As Chicago continues to up its game on the world stage when it comes to fine dining, the city's major players haven't forgotten their roots. They realize that folks cannot eat out at expensive restaurants for every meal, so even comfort food has been elevated.
Heating up the Windy City is the fried chicken scene. That Southern-style, crispy fowl has been getting so much attention that there have been a few festivals in its honor. From down-home hangouts to trendy, cocktail-focused destinations, here are the absolute best places for a fried chicken dinner in Chicago.
Bavette's Bar & Boeuf's Southern Fried Chicken
The River North-based Bavette's Bar & Boeuf remains one of the area's top offerings for so many reasons. It's one of the city's hottest steakhouses, sexiest cocktail lounges and also features an intriguing basement bar that attracts visiting celebrities and local hot shots. What most folks don't know about is Bavette's fried chicken. Don't sleep on it. It's a bit spicy--with all the right flavor notes--and is accompanied by buttermilk ranch sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet peas and cipollini gravy. The baked sweet potato topped with brown sugar and butter or creamed spinach with blue cheese and caramelized onions are also great sides to consider.
Address: 218 W. Kinzie St., 312-624-8154
Big Jones' Award-Winning Fried Chicken
Andersonville's chef-driven gem Big Jones does fried chicken so well that you'd think you were in the Deep South. It's won several awards for its complexity and dedication to seasonal and well-sourced ingredients. It's first covered in a highly seasoned cornmeal dredge and then fried in leaf lard, ham drippings and clarified butter. It's served with voodoo greens and butterbeans--which is so legit. Another great accompaniment is the succotash, made with local sweet corn, sea island rice peas and homemade tasso. The chicken is made to order, takes 30 minutes to cook and is definitely worth the wait.
Address: 5347 N. Clark St., 773-275-5725
Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles' Specialty
Situated in the artsy, up-and-coming Bronzeville neighborhood, the original location is open from breakfast to dinner. Its signature dish--of course--is buttermilk fried chicken and waffles and customers may order it in the usual style or in a host of unique new offerings. Our faves include diced fried chicken tucked inside of a cheesy omelet with a house-made waffle or fried chicken smothered in gravy and onions with a waffle on the side. The restaurant is BYOB and only 10 minutes north of Hyde Park.
Address: 3947 S. King Dr., 773-536-3300
Harold's Chicken Shack Two-Piece Dinner With Mild Sauce
No fried chicken list would be complete without including Harold's Chicken Shack. The thing is, however, is that diners must go to the right Harold's because unfortunately the chicken isn't consistent at all of them. One people can trust is the location in the West Loop. It's in the heart of the action of the city's top bars, restaurants and galleries, plus it's a lot cheaper than most spots on this list. The secret to Harold's chicken is in the sauce (get it on the side), and remember to order the mild, tangy one. This outpost is BYOB with flatscreen televisions to watch the games.
Address: 804 W. Washington Blvd., 312-226-9866
Honey Butter Fried Chicken Signature Chicken
On average, the kitchen staff at Logan Square's Honey Butter Fried Chicken butchers 150 chickens a day. The chickens are humanely raised, antibiotic free and originate from an Indiana farm, which makes them some of the freshest fowl in town. But the real magic happens once the chicken arrives on plates: The signature chicken comes with house-made honey butter that's supposed to be drizzled upon the meat. Other menu highlights include a honey butter fried chicken sandwich, chicken and grits, and fried chicken and french toast topped with bourbon maple syrup.
Address: 3361 N. Elston St., 773-478-4000
Leghorn Cafe Fried Chicken Sandwiches
Fried chicken sandwiches are the specialty at the River North outpost of Leghorn, and the best part is that diners may customize them. For example, guests may choose the cut of all-natural local meat (breast or thigh), style (Nashville hot chicken or pickle brined), bread (bun or house-made biscuit) and sauce (Creole honey mustard, buttermilk rancho verde, Leghorn house "catsup," etc.). They can also top it with local cheddar, homemade blue cheese caramel butter or smoky bacon.
Address: 600 N. LaSalle St., 312-944-4444
The fried chicken is one of the best dishes on the menu at celebrated seafood spot Oyster Bah in Lincoln Park. Chef Pete Balodimas says it endures a rigorous process before it arrives to the table: It's brined for three days, and then marinated in a house-made, Old Bay-infused cornmeal batter for three hours before going into the deep fryer. Balodimas says it's the best of Korean and Southern fried chicken. It comes with a heaping of mashed potatoes and cole slaw.
Address: 1962 N. Halsted St., 773-248-3000
Parson's Chicken & Fish
Parson's, in Logan Square, made its mark on Chicago's dining and drinking scene in 2013 when it introduced the Negroni slushie to the world. A couple of those actually go quite well with the fried Amish chicken, which is infused with citrus, scallions, rum, habanero and some secret spices. It arrives with creamy cole slaw and a slice of Texas toast.
Address: 2952 W. Armitage Ave., 773-384-3333
Roister's Fried Chicken Sandwich
Was there any doubt that Grant Achatz--of Alinea fame--could pull off one of the best chicken sandwiches in Chicago? At his fifth venue Roister, with business partner Nick Kokonas, the fried chicken sandwich is served during lunch and it's made quite the stir among Chicago's most finicky foodies. Who knew that something so simple would whip folks into such a frenzy? Two crispy pieces of juicy chicken are placed between a brioche bun and topped with sunchoke hot sauce and chamomile-infused mayo. Roister is located next door to Next.
Address: 951 W. Fulton Market
The Roost Carolina Kitchen's Fried Chicken
Fried chicken fans are flocking to the North Side to The Roost for its comfort food faves, which includes the signature chicken, buttermilk biscuits and peach cobbler. Diners may get it "bone in" or "bone out" in style of Nashville hot, herb seasoned or spicy. They come with hand-cut potato chips, mac 'n' cheese or cucumber cole slaw.
Address: 1467 W. Irving Park Rd., 312-261-5564 or 457 N. Milwaukee Ave., 312-877-5738
Stanley's Kitchen & Tap
Long before all the hip, Southern-inspired eateries opened on the North Side, Stanley's made its mark in Lincoln Park. Most folks get their fill of the comfort-food fave on Sundays when the all-you-can-eat brunch is offered for $14.99 per person. There's buttermilk fried chicken on the menu, of course, so if you're craving it, you can go crazy. Pieces are generous and are best paired with home-style mac 'n' cheese, biscuits and mashed potatoes. Come back on Tuesday for the $15 10-piece bucket of chicken deal.
Address: 1970 N. Lincoln Ave., 312-642-0007
Yusho Hyde Park's Twice-Fried Chicken
See the wonders of science at the Museum of Science and Industry, then indulge in the wonders of fried chicken a few minutes away at the Hyde Park outpost of Yusho. The Japanese-inspired noodle shop showcases a number of ramen dishes--including BBQ chicken ramen with collard greens--but every meal should start with the twice-fried chicken that comes with a chile, green tea and lime dipping sauce.
Address: 1301 E. 53rd St., 773-643-1652