As I was going through my morning routine, I saw a MSN.com roundup post from TheDailyMeal.com listing the TOP 50 best fried chicken spots around the country. I was pleased to see some of my favorites on their list but they have missed some gems.
Therefore, here's my top 10 favorite fried chicken places for the very best fried chicken in the entire USA. Add them to your travel bucket list (pardon the pun). While some of my favorites are not on their list, don't pass them by. After all, they did their research via the Internet. I did mine with GPS and a wet nap. Please post your own favorite fried chicken favorites in the comments! Where should I go next?
NOTE: The very best fried chicken I have ever eaten was made by my friend Sam Jackson. He won't give me the recipe. He said "over my dead body" so I have asked him to leave it to me in the will. When he does, I will open a Sam Ware's First Place Famous Fried Chicken stand. The second best fried chicken ever is my mom's Buttermilk Fried Chicken. She would make it every other Sunday after church and serve it with mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits. I'm not going to make you wait until I die for the recipe... here it is. Get the recipe...
MARTIE'S TOP 10 FRIED CHICKEN BUCKET LIST :-)
You get dinner and a show when you stop in to see Mr. D. It was the best fried chicken I've ever had at a restaurant. Mr. D's "heavenly" fried chicken has a crunchy crust but is supremely juicy on the inside. I like to pull off large pieces of crust (along with the skin) and eat it while I wait for the hot-from-the-fryer chicken to cool off a bit. (Yes, I do this.) Even the persnickety Alton Brown has claimed Mr. D's as the best fried chicken he has ever eaten after an accidental stop during his Feasting on Asphalt road trip series. Stop in next time you find yourself in Mississippi, on 61, and just off the Natchez Trace Parkway. Better yet, make plans to go. And please be sure to ask Mr. D to sing for you. No website. Just call them. Phone: 601-437-3661
2. WILLIE MAE'S SCOTCH HOUSE: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA (#2)
I made my first trip to New Orleans when I was only 1 with my Uncle Hugo and I've been in love with it ever since. No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a stop at Willie Mae's Scotch House. Do not make the mistake of saving it for Sunday dinner or your last night in town because they will be closed and you will be devastated. People get in line as early as 9AM for LUNCH! Ms. Willie Mae has won a James Beard award and too many accolades to list for her fried chicken. I like it because it is the chicken that most reminds me of my mother's. Three pieces will set you back about $10. Road trip, anyone? No website. You have to just show up or call. They close at 5pm daily and are closed on Sunday. Phone: 504.822.9503
Photos from Willie Mae's Facebook page. They don't have a website but close at 5pm daily and closed on Sunday.
3. YARDBIRD/MIAMI, FLORIDA (#43)
I am in Miami quite often it seems, and the only place I make sure to visit each and every single trip is Yardbird. My first visit was quite memorable. It was in March 2012 right after we got out of jail during filming of Food Network Star. Actually, it was not a real jail, we were simply sequestered. But it truly FELT like jail for about three months. When we finally got to go out to dinner, we went to Yardbird. I have never, ever, tasted anything that good in my entire life. Paired with a cold Blackberry Lemonade, well, that made the whole jail thing almost worth it. It usually comes with some chunks of fresh, cold watermelon, perfect to cut through the "comfort" of the chicken. Save it for the end.
Fried Chicken pairs perfectly with Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami. Photos borrowed from their Facebook page.
Located in a red cinder block building, you might not think much when you first pull up to Arnold's. Don't let looks deceive you. This is one of the best meat and three's (meat and three vegetables for all of you non-southerners) in the USA and certainly, their fried chicken helped put them on the map. It's spicy but not so hot like the Nashville "hot" chicken that is so trendy. It has hot sauce in the brine and cayenne in the dredge but it won't burn your mouth off. You have to click on the website to see the list of daily specials. I promise you, you'll start looking for airfare. Everything scratch made. Go. Eat. Die happy. (Don't forget the pie.) Say hello to Luke Bryan if you see him in line.
Photos from the Arnold's Country Kitchen website and Facebook page. Left photo credit: Ron Manville.
5. WAYFARE TAVERN / SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (did not rank)
If Tyler Florence wasn't a Southerner by birth, we'd have to adopt him. Tyler's Wayfare Tavern makes a real Southern Fried Chicken (his South Carolina grandmother taught him) and while country at its roots, it is a big city, sophisticated bird. Tyler brines with the traditional buttermilk but then low roasts the bird first before frying to order in a garlic and herb infused oil. Make no mistake this is real Southern style fried chicken, just slightly dressed up for church. I think it may be the garlic infused oil that Chef Florence uses that gives it a more elegant feel or perhaps the setting. Either way, you won't be mad at the $25 price tag; it seems a bargain compared to the $20 burger. In case you want to make it yourself, here's the recipe...
