We’ve eaten a lot of fried chicken around the world. Discover our picks for the best fried chicken in the United States plus seven more countries.
We didn’t intend to eat fried chicken in four American time zones and then take our poultry passion global. It happened organically because WE LOVE FRIED CHICKEN.
This love isn’t limited to traditional southern fried chicken. We also love eating fried chicken between two slices of bread, with donuts and on top of waffles. We love it hot out of the fryer and we love it hot and spicy. We love it at sit down fried chicken restaurants and at down and dirty dives. We love it all.
But how did it all begin? Mindi grew up eating fried chicken at restaurants like The Colonnade and Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta. As for Daryl, he got his first tastes at Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes and local spots like the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. It wasn’t long after we met in 2006 that we discovered our shared affinity for the golden brown bird.
Our mutual fried chicken obsession has motivated us to make crazy detours during our travels, while other times we’ve fortuitously bumped into great fried chicken more through luck than by pluck. After consuming many crispy calories, we’ve become fried chicken connoisseurs.
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The Best Fried Chicken We’ve Eaten… So Far
While the American south is a mecca for fried chicken fans, it’s not the only place to eat great fried chicken in the USA. And, as we discovered while traveling around the globe for three years, it’s also not the only place in the world to eat tasty fried chicken.
If you’re wondering where to find the best fried chicken in America, it’s time to expand your horizons to include other countries as well as continents beyond North America. After much reflection and a whole lot of good eating, we’re ready to present our picks for where to eat the best fried chicken in the world.
Traditional Southern Fried Chicken
With a history that includes settlers from Scotland, slaves from West Africa and a Kentucky businessman who called himself a colonel, traditional southern fried chicken is an American food favorite with a ‘juicy’ past that spans centuries. And, while it’s fair to say that southern Americans have perfected this particular culinary art, it’s not just available in the south.
After eating America’s best fried chicken in multiple cities both above and below the Mason-Dixon line, we’re partial to the following southern cities when we suffer from fried chicken cravings:
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
New Orleans is one of the greatest food cities in the USA thanks to Cajun and Creole dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, great American sandwiches like po boys and muffalettas and desserts like beignets and bananas foster. But these aren’t the only great things to eat at New Orleans restaurants since soul food plays a pivotal role in the local food scene.
We were happy to walk to Tremé in our quest to eat the dish dubbed “America’s Best Fried Chicken” and equally happy to burn off a few calories after our mission was accomplished. Living up to a worldwide reputation perpetuated by acolytes like the late Anthony Bourdain, Willie Mae’s chicken managed to be simultaneously crispy and slightly salty on the outside and moist and super juicy on the inside.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House and its neighbor Dooky Chase’s have limited hours, but they’re not the only fried chicken places in town. Located in the heart of the fabled French Quarter, Coop’s Place serves outrageously tasty Cajun fried chicken to go with its popular jambalaya. This deep bench of fried chicken options should be no surprise – NOLA is the city where the Popeyes fried chicken chain started after all.
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Memphis is a city that beckons food travelers due to its plethora of barbecue joints while music lovers are drawn to Graceland. We wanted to experience both during our inaugural visit to Tennessee’s Bluff City.
While we accomplished our BBQ and Elvis goals, we accomplished a bonus goal as well. Once we figured out that Memphis chefs excel at frying chicken in addition to creating world-famous wet and dry barbecue, we made a point to sample southern fried chickden at two notable Memphis eateries.
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The Four Way has a fascinating history that pre-dates the Civil Rights movement. A safe place for multi-racial dignitaries to dine together during volatile times, the restaurant served fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, turnip greens, boiled okra, mac & cheese and peach cobbler to the likes of Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes and Martin Luther King. After eating all of these things, we loved the restaurant’s crispy fried chicken most of all.
Open since 1953 in nearby Mason, Tennessee, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken didn’t arrive in Memphis until decades after The Four Way made its mark in history. Making up for lost time, the popular restaurant sells a prodigious amount of spicy fried chicken, sweet baked beans and coleslaw. After waiting in line, we sampled it all plus mac & cheese and chess cake for good measure.
Hot chicken takes southern fried chicken to new levels on the heat chart. Flavored with cayenne pepper, this fried chicken variation isn’t for the weak of heart. But, if you can handle the heat, it’s a must-eat in Nashville where it was invented as well as wherever else it appears on the menu.
In case you can’t tell, we like hot chicken. These are our favorite cities when we want to spice up our fried chicken experience:
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Eating hot chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville is like channeling history. Crowds have been tingling their taste buds with here dish for almost a century.
Thornton Prince started serving Hot Chicken with a recipe that he developed with his brothers. Decades later and at a new location on Nashville’s south side, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is the Nashville Hot Chicken standard-bearer with a recipe that includes no buttermilk and plenty of cayenne pepper.
