biscuit. The title may be self-imposed, but it's well-deserved.
Washington, D.C.: GBD (Golden, Brown, Delicious)
Chef Kyle Bailey's fried chicken specials were such a hit at Birch and Barley and Churchkey that he created a restaurant dedicated to two deep-fried delicacies: chicken and doughnuts (the latter are his pastry chef wife Tiffany MacIsaac's domain). The new GBD serves its buttermilk-brined chicken pretty much any way you like it. Order it by the piece or bucket, as a family-style dinner for four with sides and dessert, or tucked into Chinese-style bao buns.