Fried Chicken at Khan BBQ ($9.99, half order)
Khan BBQ's unique fried chicken comes chopped up into bright orange nuggets and arrive dusted in a garam masala, which has a bold profile of cumin and coriander. They're reminiscent of traditional American fried chicken, with a crunchy and crackly crust (sort of like Popeye's), but with a seasoning that's distinctly Indian. They're addictive with a little building spice. Careful—there are bones in some of those nuggets! They'll be the only thing slowing you down from eating them all in one fell swoop.
Khan BBQ, 2401 West Devon Avenue, Chicago, IL 60659 (map); 773-274-8600; khanbbq.net
Hot & Spicy Chicken Wings at Great Sea ($12.99)
While Great Sea has a menu chock full of Chinese food, you'll watch most people come in and order the hot and spicy chicken wings with their meal, which are actually a Korean-style chicken wing called kampungi. The little wings are shaped into lollipops on the bone, fried, and tossed with a sticky-sweet soy glaze that builds in heat the more you pack away. The glaze will get everywhere—your face, your fingers, and in my case, your camera.
Great Sea, 3254 West Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625 (map); 773-478-9129
Duck Fat Fried Chicken at Slurping Turtle ($9.00)
When it comes to pan-fried chicken, lard is often considered the fat of choice. But Slurping Turtle takes a cue from Hot Doug's (and French chefs in general) and cooks its chicken in duck fat. Boneless and crispy, these hunks taste much lighter than their name suggests, though that may have something to do with the light slaw served on the side. Oh, and pair this with Hot Doug's duck fat fries and the world might explode.
Tony's Three Chili Chicken at Lao Sze Chuan ($11.45)
How could I leave this dish off? Sure, the chicken may not be technically deep fried, but when it comes to crispy exteriors and juicy innards, this dish has to make the cut. As for how it tastes, I'll just quote myself here: "The real secret behind this dish the combination of Sichuan peppercorns and chiles—a duo which numbs the tongue while also setting it on fire. A faint sweetness helps temper some of the more aggressive spice, making this the perfect introduction to the wide world of Tony Hu." Read more here >>
Thai Style Fried Chicken at BellyQ ($8.00)
"Thanks to the triple-battered frying method, the chicken takes extra-crispy to the extreme. This allows the exterior to hold up to the sweet and spicy sauce. (I should note that it's the kind of sauce that sticks to your fingers, basically requiring you to lick them.) This would be enough for most fried chicken, but the meat is actually the most memorable part here. The boneless chunks are juicy and flavorful enough to stand out, even against that sauce." Read more here >>
Whole Chicken Combo at Crisp ($19.99)
"Monday through Thursday, Crisp offers a Whole Chicken Combo, which elevates vacillation to a whole new level. The combo includes your choice of two drinks, two sides, and the main event: a whole chicken broken into 12 pieces, fried, and tossed in the restaurant's two most popular sauces: Seoul Sassy and Crisp BBQ." Read more here >>
Chicken Wings at Belly Shack
Sure, BellyQ already made the cut, but if you had any doubts that Bill Kim knows how to fry chicken, check out the equally delicious, though very different, chicken wings at his Bucktown joint, Belly Shack. As I mentioned before, they are "deliriously crispy and astonishingly juicy," a combo that every other fried chicken should hope to aspire to. Read more here >>
General Jane's Fried Chicken at Au Cheval ($16.50)
Au Cheval proclaims on its Tumblr page that it's "not your typical greasy spoon diner." But I think the restaurant sold itself short. This West Loop joint really is unlike any other restaurant period. Where else can you get an incredible griddled burger, a fried bologna sandwich, and, most important for this feature, something called General Jane's Fried Chicken? As a play on General Tso's, this sticky creation replaces the overly sugary sauce with balanced a slight heat and fruity bitter notes. In fact, when it first arrives, it might be a little too bitter, but give it time. Even when room temperature the crust remains crispy, plus all the other flavors meld into something truly unique.