But Prince’s isn’t the only hot chicken restaurant in Nashville…
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Tennessee’s Music City doesn’t just have numerous music clubs. It also has numerous hot chicken restaurants with each adding its own twist. Some replace chicken with fish. Others add additional spices and peppers beyond cayenne. Then there are ones that serve hot chicken with manhattans and other bourbon cocktails.
We recommend starting your Nashville hot chicken exploration at Prince’s Hot Chicken to taste the original version flavored from ‘plain’ all the way to ‘xxx hot’. Then go to newer hot chicken specialists to find your favorite. Depending on your commitment level and capsaicin tolerance, your crawl can range from three to ten stops.
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Hot chicken may have roots in Nashville but the concept has caught on in cities near and far. Memphis is an obvious second city to eat hot chicken. However, Columbus gets our vote for tasty hot chicken beyond Tennessee. If this sounds odd, hear us out…
As Ohio’s capital city and the home of Ohio State University, Columbus’ food choices transcend buckeye candy and pub grub. Options include international cuisines as well as American classics like barbecue, lobster rolls and hot chicken.
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While crowds flock to Columbus’s North Market, those in the know head upstairs to eat hot chicken at Hot Chicken Takeover. Those really in the know arrive early for a full election of double deep fried chicken and sweet yet savory banana pudding.
Served Nashville-style over white bread and with pickles, this hot chicken is the real deal. You’ll know what we mean once you try flavorful drumsticks (featuring two heat levels for the daring – hot and holy) and add sides like coleslaw and mac & cheese.
Where To Eat Hot Chicken In Columbus
Hot Chicken Takeover
Fried Chicken Sandwiches
Created during a time when fried chicken was considered a healthy alternative to artery-clogging beef despite the calories, fried chicken sandwiches have become a staple of the American diet. In reality, they’re far from healthy. But everybody needs a treat once in a while. Right?!
After eating fried chicken sandwiches at fast food chains like Chic-fil-A and Shake Shack, we spread our wings to find bigger and better sandwiches. These are some of our favorites spots for biting into sandwiches filled with crispy fried chicken and other tasty bits:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Philadelphia is famous for sandwiches. With a famous trifecta that includes cheesesteaks, roast pork sandwiches and hoagies, the city has even more up its sleeves. The best of the rest include bagels with lox, falafels, banh mi and (you guessed it) fried chicken sandwiches.
Fried chicken sandwiches aren’t new to Philly – the city has its fair share of Popeyes and KFC outlets. But Federal Donuts upped the city’s fried chicken sandwich game in 2015 when it elevated its popular sandwich to permanent status.
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When it opened in 2011, Federal Donuts just had three things on its menu – donuts, coffee and twice-fried Korean-style fried chicken. The step from fried chicken in a basket to fried chicken inside a Martin’s potato roll was logical. Adding American cheese, buttermilk ranch seasoning, spicy sauce and pickles was ingenious.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken Sandwiches In Philadelphia
Federal Donuts (multiple locations)
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Las Vegas is the kind of the city where you can find almost any food at any time of the day. It only makes sense that the city has a wide selection of fried chicken sandwiches in its food arsenal .
We ate two excellent fried chicken sandwiches during our most recent visit to Sin City. While popular Flock and Fowl closed in late 2020, CRAFTKitchen is still going strong in its Off the Strip location.
Discover more great food to eat Off The Strip in Las Vegas.
We ate a fried chicken sammy with layers of free range chicken breast, applewood smoked bacon, pepperdew peppers, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli during our visit. Keeping with the trends, CRAFTKitchen has since changed its menu to offer a Korean fried chicken sandwich instead.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken Sandwiches In Las Vegas
Although the late Chick-Fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy claimed credit for inventing the chicken sandwich in 1964, Black cooks were serving fried chicken on rolls for decades before that year. Hot chicken is a prime example.
More than a half-century later, this sandwich has jumped the pond and can be found on menus in countries around the world. We found a fine version on a menu in Bucharest and couldn’t resist ordering it with craft beer.
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Truthfully, we didn’t expect to eat a fried chicken sandwich in Romania’s capital city. But, loaded with kimchi coleslaw and chili ginger mayonnaise, Mikkeller’s spicy fried chicken sandwich was impossible to resist. It was also impossible to not finish. In other words, we ate and enjoyed every bite of our Korean-inspired American sandwich at this Danish brewpub in Romania. Phew.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken Sandwiches In Bucharest
Chicken and Waffles
Chicken and waffles is a dish that blends breakfast and dinner to create a treat that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. We typically eat this fried chicken variant for brunch.
