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The Best Fried Chicken In Chicago

By Staff in Best Of on Mar 25, 2015 5:15PM

In a town full of culinary wonders, it is no surprise Chicago is teeming with wonderful fried chicken options. It's hard to pick just one favorite spot, since everything depends on what type of bird you are craving— a thin, crispy skin that shatters, a thick peppery crust or even a bird doused in sauce. There are so many delicious options to choose from and we encourage you to try them all.

Today we spotlight our favorite places in Chicago that serve up mighty fine plates of fried chicken perfection. Grab some napkins, roll up your sleeves and dig in because bird is the word today.

fried chicken with mild sauce at Uncle Remus (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist)

Uncle Remus
If you like your chicken peppery with a thick crust and generously sauced, then you’ve got to get yourself to Uncle Remus. The local chain has three locations, including one tucked inside a Wal-Mart, where they serve up freshly fried crunchy chicken. Good things come to those who wait, which is definitely the case at Uncle Remus. Call in your order ahead of time (expect brusque service) and prepare to be patient. The Wal-Mart location has a decent amount of seating and a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine where you can kill time. Our fried to order chicken was piping hot, the thick and crunchy coating doused in their sweet, tangy mild sauce. Grab napkins because it is a mess but well worth it, the heavily peppered crust and sweet sauce balancing each other out. The crust and sauce are the standout but the bird itself we’ve had is tender, not overly juicy but far from dry. And you can’t beat the prices, especially the specials. Stop by on Saturday and get a hefty three piece mixed with fries and a roll for under five bucks like the one above. It’s one of the better meal deals in town. — Lisa White

Uncle Remus has three locations at 5611 W. Madison St, 4650 W. North Ave and 1801 W. Roosevelt Rd.

Harold’s Chicken Shack
When you are looking to get some amazing fried chicken on a budget, local favorite Harold’s Chicken Shack should be your destination. A wing dinner comes with bread and fries and will set you back just about $5 for four wings plus sauce. Now, these aren’t any wimpy little wings you’d get at a cheap sports bar. At Harold’s you can count on a whole fried chicken wing, every time. Apart from their exceptional size, these wings are cooked to perfection and will rock your world with their precise blend of a moist and juicy inside and a perfectly breaded outside. The contrast in every bite is ideal. If you’re in the market for something else fried, there is also light and dark meat bucket options, combination dinners and fish entrees, namely perch and catfish. The 53 St. location is my favorite, but this Chicago staple is always a win, regardless of location. Be sure to ask for the mild sauce— it’s delicious. — Sophie Day

Harold’s Chicken Shack has multiple locations throughout Chicago.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken
When it comes to fried chicken, I tend to prefer the heavily battered, super-crunchy style of the South. Yet for Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Avondale, my favorite place to hike to when the craving strikes, I gladly make an exception. The fried chicken is remarkable: locally sourced, butchered in-house, lightly battered, incredibly tender and juicier than it is greasy. Except for the drumsticks, all of the chicken pieces are served boneless because Honey Butter uses the bones for stock. I think the chicken might be better that way. They also have great sides, including their famous corn muffins with delicious honey butter, creamed corn with Thai green curry and pimento mac n’ cheese, among others. Honey Butter also has a diverse selection of craft beers, wines and house cocktails. — Erika Kubick

Honey Butter Fried Chicken is located at 3361 N. Elston Ave.

fried chicken at Mini Hut (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist)

Mini Hut
Winner winner, chicken dinner! Really though, if you want the best fried chicken in the city get in your car and drive to Garfield Ridge. (Editor's Note: Or a really long bus ride on the 62 Archer bus will get you there, too.) Make sure to call ahead, because your chicken will be freshly prepared and needs to spend at least 20-25 minutes being pressure deep fried. While you wait, head next door to Tom’s Tap for a pint. You’ll notice plenty of patrons with gloriously greasy Mini Hut boxes in tow. If you’re looking for the door to enter, notice it’s actually located on Normandy Ave. on the side. Unwrap the tightly taped white box to reveal your butter crust chicken bounty. I know you want to dig in, but it’s piping hot so give yourself a moment to reflect on the chicken’s journey to you at this moment. Marinated overnight, battered in buttery flour with a bit of seasoning and freshly fried. With bright, citrusy notes, Mini Hut’s hot sauce is an excellent pairing. Enjoy its crispy, tender perfection. In Garfield Ridge, bird’s the word. — Jessica Mlinaric

Mini Hut is located at 6659 W. Archer Ave.

