Special Report

The Best Restaurant Chicken Dishes in America

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated in 2018 that our annual consumption of chicken as a nation was about 98 pounds per person. When the National Chicken Council conducted a survey of chicken-eating habits, also last year, it found that in the two weeks preceding the survey, 86% of the consumers questioned had eaten a chicken meal or snack bought at a supermarket and 68% had eaten one from a food service establishment. In other words, we like our chicken.

It’s a great source of protein — much cheaper than most meats and seafood and very versatile. You can eat it in almost any form but raw. Actually, some Japanese restaurants do serve raw chicken, called torisashi, but U.S. health officials warn strenuously against eating it. Chicken is known as one of the leading causes of food poisoning — even when it’s not recalled for contamination or other issues. These are the 29 food recalls that poisoned the most people.

But chicken can be barbecued, roasted, grilled, and of course fried. It can be minced and shredded and cut into bite-sized pieces; made into soup; added to salads. It’s a popular filling for tacos and enchiladas, and an ingredient in virtually all of the world’s cuisines in one form or another.

Besides being found all over the world, chicken is served at every kind of eating place, from fast food stands to some of the country’s fancier dining establishments. Here are the best restaurants in America.

24/7 Tempo has consulted national and regional “best” lists and drawn on editorial experience to develop a list of the best restaurant chicken dishes in America — or at least a good representation of them, since there are so many.

Click here to see the best chicken dishes in America.

These include whole roast birds, fried chicken pieces (with and without waffles on the side), classic Italian and Mexican preparations, Chinese and Japanese chicken specialties, even an innovative eggs Benedict made with spicy fried chicken instead of Canadian bacon. And in this case, the chicken definitely comes before the egg.

Source: Guarav K. / Yelp

1. Amish-style chicken pot pie
> Restaurant: Katie’s Kitchen
> City: Ronks, Pennsylvania

Amish pot pie doesn’t have a crust — it’s a kind of dense stew of chicken and vegetables in a rich broth with “slippery” noodles, usually square. Katie’s Kitchen makes it the right way as a dinner special every Wednesday.


Source: Courtesy of The Nine-Eleven Tavern / Facebook

2. Buffalo wings
> Restaurant: Nine-Eleven Tavern
> City: Buffalo, New York

This establishment’s unfortunate name predated 9/11 by 20 years: Its address is 9-11 Bloomfield Avenue. Arthur Bovino, author of two recent books on Buffalo’s food scene, says these are Buffalo’s best wings, “tangy and hot, with real butter flavor.”

Source: Courtesy of Le Coq Rico / Photograph by vincentzhu

3. Chef’s Baeckeoffe
> Restaurant: Le Coq Rico
> City: New York City

Parisian chef Lucile Plaza runs the kitchen at this chicken-centric restaurant. Three different kinds of bird are offered poached and roasted — but the specialty is this traditional Alsatian casserole, made with a whole 120-day-old Brune Landaise chicken from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, baked in earthenware with artichokes, tomatoes, lemon confit, and riesling wine. (It serves four.)

Source: Tom C. / Yelp

4. Chicken cacciatore
> Restaurant: Villa di Roma
> City: Philadelphia

Sometimes good old-fashioned red-sauce Italian food satisfies like no other, and this 56-year-old restaurant makes a version of this classic dish with onions, peppers, and mushrooms, in a marinara sauce spiked with red wine.


Source: Courtesy of Zuni Cafe

5. Chicken for two
> Restaurant: Zuni Café
> City: San Francisco

One of the eternal standbys at this 40-year-old Bay Area culinary mecca is a whole chicken roasted in a wood-fired brick oven and served with a warm bread salad made with scallions, garlic, mustard greens, dried currants, and pine nuts. The preparation is so popular that it has been widely copied by home cooks.

Source: Courtesy of Cumin

6. Chicken momos
> Restaurant: Cumin
> City: Chicago

Momos are steamed dumplings popular in Nepal, Tibet, and parts of India. At the “modern Nepalese / Indian” Cumin, the slightly chewy purses of dough are filled with minced, spiced chicken and served with tomato sauce.


