platter of fried chicken with hand

Fried chicken is one dish everybody can agree on (except maybe vegetarians). When prepared well, it’s one of the tastiest things you can ever put in your mouth. Thinking of the crispy, salty breading enrobing moist, tender, falling-off-the-bone meat makes our mouths start watering. It’s the perfect combination of crunchy, soft, and savory.

We love fried chicken because there’s not one right way of making it. The breading can have a crunch you can hear from two states over, or it can be an ethereal, papery layer that barely holds in the onslaught of juices from the meat. The seasoning can be as simple as salt and pepper, or it can be a complex blend of secret spices. Chicken tastes great whether it’s mild or fiery-hot. It’s wonderful slathered in sweet sauces like maple syrup or honey too.

In this list, we’ve tried to capture the full spectrum of excellent fried chicken you can find in America. These places are from all over the country and they cook innumerable different styles of crispy poultry. The one thing they all have in common is that the chicken is so good that you’ll remember it fondly for years after eating it.

Jollibee

bucket of spicy chickenjoy

This fast food import from the Philippines is establishing itself as one of the best fried chicken spots in the U.S. Jollibee offers a wide-ranging menu, but it’s particularly famous for its bone-in fried chicken, which the chain calls Chickenjoy (via Thrillist). It’s seasoned to the core and comes with a side of gravy for dunking. It’s also incredibly juicy. Part of this might be because, as The Takeout notes, Jollibee serves only drumsticks and thighs. This chain knows that chicken breast is an inferior cut for fried chicken. You can get original Chickenjoy if you want, but for our money, spicy is always the way to go.

Jollibee may very well be the best fast food bone-in chicken (though there are some other contenders for that title on this list). Sadly, Mashed tried the Jollibee chicken sandwich, and it didn’t live up to Chickenjoy’s high standards. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it’s not worth ordering when the bone-in chicken is life-changingly good.

Popeyes

box of popeyes chicken

Food writer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt once tweeted, "In every city that has a Popeyes, Popeyes is the best fried chicken in that city." He was being a little facetious when he made that pronouncement, but Popeyes is legitimately terrific, and we would wager that it actually is the best fried chicken option in many cities in America.

What exactly makes Popeyes so delicious involves a combination of factors. For one, it’s intensely crispy. According to The Washington Post, "When you fracture that gorgeous surface by biting into it, the music it makes is equally unmistakable, halfway between a corn flake cookie and the crust of a good French baguette." Then there’s the intense flavor of the chicken thanks to a 12-hour marinade in Popeyes’ secret Louisiana-style seasoning blend. The chain also starts with fresh birds instead of frozen for its bone-in chicken, which makes a big difference as well.

We also can’t mention Popeyes without giving props to its infamously-delicious fried chicken sandwich, which tasted so good that it sparked a fast-food clone war (and some real-life violence to boot, per CNN).

Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles

roscoe's fried chicken and buttered waffle

The illustrious pairing of fried chicken and waffles offers every indulgent, craveable flavor you could ever want packed onto one plate. It’s fried, crispy meat with a bunch of buttered carbs, and you pour maple syrup and hot sauce over the whole thing. Essentially, the dish is everything that’s great about America.

Perhaps the most renowned purveyor of the combo is Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles, a local chain that got its start in Hollywood in 1975. Its prime location, as well as founder Herb Hudson’s show-biz connections, allowed Roscoe’s to develop a devoted celebrity fanbase. Snoop Dogg is a notable Roscoe’s booster. According to Wired, he has taken famous acquaintances like Larry King and David Beckham to this Los Angeles institution.

Of course, all that hype wouldn’t be worth much if Roscoe’s didn’t have great food. Tripadvisor reviews indicate that Roscoe’s delivers, with one person writing, "Chicken A1 and the waffles are other worldly! I have never tasted a waffle that good ever."

Federal Donuts

fried whicken with donut

It might be called Federal Donuts, but the fried chicken wings and tenders are the real star of the show at this small chain of Philadelphia restaurants from chef Mike Solomonov. An intense amount of thought went into every stage of the chicken cookery (via Eater). It’s dry-brined overnight, which seasons the chicken all the way through. The chicken is then dipped into a batter made from flour, corn starch, and water. Next, each piece is fried until it’s just cooked through. Then, the chicken is fried again to make the outside shatteringly crisp. (This double-frying technique is indebted to Korean fried chicken.) Finally, the chicken gets tossed in either a dry seasoning blend or a glaze.

The result of all this effort is juicy, intensely-flavorful bird that stands on its own. Come hungry and opt for the 5 Wings Combo which includes fries, a drink, and a honey-dipped donut which fills in admirably for the standard biscuit side.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

fried chicken with fried okra

Although Willie Mae’s Scotch House is now a nationally-renowned institution, it didn’t initially serve food. No, as the name would suggest, it began life as a bar in 1957. Then it became a bar that also had a beauty salon in it. Finally, in the 1970s, the owners replaced the salon portion with a restaurant. It was a low-key local spot until 2005, when the restaurant’s chef and namesake Willie Mae Seaton won a James Beard Award. (Sadly, Seaton passed away 10 years later at the age of 99.) Now it’s always mobbed with fried chicken pilgrims, and if you visit you can expect lines out the door, though it’s absolutely worth the wait.

