Crispy chicken skin is right up there with life's greatest pleasures, alongside hot sauce and honey butter. Don't settle for anything less than a crunchy bite followed by the juicy flesh of a perfectly fried piece of chicken. From Nashville hot to Korean style, the cooks at these 20 spots know their way around a fryer and promise to serve up a satisfying bird every time.Read More
Where to Eat Fried Chicken in Chicago
Find the crispiest and tastiest birds around town
North Branch Fried Chicken
It’s easy to drive past this Jefferson Park restaurant without realizing the treasures that lie within. But those who do know to head inside the distinctive blue building are rewarded with some irresistible bites. Although it shares the spotlight with barbecue and burgers, the fried chicken is an undeniable must-try. Like all superb versions, crunchy skin gives way to flesh that’s perfectly cooked. Online ordering is available here.
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The true test of a Southern restaurant’s quality is often measured in its fried chicken. At Big Jones, chef-owner Paul Fehribach recreates a classic Edna Lewis recipe by brining Amish chicken in herbs and spices and then frying it in leaf lard, ham drippings, and clarified butter. The finished product is a remarkable bird. Online ordering is available here.
Roost Chicken & Biscuits
What started out as a food truck has now blossomed into multiple brick-and-mortar locations around town. Chef and owner Joe Scroggs, who’s originally from the South, serves two types of poultry. The first is a mild herb-seasoned chicken. But for folks who love heat, the Nashville-style hot chicken is the one to try. It’s coated with cayenne paste and has a hint of sweetness and loads of spice. Both options can also be enjoyed as sandwiches on buttermilk biscuits or Hawaiian rolls. There’s another outpost in River West and one more coming soon to Roscoe Village. Online ordering is available here.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken
This popular Avondale spot was conceived after diners raved about the honey-butter-covered chicken at pop-up dinners hosted by Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp. The pair rode that momentum into a restaurant dedicated to the sweet-and-savory specialty in 2013. Since then, they’ve put it on everything from sandwiches to nachos to mac and cheese. Online orders can be placed here.
Indian fried chicken is getting popularized thanks to folks like Atlanta chef Asha Gomez who featured a recipe in her cookbook, “My Two Souths.” For the Indian version, aromatics — especially the gorgeous scent of fried curry leaves — plays a heavy role. At Thattu, chef Margaret Pak serves a Kerala version of chicken. The coating isn’t heavy, but envelops the moist meat, and it’s not overpowering. There’s a subtle crunch that makes it special.
KFC has long been associated with the Colonel but at Crisp it stands for something completely different: Korean fried chicken. This Lakeview spot is renowned for its jumbo wings, which are twice-fried. They can be had plain or tossed in sauces like the signature Seoul Sassy. The sweet marinade — a blend of ginger, soy, garlic, and other spices — helps set the chicken apart from the competition. Crisp’s wings are also available at Budacki’s Drive-In in Ravenswood. Online ordering is available here.
The Tuesday KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) special at Bixi is a great value of quality food. Chef Bo Fowler’s staff will pummel customers with chicken, beef-fat fries, a kimchi pancake, and bonchons (along with a shot and pint of beer) for a low price. The chicken is zesty and crunchy. It’s a great example of Korean chicken made with the freshest ingredients possible.
Parson's Chicken & Fish
Land and Sea Dept.’s fried chicken and fish shack — modeled after the old-school versions on the city’s West Side — is a perennial hotspot for good reason. The chicken is brined and soaked in a buttermilk hot sauce before being dredged in flour and spices. This leads to juicy, flavorful pieces with a little bit of heat. Grab a seat on the always bustling patio and order a Negroni slushy to round out the experience. Additional Parson’s outposts are located in Lincoln Park, West Town, and Andersonville. Online orders can be placed here.
The cross-cultural power of fried chicken in Chicago is arguably best represented by one of the most-discussed submissions in town: chef Ethan Lim’s Cambodian fried chicken, found only at Hermosa, his tiny restaurant on the city’s Northwest Side. An entrancing marriage of Cambodian and American cuisines, Lim’s version — a skin-on, kreung-marinated chicken thigh that’s deep fried and then topped with a fresh herb salad — speaks to a larger philosophy about cooking that he’s dubbed “culinary futurism.”
There are a few ways customers can get their fried chicken fix at Phodega, the Vietnamese chain with locations in Pilsen and Wicker Park. The most obvious is the fried chicken rice, which takes savory steamed rice usually paired with poached Hainanese chicken, and subs it for crunchy chicken strips. The dish is all about texture. So those wanting and upgrade can ask for chicken skins to take the dish to a new level. The wings are also habit-forming.
