Homestyle Southern cooking is definitely having a moment, and with that there has been a nationwide explosion in the popularity of fried chicken at both upscale and casual eateries. But where do you turn if you have a craving but are tired of the same basic flour-dredged drumsticks? We’ve put together a list of the most unique fried chicken varieties from state to state. Some are regional classics, while others are recent inventions at single establishments.
While typically served with barbecued chicken, white barbecue sauce—a mix of mayonnaise, vinegar and spices—is what makes Alabama fried chicken distinctive. Find it slathered on the fried chicken sandwich at Saw’s Soul Kitchen, served alongside onion straws. (Pro tip: You can always ask for an extra side of white barbecue sauce; that stuff is addictive.)
Sometimes the best fried chicken is truly home-cooked, and luckily for Kim Sunée’s neighbors, the Alaska-based food writer makes enough to share. Sunée is an Alaska transplant—she was born in South Korea and raised in New Orleans before living in France and Sweden and traveling throughout North Africa, India and Mexico. However, a recipe that she carried all throughout her travels is her spicy Korean fried chicken, which is covered in a special sweet-spicy sauce made with brown sugar, jalapenos, and sriracha. And, as a bonus, she typically makes batches big enough for 75 people (however, if you are looking for a more manageable family-sized serving, you can get a recipe for four to six people here).
We’ve seen chicken biscuits and even fried chicken donuts (more on those later), but what makes Arizona’s fried chicken scene unique is its pairing with another decadent breakfast pastry. Cue the Dixie Pan Fried Chicken at Chelsea’s in Phoenix. It’s served “picnic-style” with mashed potatoes and a cinnamon bun.
Care for a little culture with your chicken? Despite what you think it might stand for, the “B-M-F” in The Hive’s BMF Chicken actually means “buttermilk fried.”Beyond being quite tasty, this fried chicken is served alongside art since The Hive is located inside the 21C art museum/boutique hotel.
Hit up Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo for some Japanese fried chicken called tori no karaage. However, if you want to make the seriously addicting snack by yourself, Chef Mark Matsumoto has a fantastic recipe here. He explains: “After being marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, the two-bite nuggets of chicken are dredged in potato starch and deep fried until crisp. The potato starch creates a golden shell around the karaage with a lasting crispness which makes it perfect for packing into a bento lunch.
No, this isn’t a South Park episode—marijuana fried chicken is a popular recipe in “stoner cookbooks,” including a Cheeto-Cannabis Fried Chicken recipe. If that wasn’t enough, earlier this year rumors swirled that KFCs in The Centennial State would start selling the leafy green, as well as special edibles like Smashed Potatoes, Macaroni Munchies, and Bong Time Biscuits all made with their special “canni-butter”. Unfortunately, YUM! Brands came out and denied the claims, and stoners all across the state lamented.
Amore Cucina & Bar in Stamford successfully upped both the traditional Italian menu and the basic brunch with their variations of fried chicken. The first menu item leans a little more Italian: their “BOH” Sandwich” made with chicken parm, two fried eggs, sriracha, and shoestring fries. Then, there’s the special that the blog OMNOMCT describes as the best fried chicken in Connecticut. “The skin was that perfect crunchy crispiness you hope for, but with a unique, flavorful twist boosted up with cinnamon-buttermilk biscuit crumbs. The chicken lurking below was moist and flavorful and the over medium eggs were a nice touch to really breakfast-fy it. Tying it all together was a Marsala sauce that was thick like a gravy with that nice rich flavor you expect . . . hot damn.”
Mill’s Brother Market is a one-stop shop: it’s a convenience store, gas station and fried chicken joint all in one. The fried chicken section of the store is called The Chicken Man! and offers fried chicken any way you’d want it—in wing, tender and sandwich form.
Chicken croquettes (croquetas) are Cuba’s answer to popcorn chicken, and there’s no better place to find them in Miami than Chef Jose Andres’ restaurant, The Bazaar. Plus, to up the unique factor, they are served in a glass sneaker.
What do Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all have in common? The answer is Paschal’s fried chicken. Their recipe has been around since the 1940s and is unique in part because of the number of celebrities who have agreed that it is finger-licking good.
Ethel’s Grill in Kalihi is one of those “blink and you’ll it” kind of places (although Anthony Bourdain brought it national attention on Parts Unknown), but once you find it you have to order the Mochiko chicken. It’s breaded with a crispy coating of mochiko—a kind of rice flour— sugar, and spices, and then served alongside white rice, miso soup and salad.
Thanks to Campbell’s, Idaho has a signature fried chicken—Idahoan Fried Chicken—made from rolling drumsticks in a mixture of flour and instant mashed potato flakes. Way to go, Idaho.
Honey butter fried chicken New Haven-style thin crust pizza = A slice of fried chicken heaven, thanks to Piece Brewery and Pizzeria. Sadly, the fried chicken pizza was their February pie of the month, and during that month they only made 100 per day; however, here’s hoping they resurrect this hybrid masterpiece.
Indiana provides a tale of two chickens. In one corner we have the Cloverdale Travel Plaza, a divey truck stop that will remind you that chicken strips aren’t just for kids. In the other corner is Petite Chou Bistro & Champagne Bar, which serves a considerably more upscale drumstick that’s fried in duck fat.
Iowa is known for its fair food, especially it’s food on-a-stick; the 2015 State Fair boasted 70 on-a-stick options. Iowa has taken the Mississippi state chicken, chicken-on-a-stick (see below), deep-fried it, doused it in hot sauce, and dipped it in bleu cheese dressing. This magical snack is called Hot Lips.
According to Kansas-based food writer Adam Swerdlow, Harold’s Fried Chicken & Donuts isn’t really a restaurant—it’s more a food window in a Miller Mart gas station.” But despite its humble location, Harold’s Grilled Glazer packs rich flavor, landing it a spot on this list. Take a crispy fried chicken breast, top with cheddar cheese, smother it in special sauce, and slide it between two maple-glazed donuts. Toss that whole combo on the griddle, and you have yourself Kansas’ most unique fried chicken dish.
Yes, yes—I know you were probably thinking of another Kentucky fried chicken, but I thought that would be a bit cliche. So I’m directing our attention to one of Kentucky’s other great loves: bourbon. Food Network Star Damaris Phillips has a killer Bourbon Brined Fried Chicken recipe that will make you forget about all Harland Sanders.
Just kidding, in Louisville people celebrate his legacy by eating fried chicken on his grave on his birthday. We still love you, Colonel.
I’ve seen my fair share of freaky fried fair food (Oreos, hamburgers, Twinkies, etc.). However, New Orleans chef Phillip Lopez recently made a tutorial for the food website Salted about how to make fried chicken cotton candy. You use fried chicken oil as the base for this sweet and savory mashup. Beware, though: This recipe is rated as an “advanced” on the Salted scale.
Take a British-inspired brew pub, stick it in Maine—which is perhaps best known for its seafood—and what do you have? If you said beer-battered fish and chips, you would be right. However, if you said beer-battered fried chicken fingers, you would also be right. That’s where The Liberal Cup Public House and Brewery comes in. Located in Hallowell, the restaurant focuses on upscale pub grub, including these light, golden strips of chicken goodness.
Chicken Maryland is historic enough to have its own Wikipedia page. This state-specific fried chicken recipe differs from its Southern cousin in that instead of being flash-fried in a few inches of oil or lard, it is pan-fried in a cast-iron skillet and then covered, so the chicken steams as well as fries. Milk or cream is then added to the pan to form a succulent gravy.