There is a reason Bon Appétit called the chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House "some of the best you’ll ever eat." The breading is incredibly thin and delicate, very different from the heavy dredge at many chicken spots. It’s noticeably grease-free, but the chicken inside is moist and perfectly seasoned (via RoadFood). Willie Mae’s is a bucket list spot for any true fried chicken aficionado.

Prince’s

prince's hot chicken with pickles

Nashville hot chicken has become ubiquitous to the point of cliché in the last few years, but that doesn’t mean it’s not really, really good. Much of the stuff you’ll find outside of Music City is a pale imitator of real hot chicken. If you want the true hot chicken experience, you have to start with the originator: Prince’s Hot Chicken.

As the legend goes, hot chicken was originally the weapon of an unhappy girlfriend. Prince’s founder Thorton Prince may have been something of a philanderer, and his girlfriend didn’t appreciate it. To punish him after one of his indiscretions, she secretly dumped cayenne pepper all over some fried chicken. Shockingly, Thorton loved the fiery addition, and he made it the centerpiece of his restaurant.

According to the Tennessean, the chicken at Prince’s is ridiculously hot if you order one of the spicier heat levels. The transformative experience will make you cry, sweat, and feel a rush of endorphins in your brain. But the spice isn’t the only thing this chicken does right. Even if it weren’t coated in cayenne and other secret spices, Prince’s would be amazing chicken. It’s crispy, juicy, and perfectly salted.

Gus’s

platter of fried chicken and sides

Nashville-style isn’t the only fried chicken option in Tennessee worth having, not by a long shot. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken got its start in Mason, Tennessee, in 1973, as Maggie’s Short Orders. When Maggie’s son Gus inherited the business, he changed the name, but kept his mom’s recipe. It’s a good thing he did, because soon, this local chicken joint started getting recognition in the national press. Now it’s a chain with multiple locations scattered across the country.

Among the restaurant’s many fans is a dining critic at the Los Angeles Times, who praised its thin breading and fatty (but not too fatty) meat. Similar to the preparation at Willie Mae’s, the breading is thin and delicate rather than thick and crunchy. It plays a supporting role to the chicken rather than taking over the whole show. Just keep in mind that Gus’s is a little spicy, but not wreck-your-day hot like Prince’s chicken can be.

Reel M Inn

fried chicken, beer, and jojos

The Pacific Northwest is about as far as it gets from the fried chicken epicenter in the South. However, in Portland, there’s a spot that fries up birds just as well as any place in the country. In fact, according to Eater, the dive bar Reel M Inn makes fried chicken that has won over the hearts of famous chefs like Sean Brock and Andy Ricker. Even more impressive, the bar is often staffed by only a single employee, who has to make drinks, cook chicken, and do everything else.

The bar’s Facebook page is filled with praise for the chicken. One reviewer mentions that there is often a two-hour wait for food, which makes sense considering how lightly-staffed the place is. Many fans also shout out Reel M Inn’s jojos. If you’re not familiar with this particular permutation of fried potatoes, it’s a potato wedge that’s battered and fried (via Willamette Week). Jojos are an Oregon specialty that spread through the state because of the influence of deep-frier salespeople. But it’s the fried chicken that is the star of the show here. Make sure to bring an appetite — and some patience.

Jackson’s Fried Chicken

COB with sauce and jalapenos

When you want to find the best fried chicken places, oftentimes you have to leave the big city behind and go off the beaten path. That’s the case with Jackson’s Fried Chicken, a small restaurant in Camden, Alabama. Camden may have only a little more than 2,000 residents, but its local fried chicken destination has earned the city international recognition (via Al.com). The place was written up in loving terms by a travel reporter from London’s Sunday Times, and was even visited by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The standard bone-in fried chicken at Jackson’s would be enough on its own, but the marquee item is something called a COB. It’s a chicken sandwich made with boneless breasts and a mysterious special sauce on a sub roll. For diners that prefer their sandwich on the spicier side, be sure to add jalapeños. If you’re going on a Southern road trip, the fried chicken at Jackson’s deserves a detour.

The Old Country Store

catering tray with fried chicken

The Old Country Store in Lorman, Mississippi, is another amazing fried chicken place tucked away in a sleepy rural enclave. It’s been open for over a century, but it didn’t start serving its exceptional fried chicken until the ’90s (via The Culinary Cellar). That’s when Arthur Davis, known as "Mr. D," bought the restaurant and started serving his fried chicken recipe there. He was able to save the restaurant from the brink of closure and turn it into a must-stop destination.

The chicken here has crunchy, thick breading, more like Popeyes than Gus’s. However, despite this, it’s not sodden with grease. Don’t worry: It’s not dry either. The Old Country Store’s chicken is just an excellently-executed bird, with all of its components working together in harmony. If you don’t trust us, take Alton Brown’s word for it. During an episode of "Feasting on Asphalt," the Food Network star declared that it’s "the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life, without question."

Busy Bee Cafe

plate of busy bee fried chicken

Opened in 1947 by cook Lucy Jackson, The Busy Bee has been in constant operation ever since. However, it wasn’t a fried chicken hotspot when it opened. According to Atlanta Magazine, Busy Bee’s specialties once leaned more towards other Southern fare like chitlins and ham hocks. Also, by the 1980s, the restaurant’s food quality had diminished from when Lucy Jackson was running the show.