Source: P T. / Yelp

7. Chicken parmigiana
> Restaurant: Louie’s by the Bay – Pasta & Carne
> City: Newport, California

For 46 years, Piero Selvaggio ran what was possibly the most consistently excellent Italian restaurant in America, offering both traditional and contemporary fare. At his new venture in the Orange County beach community of Newport, he concentrates on steaks and pasta — but also serves up an absolutely classic “chicken parm” — made with top-quality fowl, non-greasy breading, and real mozzarella.

Source: Courtesy of Popeyes / Twitter

8. Chicken sandwich
> Restaurant: Popeyes
> City: Numerous locations in 46 states and Washington, D.C.

If you haven’t followed the “chicken sandwich war” set off by the introduction and promotion of this chain’s first chicken sandwich, you must have been asleep. It has been called “a sandwich that launched a thousand Twitter battles,” and two weeks after its launch, it was sold out nationwide (though a return is promised when the company can source more chicken breast). It’s a chicken breast filet with “authentic” Louisiana-style seasonings, fried in a buttermilk batter and served on a buttery brioche bun with barrel-cured pickles and regular or spicy mayo. And, yes, it really is that good.

Source: Courtesy of NoMad

9. Chicken whole-roasted for two
> Restaurant: NoMad
> City: New York City

Established by chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara of the Michelin three-star Eleven Madison Park in 2012 (the partnership dissolved earlier this year), NoMad became famous above all for this dish. It’s the most indulgent chicken around: a whole roasted chicken carved at the table into white and dark meat, the former stuffed under the skin with black truffles and basted with foie gras, the latter returned to the kitchen to be sautéed with shallots and mushrooms.


Source: Courtesy of Den Den Korean Fried Chicken / Photograph by VRV

10. Den Den Korean fried chicken
> Restaurant: Den Den Korean Fried Chicken
> City: Providence, Rhode Island

Korean chefs fry their chicken twice so the exterior is especially crisp, even sometimes brittle. This casual Rhode Island restaurant does it especially well, serving wings and drumsticks (boneless upon request) with a choice of a dark soy-garlic sauce or a spicy red one. There’s kimchi on the side, of course.

Source: Courtesy of Guelaguetza

11. Festival de moles
> Restaurant: Guelaguetza
> City: Los Angeles

Since 1994, this Koreatown favorite (it’s in a building that used to house a Korean restaurant) has been representing the culture and cuisine of Mexico’s Oaxaca region — famous in culinary circles for its moles. (They are so key to Guelaguetza that its web address is ilovemole.com.) The best introduction to these complex Oaxacan sauces is this family-style sampler platter of shredded chicken in four different moles.


Source: Courtesy of Gus's Fried Chicken World Famous

12. Fried chicken
> Restaurant: Gus’s Fried Chicken World Famous
> City: Memphis, Tennessee

Though it’s now a chain with at least 25 locations across the country, for decades Gus’s was simply the go-to fried chicken place in Memphis. However many offshoots it may have spawned, the downtown Memphis restaurant remains unpretentious, perpetually crowded, and very good. Fresh hormone-free chicken is fried in peanut oil, then served in various combinations of parts with baked beans, cole slaw, and white bread.

Source: Courtesy of Ma'Ono

13. Fried chicken
> Restaurant: Ma’Ono
> City: Seattle

With three Seattle-area locations, this Hawaiian-inspired restaurant serves twice-fried locally raised chicken, with rice and kimchi, in quarter-, half-, or whole-bird portions. It’s like a variation on the classic Korean fried chicken, not as brittle, but spicier and still very crisp. Chile or honey mustard sauce comes on the side.

Source: Andrea T. / Yelp

14. Fried chicken
> Restaurant: Rip’s Tavern
> City: Ladd, Illinois

When Silvio “Rip” Gualandri opened his bar, originally called the Old Tin Front, in 1934, he gave away fried chicken to his drinking customers. It became so popular that it became the focus of the place as it evolved. Available in half or quarter dark or white meat portions or a mix of half and half, and for many years proudly served on paper plates (a tradition since abandoned due to supply issues), this is impeccable fried chicken with no tricks or gimmicks.