Chef Brian Jupiter, a Louisiana native, celebrates the culinary traditions of New Orleans at this corner tavern in Wicker Park. Of course that means fried chicken is a requisite item, and it does not disappoint. Jupiter shows off his frying skills with a version that has crackly skin and impeccably juicy meat. Hot honey is drizzled on top to make it sweet, spicy, and savory. On Wednesday nights, stop in for bingo and $25 AYCE fried chicken, drop biscuits, and coleslaw. Online orders can be placed here.
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A warm and homey haven for nostalgic comfort food, Split-Rail has reigned since 2017 as a sought-after spot in West Town where chef and owner Zoe Schor delights diners with her spins on Americana cuisine. Schor’s fried chicken, now a centerpiece of her menu, took her a decade to perfect but was certainly worth the wait: her birds come out crispy, juicy, and bursting with nostalgic flavor. There’s also a great gluten-free option and fried seitan for vegetarians.
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
Hailing from Tennessee, this chain flew north to shake up Chicago's fried chicken scene in 2015. The skin is deep fried to a dark brown hue and provides a brittle-yet-flavorful outer layer for the juicy, cayenne-flecked meat. The secret family recipe yields a perfect balance of saltiness and spiciness, which leaves diners wanting more. Place online orders here.
The Alinea Group’s approachable dining destination is chock-full of innovative New American plates, but its star item is undoubtedly the fried chicken. The meat is double dredged in seasoned cornstarch, buttermilk, and flour, giving it a shatteringly crisp exterior. It’s finished with a sprinkling of a special spice blend and served with a side of sunchoke hot sauce and gravy.
Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken
As the name implies, this West Side favorite specializes in crunchy fried chicken covered in mild sauce. The heavily peppered crust is offset by a sweet sauce that’s judiciously poured over the chicken. Be prepared to wait for the saucy goodness, or order ahead of time. There are three other outposts in Bronzeville, Broadview, and Bolingbrook.
Big Boss Spicy Fried Chicken
A colorful, eye-catching facade attracts passersby into this Bridgeport restaurant for fiery fried chicken. Owner Jassy Lee’s cooking style is influenced by both Belize and Nashville, and she seasons the poultry overnight with a blend of chilies before breading it and applying a spicy sauce. Five levels of heat are available, ranging from mild to extremely hot. Place online orders here.
Cleo's Southern Cuisine
Classic soul food with Creole twists draws diners to Cleo’s in Bronzeville. Chef-owner Kristen Harper’s tantalizing fried chicken is the highlight of the menu and offered several ways. Get the “Sauced Six” for flavor-packed wings drenched in mango habanero, sweet red chili, and spiced bourbon sauces or go all out with the “Pon’Yard” and feast on a Belgian waffle and two boneless thighs topped with Creole-buttered lump crab. Online orders can be placed here. A second location is open in the Loop.
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Harold's Chicken Shack
Chicago’s iconic chicken chain has been at it for decades and is one of the city’s most quintessential experiences. There are multiple Harold’s locations around town, the majority of which are found on the South Side, and celebrities frequently extol their virtues. Though the recipe — and consistency of the food — varies by location, it doesn’t deter locals from ordering half chicken or wing dinners with mild sauce — a sweet and tangy condiment that’s just as important as the bird.
Garfield Ridge’s Mini Hut is short on frills, but niceties aren’t necessary when there’s phenomenal fried chicken involved. The secret? The meat is brined overnight, dredged in butter-flavored flour, and pressure fried for 25 minutes. The result is golden pieces of crackling bird that are juicy to the bone and worth the wait. Just make sure to call ahead.
Hot Chi Chicken & Cones
Boasting items like a “Popeye’s Ain’t Sh!t” sandwich, this Chatham spot — located in a former Harold’s Chicken space — is full of bravado. It’s not just all talk, though: the kitchen backs up the swagger by making bodacious Nashville hot chicken packed with Middle Eastern spices and sauces. The menu features tenders and crispy wings topped with Alabama white sauce, plus five different heat levels. Diners can cool their mouths off afterwards with an ice cream cone. Online ordering is available here.
Hienie's Shrimp House
South Side fry house Hienie’s is known for its hot sauce as much as it is for chicken. Called “Hienie’s Hot Sauce” (but not actually produced by the restaurant), the neon orange condiment is a potent mustard-vinegar mix that cuts right through the grease. It nicely complements the fried chicken’s aggressive seasoning and golden, crispy skin.
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