Things turned around when current owner Tracy Gates took the reigns from her father, who purchased the restaurant in 1981. She overhauled the restaurant’s menu and brought in her own culinary flare. The highlight was Gates’ fried chicken which was inspired by her grandmother’s recipe. It’s the dish that put Busy Bee back on the map. The ethereal, crackly crust just barely holds in all the juice from the succulent chicken meat. It’s no wonder the Atlanta fixture has famous fans like OutKast and Barack Obama.

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken

skillet with frying chicken

Charles Pan-Fried Chicken is a Harlem icon. Its founder, Charles Gabriel, learned how to cook chicken from his mother when he was growing up in North Carolina. After moving to New York City, Gabriel worked as a chef for two decades before he decided to try opening his own chicken place. He started selling chicken on the sidewalk, then bought a food truck, and finally was able to open brick-and-mortar restaurants.

According to Eater, the thing that sets the fried chicken at Charles apart from most other preparations is the cooking method. As the name suggests, instead of using industrial deep fryers, Gabriel fries his birds in enormous skillets. This requires a great deal more skill and attention than a deep-fryer, as every piece of chicken must be rotated frequently and attended to by hand. It’s a lot of work, but the results are worth it, as nothing can replicate the intense juiciness and deep crust of real skillet-fried chicken.

Dixie Fried Chicken

basket with fried chicken wings and fries

The town of Belle Glade, Florida is home to Dixie Fried Chicken, which was voted Florida’s "Best Hole-in-the-Wall Spot for Fried Chicken" (via The Palm Beach Post). Since we tend to prefer fried chicken that comes from unpretentious spots like this, we’re pretty comfortable declaring Dixie as Florida’s best fried chicken, period. Any place that’s been open since 1969 must be doing something right.

While opinions may vary about whether Florida is in "the South," there’s no doubting the Southern bona fides of this chicken. It’s breaded in a classic buttermilk, egg, and flour mix. The fryers at Dixie are filled with peanut oil, which we think has a nicer flavor than canola or vegetable oil (stay away if you’re allergic, however). The restaurant also does other comforting chicken dishes like wingettes and chicken and dumplings. The reviews on Yelp are overwhelmingly positive, with one happy customer writing that Dixie has "Some of the best fried chicken anywhere."

Monte Ne Chicken Inn

chicken plate from monte ne

Some of the restaurants on this list serve more than just fried chicken and fixings, but not so with Monte Ne Chicken Inn in Arkansas. This place exists to do one thing: give you the best possible chicken dinner. You walk in, choose your drink and dessert, and everything else is handled for you. You know that chicken will be the centerpiece of your meal.

If you’re going to focus on one menu item only, it had better be good, and the fried chicken at Monte Ne is exceptional. It’s crispy, but not overly-battered, and it has just enough seasoning to let the taste of the chicken shine through. You won’t be able to learn what those seasonings are, however; according to About You, Monte Ne’s recipe is a closely-guarded secret.

Whatever’s in the chicken, it’s good enough to win a fistful of awards. Monte Ne earned the Citiscapes award for "Best Chicken in Northwest Arkansas" many times. It was also voted "Best Chicken in Arkansas" in 2018 and was inducted into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame (via Monte Ne).

Claudia Sanders Dinner House

chicken and waffles with fried apples

While we included several chain chicken spots on this list, you’ll notice that one big player is notably absent: KFC. While KFC is fine in a pinch, we don’t believe that it makes truly exceptional fried chicken. According to Uproxx, the chain’s famous founder, Colonel Harland Sanders, didn’t much care for KFC either. As far as he was concerned, the changes put in place after he sold the company made the food quality go downhill fast. He was so dismayed about KFC’s decline that he opened another restaurant called Claudia Sanders, the Colonel’s Lady, now known as the Claudia Sanders Dinner House. If you want to taste the fried chicken that first made KFC famous, this restaurant is still making it the way the Colonel would have wanted.

The chicken here earns rave reviews on Facebook. One satisfied diner wrote, "best chicken in the state," while another raved, "best chicken I’ve ever had." It’s like a time machine back to before corporate interests watered down the Colonel’s vision.

Crown Fried Chicken

fried drumstick and fries

You can find Crown Fried Chicken locations scattered around several cities in the U.S. While it looks like they’re all part of the same chain, their origin story is actually more unconventional than that. They’re all run by entrepreneurs without any formal affiliation with each other (via Boston Globe). The thing that holds them all together is that most are run by Afghan immigrants. According to The Village Voice, Crown is actually an offshoot of Kennedy Fried Chicken, another constellation of independently-run chicken restaurants that started in New York.

Since Crown isn’t strictly a chain, you can’t be sure that the chicken at one location will be the same as another on a different block (or in a different city), but you can bet it will be tasty. The Village Voice praised the Crown location in New York’s Spanish Harlem for making a surprisingly flavorful chicken breast. The Avon, Massachusetts Crown location that was profiled in the Boston Globe (which is now sadly closed, according to Yelp) marinated its chicken in lemon juice, spices, vinegar, and garlic to give the meat a juicy bite. Fortunately for Boston-area Crown fans, there is still an outpost in Roxbury to sate your fried chicken cravings.