Leghorn Chicken
Leghorn Chicken’s peppery and flaky fried chicken is a source of pure happiness for me. Rich and sinful while juicy and crispy, their bountiful birds deliver exactly what I desire when I want fried chicken— gloriously executed chicken served in perfect portions with stellar sides. Ordering fried chicken is often a gluttonous undertaking with the sheer amount of meat one typically receives in an order, so I like the “pick your poison” approach at Leghorn. Four tenders or one of their sandwiches is a reasonable amount of food and each crispy-juicy bite is entirely satisfying. If opting for a sandwich, there are choices between a breast or a thigh, the style as Nashville Hot or pickle brined, on a house-made bun or their buttery and airy buttermilk biscuit (recommended). Extras such as cheese, pickles and kimchi can be added as well, but I keep it simple, adding only their house-made spicy mayo. The Rancho Verde sauce is a fantastic must-do addition to the tenders, an option they offer just until they run out each day. I advise going early to catch the tenders. — Carrie McGath

Leghorn Chicken is located at 959 N. Western Ave.

This fried chicken isn't anything fancy— it's based on Popeyes, after all, but that's what's so great about it. It's a simple, yet delicious, fried chicken that works surprisingly well as a salty crispy foil for their acidic and bitter cocktails. Get it bone in with their excellent dirty rice and mashed potatoes on Tuesday nights or bone-out the rest of the time, including in the absolutely delicious brunch biscuits. — Melissa McEwen

Analogue is located at 2523 N. Milwaukee Ave.

fried chicken at Crazy Bird (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist)

Crazy Bird Chicken
Tucked away in a little storefront in Lawndale is a husband and wife team making some seriously juicy chicken, delicious sides and desserts and some of the most genuine hospitality in the city. Larry Tucker rose up through the Chicago ranks being known for his stellar BBQ but now is in the bird business (although you can get rib tips when they’re on special). The brined chicken is fried to order so call it in and arrive to a piping hot bird. The crust is light and crispy but not paper thin and the seasoning gives just enough kick. The chicken itself is so juicy it drips as you dig in, the brine helping to seal in all its delicious flavor. Wife Ruby suggested the BBQ sauce, which had a nice citrus tang to it, a perfect compliment to the bird. There are a fine selection of soul food sides but whatever you do, get the yams. They were so tender, drenched in butter and a spice blend that brought out the natural sweetness but wasn’t overkill. Take home a slice of Ruby’s delicious desserts, the caramel pound cake was toothsome, perfectly sweet, dense, moist and paired well at home with coffee after our post-chicken haze. Crazy Bird is cute and cozy, a small counter offers up seats for those who can’t wait to dig in while the chicken decor and red and yellow trim is cheery and inviting. Ruby came out and checked on us to make sure we were enjoying our bird and Larry waved as we drove off, our bellies full as we already dream of our next round of exceptional chicken and outstanding yams. — Lisa White

Crazy Bird Chicken is located at 1138 S. California Ave.

While many associate fried chicken with Southern soul food, some of the best comes from a different South and a different Seoul— Korea. Crisp’s Korean fried chicken is truly among the best in Chicago and remains crispy even when doused in sauce. Crisp may be most well known for their wings, but their fried chicken is also available as a half or whole bird, too. After years of ordering exclusively wings, we’ve become a convert in recent months of the other chicken parts (they split the breast into multiple pieces to get a better batter and sauce ratio). While they offer their chicken plain or with buffalo sauce, skip those and focus on the Korean BBQ and especially the Seoul Sassy. The BBQ sauce brings just enough heat and a little sweetness that works so well on wings. But the true star is the Seoul Sassy... garlicky, gingery and slightly sweet. That’s why we weren’t surprised at all when Food & Wine magazine included them on their list of Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.— Benjy Lipsman

Crisp is located at 2940 N. Broadway St.

Parson’s Chicken And Fish
Call me a hipster, a yuppie or even a gentrifier if you want. Just don’t call me late for dinner, especially if dinner is at Parson’s. I just feel like Parson's has figured something out about their chicken that a lot of other places haven’t gotten yet. It’s crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, salty in all the right ways and served piping hot. It also doesn’t hurt that their house-made hot sauces are delicious, the cocktails are even better and they have tasty salads on the menu if you want to pretend like going out for fried chicken can be healthy. If that’s not enough for you, how many other fried chicken places serve oysters and have a huge, dog-friendly patio? — Jason Baldacci

Parson’s is located at 2952 W. Armitage Ave.

Brown's fried chicken with corn fritters and biscuit in the background (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist)

Brown’s Chicken
With over 30 Chicagoland locations, Brown’s boasts a local legacy that started in Bridgeview in 1949 and includes ownership by the Portillo's family. We visited the Archer Ave. location and were pleased to be served a juicy bird with a robust crust so thick it took two bites to get through. Aside from their buttermilk and cottonseed oil batter, Brown’s devotees tout the freshly prepared golden brown mushrooms. However, it’s the cloud-like powdered corn fritters that will have me coming back. — Jessica Mlinaric

Brown’s Chickenis located at 6909 W. Archer Ave.