Not a new fad, food historians trace the combination of chicken and waffles to antebellum slaves and founding father Thomas Jefferson. A fixture in soul food cuisine, it’s made its mark in Hollywood and on brunch restaurants everywhere including these fine versions:
Since we lived in Philadelphia before we hit the road five years ago, we had plenty of time to find great chicken and waffles in the city of brotherly love. And not just one version.
Available at the historic Reading Terminal, the Pennsylvania Dutch version tops waffles with roasted chicken and then smothers the combo with rich gravy. It’s unique but it’s not our thing.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Food in Montreal is better than food in most cities. This applies to local foods like poutine and bagels as well as just about everything else. Chicken and waffles fell into the second ‘everything else’ category during our month-long stay in one of Canada’s most food-focused cities.
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Located near our apartment, the Icehouse achieved next level status by adding thick bacon slices, sweet potato shavings, hot sauce and sweet syrup to its chicken and waffle combo. We weren’t surprised when the dish’s creator, Texas-born Nick Hodge, went on to win an episode of Canada Iron Chef. We’d vote for him too based on his contribution to this fried chicken genre.
Where To Eat Chicken And Waffles In Montreal
Hanoi forged a place in our hearts with a street food scene that doesn’t stop with dishes like pho and bun cha served around the clock. We could eat these dishes every day, which is exactly what we did for three weeks during our 2016 visit to Vietnam’s capital city. What can we say except that we also love soup.
S&L’s Diner pairs homemade waffles with crispy chicken tenders and coleslaw. Spicy maple syrup completes the dish. We weren’t surprised to learn that the diner is owned by an American ex-pat from Pennsylvania.
This dish gave these two world travelers a taste of home in Asia. Though the price was about ten times the cost of a bowl of pho, we considered it to be money well spent. It was still about half the price of the dish in New York.
Where To Eat Chicken And Waffles In Hanoi
Chicken wings aren’t just crispy chicken pieces, they’re also a starter on many restaurant and bar menus. It’s a dish that we rarely say “no” to whether we’re in Buffalo or elsewhere. We said “yes” to the following chicken wing starters and you should too:
Buffalo, New York, USA
Buffalo (the city, not the animal) has become famous around the world for coating deep-fried chicken wings with peppery, buttery sauce and pairing them with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing. Famously served at The Anchor Bar for the first time in 1964, Buffalo’s version of chicken wings is now available around the world in countries like France, Thailand and Vietnam.
Basically, if American ex-pats are in a city, Buffalo wings are there too. Otherwise, the next best option is to bake Buffalo wings at home.
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After eating Buffalo-style chicken wings in cities in the US and beyond, we were thrilled to take a self-guided Buffalo wings tour in New York’s Queen City. While we liked the wings at The Anchor Bar, they weren’t our favorite. That honor goes to Duff’s.
New York City, New York, USA
If you can’t find a type of food in NYC, it’s likely that you can’t find it anywhere. Such is the case with the traditional southern fried chicken we found at Bobwhite Counter on Avenue C in the East Village. Beyond fried birds and biscuits, we also found an ideal shareable snack – chicken wings.
Ironically, Bobwhite Counter isn’t named after a person named Bob White or the chicken that the compact restaurant brines in southern sweet tea. Owner and Virginia native Keedick Coulter named the restaurant after a bird that’s also called the Virginia quail. Go figure.
Where To Eat Chicken Wings In New York City
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
While it didn’t happen to us, we can appreciate that one could hypothetically grow tired of eating barbecue and traditional fried chicken in Memphis. Then there are people who want to combine the two popular local food specialties in one tasty dish.
Central BBQ addresses both issues by smoking and serving chicken wings six different ways – wet, naked, jerked, dry spice, honey gold and sweet heat. Purists will want to order the honey gold option since it’s a Memphis specialty. Central BBQ makes its honey gold sauce made with honey, chili peppers and a mix of secret ingredients.
Where To Eat Smoked Hot Wings In Memphis
Novelty Fried Chicken
Once you’ve eaten traditional southern fried chicken, hot chicken, fried chicken sandwiches, chicken on waffles and chicken wings, you may be satisfied. However, if you’re like us, your fried chicken journey is more of an endless quest filled with opportunities and surprises like the following:
Fried Chicken and Donuts
Fried chicken and donuts are two splurge foods that we rarely regret combining. The blend of sweet and savory flavors meet in a zone that never fails to make us happy.
Although we traveled to Phoenix specifically to eat at one of the country’s best pizzerias, we couldn’t resist chowing down on Korean fried chicken and filled donuts at Welcome Chicken and Donuts on our way to the Grand Canyon. The breakfast combo reminded us of Federal Donuts (see above) and accomplished our happiness goal.