Harold’s Chicken

harold's bag with sauced chicken and fries

Harold’s Chicken is a Chicago icon. This chain started in 1950 when Harold Pierce decided that Chicago’s black community was being underserved by existing fast-food businesses (via Black Chicago Eats). In the subsequent decades, Harold’s has expanded to several other cities in the U.S. Like Crown, Harold’s is more of a loose conglomeration of businesses than a unified chain, according to Serious Eats.

The fried chicken at Harold’s is a little different from what most places serve. For one, it’s fried in a mixture of beef tallow and vegetable oil. Using animal fat to fry in gives the chicken an old-fashioned, extra-savory flavor. Even better, Harold’s always fries your chicken fresh to order; no heat lamps here.

At Harold’s, it’s also customary to douse your fried chicken and fries in mild sauce. What is mild sauce? According to Block Club, it tastes like a mixture between hot sauce, barbecue sauce, and ketchup. This tangy, sweet sauce is what really gives Harold’s (and other Chicago chicken spots) a unique flavor. If heat is more of your thing, there’s also a vinegar-based sauce that will set your palate on fire.

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge

baker's fried chicken sandwich

Detroit is home to many fine fried chicken restaurants, but only one of them is also a historic jazz club. Baker’s Keyboard Lounge has been holding concerts and serving food since 1934 (via Detroit MetroTimes). In that time, many jazz legends have passed through this storied performance space, including Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, and Billie Holiday. The venue was sadly in danger of closing in 2009, but it seems to have righted the ship in recent years, and in 2021 it received a grant for historical preservation.

The fried chicken matches the high standard of the music. One impressed customer shared on Yelp that Baker’s serves "some of the best fried chicken I have ever had." Another reviewer wrote that the wings were "better than the locals’ favs in Buffalo." Considering the atmosphere, the sounds, and the food, Baker’s is a fried chicken experience worth seeking out.

Barbecue Inn

fried chicken with mashed potatoes and salad

If you’re looking for fried chicken, you probably wouldn’t think to stop at a place called Barbecue Inn. However, sometimes names can be deceptive. This beloved Houston mainstay does indeed serve barbecue (good ‘cue, in fact), but with plenty of local competition, it doesn’t really stand out for its smoked meats. According to Texas Monthly, the items that have kept this place around since the 1940s all come out of the deep-frier. The proprietors of the Barbecue Inn are masters at anything that gets dunked in batter and fried, from shrimp to chicken-fried steak to the confusingly-named chicken-fried chicken.

The best of the fried bunch is the classic bone-in fried chicken. It’s incredibly crunchy, with a beautiful, craggly surface. It’s not prepared using any fancy techniques or wild seasonings. Instead, it’s just a fresh chicken that’s fried to order and served at peak deliciousness. Sometimes, the simplest foods are the best.

Celebration Restaurant

fried chicken, broccoli, okra, gravy

While the term farm-to-table might conjure up images of fancy, expensive places like Chez Panisse that serve haute cuisine, that’s not what’s happening at Celebration Restaurant in Dallas. It’s just as committed to using local ingredients and sustainable proteins as a trendy fine-dining place would be, but instead of serving hoity-toity tasting-menu fare, Celebration offers classic Texas comfort food. Its menu is filled with homestyle classics like pot roast, meatloaf, and, of course, fried chicken.

The marinated chicken isn’t breaded and fried until you order it, so you know it’s going to arrive fresh at your table. It earned recognition for "Best Fried Chicken" from the Dallas Observer in 2003 and 2007, and some of its other menu items have won awards too. According to Thrillist, "Celebration brings it with locally sourced vegetables and sides, but the succulent fowl is unquestionably the star of the show." Yelp is just as positive, with one reviewer saying the "fried chicken is the best in town." That sounds like a ringing endorsement to us.

Bird Bird Biscuit

fried chicken biscuit sandwich

Most of the places on this list serve classic bone-in chicken, but Bird Bird Biscuit is a little bit different. This Austin, Texas, favorite, which opened in 2018, is known for fried chicken sandwiches served on giant, light-as-a-cloud biscuits (via KVUE Austin). It’s so good, and so beloved by people in its home city, that it earned the number five spot on Yelp’s 2022 list of the top restaurants in the U.S. The menu has three chicken sandwiches including the Queen Beak, which comes with hot black pepper honey and bacon-flavored mayo. The combination of sweet, spicy, and smoky flavors all on top of a slab of fried chicken impressed The Infatuation, which recommended, "If you’re only getting one sandwich, it should probably be this one."

People seriously love this place. On Facebook, Several people called their meal some variation of "best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had." Austin has no shortage of good food, but Bird Bird biscuit manages to stand out from the crowd.

KyoChon

two baskets of glazed kyochon chicken

South Korean fried chicken sensation KyoChon now has three locations in Southern California. The chain’s crispy chicken comes coated in a choice of a few different sauces, including soy-garlic, red hot, soy-ginger, and honey. In addition to whole, cut-up chickens, you can also get wings or go boneless (we would strongly recommend getting an option with bones, as, according to Bon Appétit, bones add flavor).

Thankfully, you don’t have to worry that the quality of the fried chicken at the stateside stores is any different than what you would enjoy overseas. One reviewer on Tripadvisor wrote that the Los Angeles experience "was exactly same that I had when I was in Korea." Customers really seem to love the sauces here, with people raving about the honey and soy-garlic flavors in particular. Remarkably, the chicken stays crispy even after it gets coated in sauce. Just be aware that if you order the hot chicken, you need to be prepared for serious heat.