Source: Juyoung S. / Yelp

15. Hot chicken eggs Benedict
> Restaurant: Beasley’s Chicken & Honey
> City: Raleigh, North Carolina

At noted North Carolina chef-restaurateur Ashley Christensen’s place Beasley’s specializes in “fried chicken + seasonal Southern sides” (as well as non-seasonal waffles). Chicken pot pie, chicken biscuit, and chicken sandwich are on the menu, but the most unexpected offering is this interpretation of everybody’s favorite brunch dish. In this case, the Benedict is made with two poached eggs cloaked in classic béarnaise sauce atop buttermilk biscuits — and with slabs of spicy fried chicken instead of the usual Canadian bacon or ham.

Source: Simon R. / Yelp

16 Larb gai
> Restaurant: Night + Market Weho
> City: West Hollywood, California

This was the first of three casual and uncompromising Thai restaurants run by Kris Yenbamroong (whose family has the more elegant Talesai). This authentic chicken version of the classic Thai spicy salad combines minced chicken with lime juice, fish sauce, rice powder, chiles, cilantro, and onions. It’s meant to be eaten with one’s hands as part of a mouthful including a bit of sticky rice and salad.


Source: Courtesy of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

17. Lewellyn’s fine fried chicken
> Restaurant: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
> City: Miami and other locations

A “yardbird,” of course, is a chicken, so it’s obvious what the specialty here will be. The birds are Mary’s free-range chickens from central California’s Pitman Farms, and the recipe comes from restaurant partner John Kunkel’s Grandma Lewellyn. It involves brining the bird and dredging it in paprika-spiced flour before frying. Half a bird comes with honey hot sauce. If you order the whole fowl, you get the sauce, spiced watermelon, a cheddar cheese waffle, and bourbon maple syrup.

Source: Courtesy of The Dearborn / Facebook

18. Miler Amish chicken and gnocchi
> Restaurant: The Dearborn
> City: Chicago

Irish-born sisters Amy and Clodagh Lawless designed this 8,000-square-foot restaurant as a tribute to old-fashioned American taverns. It’s doubtful that any tavern, however, ever served this complex creation of roasted garlic-mustard chicken with house-made parmesan gnocchi, fava beans, peas, carrots, and chanterelle cream sauce in a truffle-Dijon cream sauce.

Source: Courtesy of Stroud's

19. Pan-fried regular chicken dinner
> Restaurant: Stroud’s
> City: Kansas City, Missouri, and other locations

Any chicken-lover in the vicinity who wasn’t put off by Stroud’s famous motto from the 1930s — “We choke our own chickens” — doubtless enjoyed this classic pan-fried bird at one point or another. Juicy, tender, peppery, and crisp, it pretty much defines the genre in the Midwestern style. Fried chicken livers, gizzards, or a combination of the two are also on the menu.


Source: Lisa I. / Yelp

20. Piri-piri chicken
> Restaurant: Fat Rice
> City: Chicago

This dish from Portugal’s former African colonies, Angola and Mozambique (piri-piri is a local name for the chiles that go into the marinade), became popular in Portugal itself — and by extension its other colonies in Asia and South America. Fat Rice specializes in the cooking of one such place, Macao in southern China, and prepares an authoritative version of the dish, using char-grilled chicken thighs, with “fatracha” hot sauce (the house-made version of sriracha).

Source: Courtesy of Huacatay

21. Pollo a la brasa
> Restaurant: Huacatay
> City: Washington, D.C.

One of the most famous dishes in Peruvian cuisine is this marinated chicken charcoal-grilled, often on a rotisserie (“brasa” means hot coals, or grill). Before cooking, it is coated with spices — sometimes in the form of panca and amarillo chile paste, as well as this restaurant’s namesake condiment, huacatay — a paste made from the leaves of a mint-like plant. This D.C. establishment’s version is as good as it gets.


Source: Courtesy of Rotisserie Georgette

22. Poulet Rôti
> Restaurant: Rotisserie Georgette
> City: New York City

A classic French roast chicken is cooked not in the oven but on a rotisserie, which slowly turns it in front of the flame until it’s done evenly to a golden-brown. That’s the technique at this stylish midtown Manhattan bistro. While the bird itself, from Pennsylvania’s Zimmerman Farm, is simply seasoned, sauces of herbes de Provence and garlic or green peppercorns with cognac are offered on the side.