If you have not been to my hometown of Birmingham, plan a trip, even if just for the food. We have some fantastic restaurants around the Magic City, many of them part of the Jim 'n Nick's chain. The Little Donkey is their latest concept. It's a Mexican place. On my first visit, I went there to eat Mexican food. Now, I go there for the best fried chicken in town. They brine it in buttermilk but infuse the brine with three different chilies for the subtle heat. It does take a while- about 25 minutes to get to the table- but that's only because they fry it to order. You can call in 205-703-7000 and they will get your order started if you're on your lunch hour. Tell them I sent you. Half a bird is only $14. Make sure to get the Elote: grilled corn on the cobb with Cotija cheese and dusted with ancho chili powder. And may as well have a Horchada while you're waiting.
Why would I order Fried Chicken at a Noodle Bar? In New York City? Because rumor has it that David Chang can make a mean fried chicken and my friends made me go there to prove it. It's no rumor. There are two kinds. I loved the Old Bay version, of course. It is a flavor I love but never thought to put it into my dredge for fried chicken. Do it. I guarantee you I will from now on. You will see on their website that Fried Chicken has its own page. They call it "a large format meal" that means it is a feast that feeds 4-6 people. And you need a reservation booked way in advance. Gather your 6 best friends or some strangers off the street if you're in NYC alone. It's $125 for the chicken and all of the sides they bring with it... the little pancakes are fabulous. I didn't mention the triple fried Korean version that you also get with the feast... equally worthy if not superior. I did not take any photos that night. Or if I did, I can't find them. Here's a shot from their website.
8. LITTLE GOAT / CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (did not rank)
I love Stephanie Izard's Girl and the Goat and always stop in when I'm in Chicago. But lately, I find myself at her little sister, the Little Goat Diner. Mainly because it is a bit easier to get in and also because they have real deal fried chicken like we make at home. You get 3 pieces: breast, wing, and leg plus some rather delicious slaw (I never like slaw outside the South but she makes a nice one) that balances the little bit of heat you taste from the brine. Casual and yet very refined, this fried chicken is a lot like the Little Goat itself: as fancy as you want it to be. Eat your fried chicken on the rooftop on a warm Chicago day and you'll feel like you've traveled back in time to your Grandma's. Oh, and it is open for breakfast and is my favorite late-night place, too! Thanks, Stephanie.
9. DOOKY CHASE / NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA (#42)
Dooky Chase is another must in New Orleans. It started out in 1941 as a neighborhood sandwich shop and lottery ticket outlet. They soon hit the lottery themselves, growing into a highly respected culinary destination thanks to Chef Leah Chase. Dooky's has been a tourist favorite for decades but you know it is good when the locals will fight the crowds to get in. While known far and wide for their fried chicken, they are at their roots a Creole restaurant and on Friday night, Chef Chase prepares a special menu of local favorites. But we're talking chicken. It's crunchy. Extra crunchy, in fact., almost like bark. Ms. Leah has won awards for best fried chicken so many times, it is pointless to try to list them all. Make the pilgrimage. You must. And forget the dessert. Get another piece of chicken.
10. SEAFOOD AND CHICKEN BOX / TRUSSVILLE, ALABAMA (did not rank)
Never in all my days did I think I would write a blog roundup that included Momofuku Noodle Bar, Stephanie Izard, and Seafood and Chicken Box in the same post. Here is it. I've been eating fried chicken from Seafood and Chicken Box since the 80's. When I was married, we would order every Friday night and take it home to eat. It is still great, all these years later although just oh-so-slightly different after they moved to their new location a few years back. Their chicken has a bit of a saltiness to the crust- not sure what they put in that dredge but I'm guessing onion and/or garlic salt. Doesn't matter. This fried chicken is so juicy, inside, so crunchy outside and with that perfect thick, heavy crust. Just the way I like it. The sides are just okay; nothing to write home about... with the exception of the hush puppies. They'd be worth the trip on their own. These old school places don't have websites. They are too busy making fried chicken. Phone: 205-655-7414
Photos: MartieDuncan.com by Arden Photography
Over the past couple of generations, I increasingly see that more folks will go out for fried chicken than make it at home. That's okay... if any of these places are near you, I do not blame you. But if you want to start a tradition your family will still hold dear many years later, pull out the cast iron, save up your brown paper bags and make some homemade fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy for Sunday dinner. Let one of the little ones shake the bag. And make sure I get an invitation. Boy, do I miss my mom. :(