Hodak’s

fried chicken, fries, and coleslaw

While Hodak’s has been making fried chicken in St. Louis since 1962, it actually started out as a bar called Matt and Tony’s that didn’t serve food. Then a woman named Ellen Hodak began serving her homemade fried chicken to the bar’s customers. The chicken instantly stole the show, and eventually, Hodak and her husband Tony took over the tavern and renamed it after themselves (via Riverfront Times). The couple moved the business to a new location and transformed it from a bar into a fried chicken restaurant.

The restaurant originally just sold chicken and fries, but the menu (and the restaurant itself) has expanded over time. Despite the changes, one thing has remained the same: the chicken. It starts as a fresh bird that’s cut into pieces and breaded by hand with Ellen Hodak’s secret recipe. Even longtime employees don’t know exactly what’s in the chicken. They just know it’s really, really good. The breading is light and crispy, and the meat is tender. Make sure to ask for some barbecue sauce for dunking (via RoadFood).

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey

drizzling honey on fried chicken

Everybody knows that fried chicken plays well with a little bit of sweetness. Even Popeyes has honey packets if you ask for them. Chef Ashley Christensen’s Raleigh, North Carolina restaurant, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, is built around honey-drizzled fried chicken. Christensen was destined to make a honey-focused restaurant, as her dad was a beekeeper (via Food Network). The chicken here is made in the classic Southern style, getting a buttermilk and flour dredge after a soak in seasoned brine.

One overjoyed Yelp reviewer wrote, "Can’t believe this is real. Chicken is flawless in preparation and flavor. Best fried chicken I ever had." A reviewer for The News & Observer offered similar sentiments. "The chicken is juicy (even if you order white meat) under a crunchy, deep golden brown batter crust," he wrote. "Honey adds a sweet note that, for those of us who grew up with it, brings back fond childhood memories."

If you’re in town over the weekend, consider stopping by the restaurant for brunch to enjoy fried chicken stacked on top of waffles or sandwiched in the middle of a biscuit with eggs and cheese.

Bertha’s Kitchen

bertha's chicken with mac and cabbage

Named after founder Albertha Grant, Bertha’s Kitchen has been a Charleston, South Carolina fixture since 1979 (via Saveur). When the restaurant opened, it didn’t have a name, but that didn’t stop hoards of locals from coming to the place to enjoy Grant’s low-country South Carolina cuisine. These days the place is run by her three daughters, but they haven’t changed a thing about any of her recipes. They even still cook everything in her old pots and pans.

According to Garden and Gun, Bertha’s serves soul food and low-country classics like mac and cheese, okra soup, fried fish, and red rice. But the fried chicken, which Saveur calls "elegant," can’t be beaten. According to one Yelp reviewer, the dish has "extra crispy and flavorful skin, juicy chicken." They added, "this fried chicken hit different." Another person who ate at Bertha’s while visiting Charleston said they "went back twice during my short trip because I loved the fried chicken so much."

Krispy Krunchy Chicken

basket of krispy krunchy chicken

If the idea of buying fried chicken from a gas station or convenience store at two in the morning makes your stomach turn, you’ve clearly never been to Krispy Krunchy Chicken. Founded in 1989 in Lafayette, Louisiana by Neal Onebane, the chain now boasts over 2,000 locations, but it’s never left its convenience store roots (via USA Today).

You’ll usually find Krispy Krunchy outposts tucked into a corner of a pre-existing convenience store or gas station. Although most are independently owned, the quality of the chicken is remarkably uniform (and delicious) despite coming out of businesses that wouldn’t appear to specialize in great food. According to Thrillist, the secret to the chicken’s success is that every Krispy Krunchy uses the same marinade which USA Today notes is actually injected inside the chicken. Krispy Krunchy’s golden birds have won it some famous fans over the years, perhaps most notably Top Chef alum Dale Talde.

Mac’s Country Store

fried chicken and onion rings

While we’re on the subject of gas station chicken, according to Only In Your State, Virginia’s finest fried fowl is also served at a gas station, albeit from an independent business rather than a big chain like Krispy Krunchy. The station is called Mac’s Country Store, and it’s tucked away on a section of the Patrick Henry Highway in the Charlottesville area.

The chicken is craggly-crusted and perfectly fried, just what you want to fortify yourself in the middle of a Southern road trip. Mac’s chicken even caught the attention of a writer at Saveur who wrote that it matched the best fried chicken they’d ever had. It’s well seasoned with a layer of breading that hits a happy medium between thin and thick. Also worth noting are the potato wedges, which sound a lot like the jojo potatoes at Reel M Inn. They’re thick-cut and dredged in the same breading as the fried chicken before their bath in the fryer.

Ray’s Cafe

fried chicken and rice plate lunch

The mainland U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on great fried chicken. Hawaii has plenty of contenders for the crown as well, including this Honolulu eatery which offers a wide-ranging menu of comfort food, with everything from steak to fresh grilled fish specials to the restaurant’s signature prime rib. However, a trip to Ray’s Cafe wouldn’t be complete without an order of fried chicken. According to a reviewer on Tripadvisor, "This is the old school version using chicken thighs and drumsticks and deep fat frying them to order. The result is delicious chicken that is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.