Big Jones
There are so many ways to fry up a bird, the seasoning, cooking method and style is vastly different by region. Big Jones is a prime example, serving up a version of fried chicken that is not as prominent this far north. You first notice when you bite into the crust and a heavy accent of cornmeal crunch shatters through, giving a completely different texture than most standard options in the area. If the chicken taste a little different as well, you might be noticing the wonderful flavors imparted by the ham drippings, clarified butter and leaf lard used when frying it up. Like much of the south, every cook has a mixture of different fats they prefer to fry their bird in and although we grew up on a slightly different blend, we’re happy as adults to enjoy the addition of ham drippings into the mix. Depending on when you order, you receive a few classic sides with your chicken like greens or butter beans. Make sure to order the skillet cornbread as well, baked in cast iron with bacon fat (as cornbread should be) and served with honey and whipped butter. — Lisa White

Big Jones is located at 5347 N. Clark St.

Fried Garlic Chicken Sambal at Oiistar
Oiistar has quietly been dishing out bowls of atypical, crave-worthy ramen in Wicker Park for a couple of years now, but you would be remiss to only order the handmade noodles. Start your visit with Chef Sunny Yim’s beautifully fried chicken dressed in a sweet soy glaze or in the style of Sambal, a spicy, chile-seed studded rub of Thai chiles, red jalapeƱo, garlic, a little oil and vinegar, sugar and salt. Topped with roasted almonds and crunchy scallions, the wings are plump and the heat present, especially when slid across the bar from your perfect view of the humble kitchen. Chef Sunny kindly declines to package ramen to go, and I would suggest treating his wings with the same respect.— Kristine Sherred

Oiistar is located at 1385 N. Milwaukee Ave.

fried chicken and corn fritters at White Fence Farms (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist)

White Fence Farms
White Fence Farms has long been a suburban family dining staple, serving up platters of fried chicken, corn fritters and Brandy Ice at their homestead in Romeoville. These classics have grown a cult following and now you can grab your bird and fritters to go at five different carry-out locations. Their fried chicken is the lightly coated variety, a thin crispy skin that keeps the seasoning and spice to a minimum. It’s flash fried for only a few minutes and showcases the real star, a succulent pressure cooked chicken. A thinner crust with light seasoning seems to be a Midwestern staple, another fine example is Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, although I prefer White Fence’s actual bird a bit more. It’s a style that pairs perfectly with mashed potatoes and gravy, a classic Sunday dinner cuisine. Make sure to order some corn fritters, piping hot and dusted with powdered sugar, these little fried gems are studded with corn and remind me of the type of fritters you find at state fairs across the Midwest. — Lisa White

White Fence Farms is located at 1376 Joliet Rd. in Romeoville, Illinois. Check their website for additional carry-out locations.

It’s only available on Monday nights from 5-10 p.m. It’s perfectly crispy and accompanied by the chef's choice of side, which was a glorious halo of creamy buttery polenta last week and this week was two pillowy waffles. A convenient decanter of hot sauce is provided so you can spice it up to taste. — Melissa McEwen

Charlatan is located at 1329 W. Chicago Ave.

Aunt Reba's fried chicken at Taus Authentic (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric/Chicagoist)

Taus Authentic
Forgive us for eating with our hands in this chic space, but Taus’ fried chicken is worth digging into. The light, flaky coating offers a distinct flavor we haven’t tasted in other birds about town, owing to the use of winter spice. Top this family recipe with honey butter and savor the bright lemon finish. According to Chef Michael Taus, they put it on the menu just for fun and now "we go through fifty dishes a night.” Some chefs have all the fun. — Jessica Mlinaric

Taus Authentic is located at 1846 W. Division St.

Roost Carolina Kitchen
An unassuming storefront on a quiet stretch of Irving Park near Graceland Cemetery transports hungry visitors to the South via raw Carolina cooking and crooning Delta jams. Waiting 30 minutes for fried chicken in tight quarters might seem extreme, but silicon checkerboard mats offer old-fashioned fun while you wait. Moist, delightfully crispy and spicy chicken awaits you on the other side, whether bone-in Nashville hot (the cayenne hits residually— and beautifully— like wasabi in the nose) or appropriately spicy with cooling slaw and dill pickles. Even the caramelized bottom of that delectable buttermilk biscuit won’t keep that chicken in check. Roost is simultaneously a crowd pleaser and an obvious standout in a crowded coop. — Kristine Sherred

The Roost Carolina Kitchen is located at 1467 W Irving Park and around town in their mobile food truck.