Source: Courtesy of Hutong

23. Sanchen spiced chicken
> Restaurant: Hutong
> City: New York City

One of the more compelling dishes served in the glamorous Art Déco dining room at this new upscale Chinese restaurant is this stir-fry of chicken breast with dried chiles, star anise, and cumin seeds — medium-spicy and very aromatic.

Source: Trang T. / Yelp

24. Scoe’s No. 2
> Restaurant: Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles
> City: Hollywood, California, and other locations

Harlem native Herb Hudson introduced L.A. to this unlikely but savory Southern combination back in 1975. Chicken and waffles are available in various arrangements, together and separately, but one of the most satisfying is this plate of a quarter chicken smothered in gravy and onions over two waffles. When President Barack Obama stopped by in 2011, he ordered the Country Boy Special, a serving of three wings with a waffle, fries, or potato salad. It’s now on the menu as the Obama’s Special.


Source: Courtesy of The Bazaar by José Andrés

25. Seared Mary’s Farm chicken
> Restaurant: The Bazaar by José Andrés
> City: Los Angeles

Irrepressible and ubiquitous Spanish chef, restaurateur, and humanitarian Andrés does chicken his own way. He has his chefs sear miso-glazed chicken from central California’s Mary’s Farm, then serves it with mustard greens and mustard “caviar” — tiny globes of mustard spherified through a technique pioneered by Catalan modernist giant Ferran Adrià . The results are sui generis.

Source: Foodwanderer A. / Yelp

26. Smoked stuffed chicken leg
> Restaurant: Baker Boys BBQ
> City: Gonzalez, Texas

This popular barbecue place east of San Antonio serves one dish that all the other ‘cue emporiums around the state don’t — this unusual chicken leg. It’s stuffed with onions and jalapeños and smoked into crispness. As Texas Monthly noted: “Beautiful it’s not; tasty it is.”


Source: A W. / Yelp

27. Spring onion chicken in pepper sauce
> Restaurant: Chengdu Taste
> City: Alhambra, California

The late Pulitzer-Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold noted back in 2013 that Chengdu Taste “was pretty much acclaimed as the best Sichuan restaurant in [the Los Angeles area] from the first days of its opening.” This unusual dish consists of cold poached chicken pieces in a vivid green broth given punch by chiles and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. It’s a refreshing contrast to all those preparations of heavily breaded fried chicken pieces that fill the poultry sections of so many Chinese menus.

Source: Courtesy of Dawat

28. Chicken tandoori
> Restaurant: Dawat
> City: New York City

New York is full of new Indian restaurants, many of them specializing in regional cuisines beyond the usual, or creating dishes that are merely Indian-inspired. Dawat’s menu and sensibility are under the direction of venerable cookbook writer and actress Madhur Jaffrey. Much of what she offers is classic Indian fare adapted for contemporary tastes — but her tandoori chicken is a straightforward and delicious interpretation of an often mistreated northern Indian essential.

Source: Courtesy of Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

29. X hot fried chicken
> Restaurant: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
> City: Nashville, Tennessee

It now has many competitors around the country in the hot (i.e., spicy) chicken world, but Prince’s — almost a century old and run by founder Thorton Prince’s great-niece — is still the gold standard for the dish. Fried dark and crisp and served atop white bread, it comes in plain, mild, medium, hot, X hot, XX hot, and XXX hot. The X hot version has plenty of spice, and is about as fiery as you’d want it, if you’d still like to taste the delicious chicken.


Source: Maruko X. / Yelp

30. Yakitori
> Restaurant: Torimatsu
> City: Gardena, California

“Yakitori” literally means grilled (or burned) bird in Japanese — which is to say chicken skewered and cooked on a charcoal or gas grill. Torimatsu is a yakitori specialist, preparing bite-size pieces of chicken wings, breast, thighs, and even chicken tails and giblets, as well as chicken meatballs (some skewers also have green onion or other vegetables). Grilled on an extra-hot charcoal called binchotan, the results are all tender and perfectly cooked.

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