If you have a big appetite, try getting it as part of the Ray’s Cafe special with two pieces of chicken and a hamburger steak. Ray’s Cafe’s plates come with traditional Hawaiian sides such as rice and mac salad. Sounds like the perfect way to lull yourself into a carb coma. Plenty of places in Hawaii serve chicken, but Ray’s is special. One happy customer wrote on Yelp that the chicken is "a cut above every other place on the island."

Dirty Bird

two plates of chicken and waffles

We promise that this bird is dirty only in the metaphorical sense. Morgantown, West Virginia’s Dirty Bird is an unassuming little diner that makes some of the best chicken you’ll ever eat. You can get regular plain bone-in chicken, but Dirty Bird is also great at making other fried chicken-centric dishes. You can get chicken and waffles here, as well as loaded fried chicken subs and smothered chicken-and-egg biscuit breakfast sandwiches (via Only In Your State).

If you want to try Dirty Bird’s chicken, you might want to call ahead. According to one Tripadvisor reviewer, the restaurant sometimes runs out of chicken on busy days. That doesn’t come as a surprise considering one customer called it "the best fried chicken ever." We think the thing to get here is the fried chicken sub, as you won’t find it at just any chicken place. You can’t go wrong with crispy chicken cutlets tucked into a hoagie roll piled high with fresh veggies and condiments.

Paschal’s

fried chicken, mac, and greens

When you step into Paschal’s, you’re walking through history. This Atlanta eatery has been around since 1947, when it opened as a humble sandwich shop. In the beginning, it had no cooking facilities, so its founders, brothers James and Robert Paschal, would cook food at home and then take it in a taxi to their restaurant. Even back then, Paschal’s was known for its fried chicken sandwich, which cost 52 cents (via Resy). While Paschal’s evolved into a full-service restaurant, the chicken remains at the heart of the menu. The writer at Resy noted that the fried chicken meal they enjoyed at Paschal’s was unforgettable. According to Chowhound, the peppery chicken is made with a secret blend of 12 spices (that’s right, it beats the Colonel by one).

Apart from the amazing food, Paschal’s is also steeped in history. It was a favorite of Martin Luther King and John Lewis, and served as the setting of many meetings and planning sessions for the civil rights movement.

The Hitching Post

chicken, mashed potatoes, and slaw

You have to love a place with a healthy amount of confidence. The sign outside Cincinnati’s The Hitching Post proudly claims that the restaurant serves the "World’s Best Fried Chicken." That’s a pretty bold statement, but the chicken at this restaurant doesn’t disappoint (via WCPO Cincinnati).

Like many places on this list, The Hitching Post has been around for decades. It debuted in 1940 and eventually expanded into a local chain with 19 locations. Now there’s only one left, and it has survived several floods, but it keeps on serving incredible chicken. It claims to be the first take-out chicken restaurant in the Midwest. The Hitching Post has been operated by four generations of the Beck family, who purchased the restaurant in 1968.

The chicken is juicy and shockingly affordable. Facebook reviewers are incredibly enthusiastic, with some echoing the restaurant’s "world’s best claim." Others are slightly more modest, with one simply saying, "Best chicken in the Cincy area, hands down!!!"

Greyhound Tavern

greyhound statue next to plate of fried chicken

Greyhound Tavern has been around for over a century at this point. It opened as the Dixie Tea Room in 1921. It was originally an ice cream parlor but began serving chicken by the 1930s. This Northern Kentucky restaurant has passed through the hands of several owners over the years, but its fried chicken remains some of the best in the game.

According to Cincinnati Magazine, the Greyhound Tavern’s chicken arrives at your table freshly fried and ripping hot. It has thin, delicate breading and a pleasant but not overbearing level of spice. It’s also delicious when eaten cold as leftovers, so this would be great chicken to choose for a classic Southern picnic. Tripadvisor reviewers are also enthusiastic about the chicken here, with one saying, "It is cooked to perfection, fresh and uniquely spiced. A dining must for fried chicken enthusiasts!" Another raved that the fried chicken was "absolutely juicy and cooked to perfection."

Bessou

bessou karaage with sauce

Of course, Southern-style fried chicken is only one of the myriad ways humanity has figured out to make something delicious out of breaded, deep-fried chicken. The Japanese variation on the theme is called karaage, which is usually made with chunks of boneless chicken thigh that are seasoned with a soy-ginger marinade (via The Washington Post). They’re then breaded in a potato starch batter and fried until crispy. It’s not the same as American fried chicken, but it’s just as wonderful.

According to Time Out, Bessou’s chicken karaage is some of the best chicken in New York City. While the technique is Japanese, the flavoring of Bessou’s karaage has a global twist, with a Moroccan-inspired seasoning dust, curried cauliflower pickles, and yuzu aioli. The combination of crispy chicken, warm spices, acidic pickles, and creamy, savory mayonnaise is delectable. It’s no wonder that a Yelp reviewer called the karaage "probably some of the best fried chicken I’ve had in the past few years."

Ezell’s Famous Chicken

ezell's chicken and roll

We’re all searching for guidance in these uncertain times. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s this: When Oprah recommends something, it’s worth checking out. That’s the case with Ezell’s Famous Chicken. According to Vice, Oprah is so enamored with the bird from this place that she actually gets it shipped by air to her house when she has a hankering for chicken. Of course, the restaurant has a signed portrait of the media impresario hanging on the wall.