Where To Eat Chicken And Donuts In Phoenix
Welcome Chicken and Donuts
Fried Chicken Tacos
Stuffing a tortilla with fried chicken isn’t the norm. But, after eating a Big Willie Style taco at Lloyd Taco Factory in Buffalo, we became instant fans.
The creative taqueria combines buttermilk fried chicken, Frank’s hot sauce, blue cheese dressing, romaine lettuce, tomato and red onion to create a new school version of chicken wings. Crunchy and hot, this fried chicken taco tastes good. Really good.
Where To Eat Tacos With Fried Chicken In Buffalo
Lloyd Taco Factory
International Fried Chicken
We thought our fried chicken journey would end when we left America to taste the world. We were wrong. Boy oh boy, were we wrong.
Check out the following global fried chicken we’ve experienced and bookmark them in your brain for your future travels:
Seoul, South Korea
Eating Korean-style fried chicken in South Korea is a goal that we’ve accomplished – sort of. We’ve been to the food-obsessed country three times but are yet to venture beyond Seoul’s international Incheon airport. We thought it would happen during our most recent layover but mother nature didn’t agree.
So, what did we do? We ate double-fried chicken at the airport. The airport version was just as crispy and juicy as we expected. Next time, though, we’re eating fried chicken in Seoul proper.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken At Seoul’s Incheon Airport
Da Nang, Vietnam
Spread over three separate visits, we’ve spent about six months in Da Nang, one of the largest cities in Vietnam. However, we didn’t find great fried chicken until our third visit. We were apparently too busy eating Vietnamese food favorites like mì quảng and bánh xèo during our first two visits.
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Once we discovered Da Nang’s Gà Rán Mr Thịnh, the fried chicken joined a food rotation that we also broadened to include North Carolina BBQ and sushi. Plump and crispy, this fried chicken was almost as good as traditional southern fried chicken we’d previously eaten in America. Plus, priced at the equivalent of a US dollar with fries, the price couldn’t be beat.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken In Da Nang
Gà Rán Mr Thịnh
Paris is one of our favorite food cities in the world. We could easily eat French food favorites like croissants, steak-frites and pastries all day every day without getting bored but that would be a mistake. Similar to New York City, Paris is a city with an eclectic global food footprint.
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Though we’ve traveled to Paris numerous times, our most recent week in the city was a veritable food frenzy during which we flexed our culinary muscles all day and into the night. Discovering fried chicken at STREET BKK Fry & Beer was both a surprise and a delight.
Not your typical Paris restaurant, STREET BKK Fry & Beer serves ‘Bangkok style’ street food including a fried chicken combo with curry stew, lentils, roti and a range of sauces (garlic, mint and yogurt). Not only did the crispy fowl reminded us of America and Bangkok in one full swoop, it was also a great value by Paris standards.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken In Paris
STREET Bangkok Fry & Beer
Manila, The Philippines
Filipino food intrigues us with unique dishes that celebrate flavors we know and love plus some we have yet to try. While we want to fully explore the full Filipino food set one day, our first trip to the Philippines was a quick port of call visit during an epic Asian cruise.
With just a few hours to explore Manila, we headed straight to the megacity’s Chinatown and ate a jumbo oyster omelet, dumplings and, of course, fried chicken. Sure, we could have eaten spicy fried chicken at Jollibbee, the super popular Filipino fried chicken chain. Instead, going to Manila’s Chinatown gave us an experience that was tangy, crunchy and fun.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken In Manila
Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant
Nicknamed Japan’s kitchen, Osaka offers a smorgasbord of tasty treats to all who visit the Japanese city. Popular dishes include ramen, sushi, tayokai and okonomiyaki. While we love these Japanese food favorites, we also love fried chicken. With three weeks in Osaka, we had plenty of time to enjoy both.
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Perhaps we’re over-achievers – we ate fried chicken two different ways in Osaka. The first was katsu, deep-fried chicken cutlet strips served over rice. The second was straight-up fried chicken at a neighborhood izakaya. We didn’t eat any bad food in Osaka and these two fried chicken varieties were no exception.
Where To Eat Fried Chicken In Osaka
Katsu Joints and Izakayas around the City
Frequently Asked Questions
Fried chicken is chicken that coated in breaded flour and fried in oil. This chicken style is notable for its crispy skin and juicy meat.
Food historians trace the roots of fried chicken to both Africa and Scotland as well as China and the Middle East. In other words, fried chicken has multiple origin stories.
Fried chicken is not healthy since the dish is high in calories, fat and sodium.
Fried chicken doesn’t taste good. It tastes great.
Popular fried chicken chains include KFC, Chic-fil-A and Joulibe but those chain restaurants are just the tip of the fried chicken mountain. You need to eat a lot of fried chicken to find your favorite.
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About The Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.
Original Publication Date: March 21, 2021