Fried chicken dinners

Six fried birds, served family-style. Are any of them better than the biscuits?

Photograph: Martha Williams
Fried chicken at Brown Trout

Nana
3267 S Halsted St (312-929-2486). Available Sunday nights.
The spread
Deviled eggs with bacon; fried chicken; mac and cheese; brussels sprouts; biscuits; spicy coleslaw; dessert. $22.
The chicken
It achieved a trait shared by the best chickens in the world: juicy, tender, craveable white meat. Less admirable traits: the overcooked dark meat and undersalted coating.
The sides
The deviled eggs, mac and biscuits all shared the same qualities: fatty, decadent, rich. The sprouts and jalapeño-laced coleslaw scrubbed the richness away.
The dessert
You get a choice. They’re mostly weird (a chocolate cupcake with lemon curd and raisins). Order the simplest one.
The standout
Honestly? The sprouts. But the biscuits are a close second.

Hota
2545 Prairie Ave, Evanston (847-733-0899). Available Sunday nights.
The spread
Roasted beet salad with assorted greens; fried chicken; mashed potatoes; green beans; dessert. $19.
The chicken
A substantial coating of well-spiced batter just barely clings to the meat, which spurts hot juices upon contact. We know this sounds a little grotesque, but trust us: This stuff is very, very good.
The sides
Simple and serviceable.
The dessert
When we had it, it was a pleasant, crusty bread pudding with ice cream.
The standout
Definitely the chicken.

Chalkboard
4343 N Lincoln Ave (773-477-7144). Available at dinner nightly (closed Tuesdays).
The spread
Cheese biscuit; fried chicken; mashed potatoes with white sausage gravy; collard greens. $25.
The chicken
The chicken breast was sufficiently—but not notably—juicy. But the real problem was the dry, restrained coating, which managed to render the dish joyless.
The sides
Elevated versions of the classics: the greens cooked just to tenderness, the hearty portion of mashed potatoes cloaked in a fennel sausage–dotted white gravy.
The dessert
You drink it: On Wednesdays, the chicken comes with unlimited sparkling wine.
The standout
The gravy. The chicken needs it.

The Southern
1840 W North Ave (773-342-1840). Available Wednesdays or for parties of six or more nightly with 24-hour notice.
The spread
Fried chicken; mashed potatoes; cheddar grits; collard greens; biscuits and gravy. $19, Wednesdays $14 (chicken, biscuits and
gravy only).
The chicken
Confusing: The skin was chewy rather than crunchy, and the overall bird lacked flavor (a situation that could be remedied with the hot sauce or hot-pepper vinegar on the table).
The sides
More than one table can handle, from cheesy grits to oversize biscuits to a giant gravy boat to stewed greens.
The dessert
Nope.
The standout
The biscuits, especially when slathered with honey and butter.

Big Jones
5347 N Clark St (773-275-5725). Available weekdays for lunch.
The spread
Biscuits; corn bread; fried chicken; mashed potatoes and gravy; greens; red beans and rice; pie. $16.
The chicken
Unreal. Cooked in ham hock–flavored lard and butter, in a cast-iron skillet. Crispy as hell, juicy as hell—this stuff is heaven.
The sides
Fluffy biscuits had edges like pie crust; mashed potatoes were rich—like, 1 percent rich—with butter; greens were saucy and spicy.
The dessert
An oddly modern mini-pie. It doesn’t do the rest of the meal justice.
The standout
We couldn’t possibly pick. (Okay, fine—we pick the chicken.)

Browntrout
4111 N Lincoln Ave (773-472-4111). Available Sunday nights.
The spread
Half chicken; brussels sprouts; mashed sweet potatoes. $19.
The chicken
Remarkably moist. So moist, in fact (it’s cooked sous vide), that the light, crispy breading is an afterthought.
The sides
Addictive, crispy roasted brussels sprouts kissed with cider-vinegar; velvety mashed sweet potatoes so rich they’d make Paula Deen weep.
The dessert
See the mashed sweet potatoes.
The standout
The chicken. Sous vide, man!

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