Ezell’s is a local chain in Seattle, though natives will tell you the original location is by far the best. The chicken is hand-breaded and freshly cooked. The restaurant claims it uses a secret technique to prevent its chicken from getting too greasy. Oprah isn’t the only one who’s a fan, either. One reviewer on Facebook says "Ezell’s is hands down the best chicken on the planet!"

Chick N’ Friends

fried chicken with corn muffin

Baltimore certainly has no shortage of fried chicken, but the absolute best bird in the area may be found a short drive away in Columbia, Maryland. Chick N’ Friends has been operated by a couple of generations of the Lloyd family over the years. It’s been open since 1987, though there were a few years when it wasn’t around, and it’s changed locations at least once. The restaurant prides itself on using high-quality ingredients and brags about the consistency it can achieve with its high-tech CollectraMatic pressure fryers.

According to a Redditor, "Chick N’ Friends in Columbia is hands down the best. It’s worth the commute." The restaurant also gets a lot of love on Facebook. One reviewer even had the chicken served at their wedding. We can’t think of a better way to kick off married life than with an overflowing platter of delicious fried chicken.

Howlin’ Ray’s

howlin' rays hot chicken with fries and greens

Prince’s is the originator of Nashville hot chicken, but it’s far from the only place serving up this fiery delicacy these days. Of all the challengers to the hot chicken throne, the best may be in Los Angeles, of all places.

Howlin’ Ray’s is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Johnny Ray Zone and Amanda Chapman. Zone is a chef who had previously worked for fancy restaurateurs like Gordon Ramsay, but he and Chapman got bitten by the hot chicken bug and decided to open a hot chicken food truck. These days, the business has two brick-and-mortar locations.

You can get classic bone-in chicken at Howlin’ Ray’s, but the signature item on the menu is the hot chicken sando. A reviewer at Insider called it the best fried chicken sandwich they had ever tasted. The chicken at Ray’s comes in six heat levels, and anything medium or higher is quite spicy. In the sandwich, that heat gets balanced out by cooling slaw, creamy comeback sauce, and a buttery bun, giving you the ultimate hot chicken experience.

Lois the Pie Queen

fried chicken and waffles with butter

Lois may be called the Pie Queen (and according to The Infatuation, her lemon icebox pie is worthy of the crown), but her domain also includes the best fried chicken and waffles in Oakland.

The original Lois the Pie Queen restaurant started around five decades ago in Berkeley, California, and move to its current location in Oakland 22 years later. It serves up all kinds of traditional soul food, including biscuits, grits, and black-eyed peas. In addition to the chicken and waffles, it’s also famous for its Reggie Jackson Special, a massive combo meal that includes biscuits, hash browns, eggs, and two fried pork chops.

Coming back to the chicken and waffles, Bravo Your City! praised the poultry for its moisture, flavor, and tenderness. While the dish can sometimes be kind of hard to eat, the chicken at Lois the Pie Queen is so tender that this is not an issue. You have to wait up to half an hour for the kitchen to prepare your chicken, but the wait is well worth it.

Parson’s Chicken & Fish

parson's chicken basket with slaw

Parson’s Chicken & Fish is a Chicago restaurant brand with four locations serving up fried chicken, fried fish, bar food, and cocktails. You can get both regular and hot fried chicken from Parson’s in various forms. The current menu includes bone-in chicken, nuggets made with hand-cut chunks of chicken breast, chicken and waffles, and a fried chicken sandwich with lettuce, pickles, American cheese, and hot sauce. On the weekends, you can also get a fried chicken breakfast sandwich on an English muffin with a hash brown and an egg.

The chicken sandwich, which offers a nice balance of savory and spicy, is a standout. It’s made with thigh meat rather than the standard boneless breast, ensuring it’s extra juicy. Antifoodie had great things to say about the chicken and waffles, raving that the bird was tender, crunchy, and well seasoned, with a nice hint of spice.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

dooky chase fried chicken with greens and cornbread

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is a venerable New Orleans institution. It was founded by Dooky Chase, Sr. in 1939, but it didn’t become the bastion of upscale African-American cuisine it’s known as today until Dooky Chase, Jr.’s wife, Leah Chase, began cooking there. Under her watch, the restaurant hosted legendary figures like Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Duke Ellington, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z. Leah Chase passed away in 2019, but we were lucky enough to get her advice on how to make a roux in 2015.

Much of Dooky Chase’s menu consists of upscale Creole dishes like shrimp Clemenceau and crawfish etouffee, but the restaurant also makes incredible fried chicken that’s marinated and seasoned with Creole spices. In fact, the chicken is so good that Nola.com named it the best in New Orleans in 2014 (and the Big Easy has no shortage of exemplary fried chicken). One judge exclaimed, "I would pass on dessert to eat another piece of chicken any day."

Pollo Campero

fried chicken, plantains, and yuca fries

While you might think of Pollo Campero as Latin America’s answer to KFC, that would be an insult to the Guatemalan chain’s chicken, which handily beats anything the Colonel’s serving these days. Thrillist writes that the chicken at Pollo Campero is amazing, with crispy, heavily-seasoned skin and delectable meat. The chain got its start in 1971 in Guatemala and quickly gained traction in the rest of Central America. Now you can find outposts of Pollo Campero in 18 states plus Washington, DC.

