Big Jones ($16 per person)
Big Jones is one of a number of new chef-driven restaurants that are offering fried chicken, and it's one of the best we've sampled. But you'll need to plan ahead. It's only available for lunch, and it takes 30 minutes to make. Still, the price also includes a bevy of side dishes, including grits, greens, cornbread, biscuits, and some stunning gravy.
West Town Tavern ($16.95)
A long time favorite for its easygoing upscale American fare, West Town Tavern's fried chicken special brings in the crowds on Monday nights. It's soaked in buttermilk before being breaded and fried, and it's accompanied with mashed potatoes, Swiss chard, a buttermilk biscuit, and a white wild mushroom gravy.
Mini Hut ($4.90)
Mini Hut is truly a gem. We nearly missed it as the entrance is on the side of a nondescript building on Chicago's south side near Midway Airport. While the interior is basically just a crumbling countertop and some broken tables, their kitchen is a brisk assembly line of fried chicken. This butter-crust chicken is some of the best fried chicken we've ever had, richly flavored, deeply salty, very moist, and nearly flawless.
Mini Hut, 6659 West Archer Avenue, Chicago, IL (map); 773-586-2115
Chicken Shack ($5.34)
Evanston's Chicken Shack is frequently mentioned as a favorite fried chicken joint in Chicagoland. What we really noticed about this chicken was the bold black pepper seasoning in its crust, which added punch to an already superb chicken. This is the gold standard for fried chicken in Chicago. It's cash only (which we learned the hard way).
Brown's Chicken and Pasta ($5.99)
Brown's Chicken and Pasta is a fast-food chain located in the Chicagoland area. A little-known fact is that it was founded by a member of the Portillo family, the same owners of Portillo's restaurants. The defining characteristic of this chicken is the texture of the crust, which is one of the crunchiest we've encountered. While it's not heavily spiced, the crunch more than makes up for it. And trust us—order the corn fritters.
Crisp serves up much different take on the usual Southern-style fried chicken, looking instead to Korea for inspiration. The chicken comes with a delicate thin crust, which is then tossed in a sweet and sticky soy-ginger glaze and garnished with bits of freshly chopped green onion. The combination is addicting and absolutely unforgettable, and you won't mind those sticky fingers one bit.
Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles ($9.95)
After Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles original naming gaffe (they were named Chicago's Rosscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, later sued by the famous Roscoe's in Los Angeles), they've admirably cranked out remarkable fried chicken and waffles ever since. This is perfectly salted, crunchy, juicy, chicken at its best, and paired with the waffles, you've got a combination of food that's just plain good.
Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket ($10.95)
Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket serves up chicken that really does taste like grandma's home cooking. You know, if your grandma happened to be really good at making fried chicken. The exterior is unusual in that it's more like a breading rather than a crunchy crust, so you'll likely end up with pieces slipping off, but there's something about the way this chicken is cooked that reminds us of home.
Chicken Inn ($5.56)
Driving by this tiny strip mail, you might not notice Chicken Inn if it weren't for the kitschy sign advertising their broasted (pressure cooked deep-fried) chicken. It is carry-out only, so we ate this chicken off the hood of a car (best way to eat food, ever). Thanks to the crunchy exterior, balanced seasoning, good salt levels, juicy meat, and the fact that the broasting process rendered the chicken relatively light on the grease factor, made this chicken a huge winner.
Harold's Chicken ($4.50)
We'd get in a lot of trouble if we didn't mention Harold's Chicken. There are dozens of locations, and countless arguments have spawned as to which is the best. We visited the one on 53rd Street in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago, and we weren't disappointed. The chicken is half-fried, then completed when ordered, to ensure you don't wait too long. If you order it with any sauce, the chicken will come doused and is accompanied with fries, cole slaw, and a few slices of white bread. Don't be afraid of the bulletproof glass, it just keeps you from diving into their kitchen to stuff more chicken in your face.
Harold's Chicken, 1208 East 53rd Street, Chicago, IL 60615 (map); Kimbark Plaza; 773-752-9270
Micky's Chicken & Fish ($7.95)
Micky's might not serve an entire fried chicken, but their chicken wings are some of the best in the Loop. They also serve some remarkably juicy chicken fingers, which are a local office-worker favorite. Go for the jumbo wings rather than the medium-sized ones; the ratio of meat to skin is much better.
Micky's Chicken & Fish, 408 S. Clark, Chicago, IL 60605 (map); 312-566-0406
Dee's Place ($7.50)
Dee's Place serves up some of the juiciest and most satisfying fried chicken we've ever had. Every meal is cooked to order, and the result is hot, salty, and juicy chicken that truly fills any fried craving you have. And as a bonus, the live music somehow makes everything taste that much better.
Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken ($5.49)
Uncle Remus' unusual location inside a Walmart gave way to a discovery of some great fried chicken. The crust on this chicken was thicker than most we tried and fried to a deeper brown as well. But paired with the Louisiana-style hot sauce, the whole thing came together marvelously. We recommend the dark meat for its tender and juicy quality, which is better suited for the heavier crust.
Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken, 5215 West North Avenue Chicago, IL 60639 (map); 773-804-9801
White Fence Farm Carry Out ($13.75)
The fried chicken we had at White Fence Farm's carryout location was lightly crusted and easy on the seasoning. There's nothing not to like about this chicken, especially fresh out of the fryer. The edges were satisfyingly crispy, the chicken was moist, and it came with some sweet little corn fritters that we couldn't help but finish.
14 Fried Chicken Places We Love
Fried chicken. Just those two words alone induce images of mouth-watering, crispy, salty, juicy, and piping-hot pieces of poultry. And sure, when you think of Chicago, you don't always think of fried chicken right off the bat. But our city has dozens of fantastic places that put out really terrific examples that you'll be dreaming about for days to come.