While its namesake is not surprisingly the star at Pollo Campero, we can’t talk about this place without shouting out the sides as well. The chain offers delicious accompaniments like roasted corn salad, beans with chorizo, fried sweet plantains, and yuca fries. The sides go far beyond what you’d find at a normal American fast food chicken joint, and they elevate the experience at Pollo Campero to something really special.

Porter’s Fried Chicken

Porter's Fried chicken exterior

Porter’s is a no-frills spot in St. Louis that serves excellent crispy shrimp and fish, but fried chicken is the star attraction. In addition to the standard white meat, dark meat, tenders, and wings, you can also get fried chicken livers and gizzards. These cuts may not be to everyone’s taste, but livers and gizzards have a rich, deep flavor that’s worth seeking out at least once.

The Riverfront Times writes that even though Porter’s doesn’t get the same level of press attention as other fried chicken places in St. Louis, the restaurant makes a really tasty bird. Satisfied diners also sing Porter’s praises on Yelp. One reviewer declares that it’s "The best fried chicken we have found in STL," and also shouts out the restaurant’s homemade hot sauce. Although it’s not mentioned on the online menu, both Yelpers and the Riverfront Times mention that Porter’s serves amazing spicy fried chicken, so if you stop by, ask if they have it.

Sylvia’s

sylvia's fried chicken, mac, and greens

Sylvia’s is a Southern-style soul food restaurant in Harlem, New York. It was founded by Sylvia Woods in 1962 and is still owned by the Woods family. It started as a small lunch counter with only a few seats, but now it’s a sprawling behemoth that stretches across a whole New York City block. Like some of the other spots on this list, Sylvia’s has hosted a variety of VIP guests, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (via The Infatuation).

The chicken here is straightforward and perfectly executed. The breading is quite crispy, and the meat is tender and delicious. The Infatuation recommends choosing dark meat (in our opinion, that’s the right choice no matter where you’re getting your chicken).

If you want a taste of Sylvia’s chicken but can’t get to New York, you can buy a packaged breading mix and fry your own chicken at home. The mix is mostly flour and spices with a little powdered whey and egg added.

Chatman’s Chicken

chatman's chicken exterior

Chatman’s is a restaurant in a small concrete building in San Antonio painted in an arresting yellow-and-red color scheme that makes mean fried chicken with a little Texas twist. You can get white or dark bone-in chicken as well as wings, tenders, livers, gizzards, and riblets. You have the option to season your chicken with either lemon pepper or spicy seasoning dust.

SA Flavor recommends getting dark meat with spicy seasoning. They also mention that each order comes with a pickled jalapeño, which lets you know this place is in Texas. Yelpers love Chatman’s too, with one reviewer raving "This is the best fried chicken in town — possibly best in the state!" The seasoning dust is what takes the chicken here to the next level, so don’t forget to ask for it.

In addition to the excellent chicken, Chatman’s makes some of the best macaroni and cheese in San Antonio according to both SA Flavor and Wes’ Cravin’s.

Wayfare Tavern

wayfare tavern chicken with herbs and lemon

Most of the places we’ve celebrated on this list are down-home, unpretentious restaurants that you wouldn’t necessarily call fancy. That doesn’t mean that fine dining chefs can’t cook a delicious fried chicken dish, however. Perhaps the best upscale take on fried chicken comes from Food Network star Tyler Florence, who serves the dish at his restaurant Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco.

Florence is a fried chicken expert. He told Food & Wine that "growing up in South Carolina, I ate it at least once a week." He uses one of his grandmothers’ recipes as the inspiration for his flour dredge, but the rest of his fried chicken method is anything but traditional.

To make it, he first rubs the chickens with a mixture of salt, oil, and herbs, then cooks them whole in an extremely cool oven. Then he breaks them into pieces, soaks them in buttermilk, dredges them in seasoned flour, and fries them in oil that’s been infused with herbs and garlic (via Edible Marin & Wine Country). The result is incredibly crispy, juicy chicken with an unrivaled depth of flavor.

Stroud’s

stroud's fried chicken, gravy, and green beans

Stroud’s Restaurant & Bar has a few locations scattered around Kansas and Missouri. The Stroud’s brand traces its history back to a barbecue restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri that opened its doors in 1933. However, during World War II the restaurant shifted to making fried chicken and gravy because of wartime beef rationing (via Stroud’s Wichita).

Stroud’s chicken recipe is elemental in its simplicity. The chicken is rinsed, dredged in flour with a basic salt-and-pepper seasoning, then fried (via Fox 4 Kansas City). The thing that makes it special is the technique. The chicken is crisped up in pans rather than deep fryers, and it’s served with a gravy made with the reserved chicken cracklings, according to Kansas Travel. Stroud’s fried chicken is so good that Simon Majumdar sang its praises on an episode of the Food Network’s "The Best Thing I Ever Ate."

We also can’t talk about Stroud’s without mentioning the bread you get with your meal. Instead of traditional dinner rolls or biscuits, Stroud’s serves cinnamon rolls. In case the chicken wasn’t rich enough on its own, you get a little bit of dessert on the side.