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Chefs picks for Chicago's best fried chicken

Four of Chicago's top French chefs pick the city's best fried chicken. Drumstick please…

Photograph: Martha WilliamsChicken waffle tenders at Popeyes

They know their coq au vin, their poulet chasseur, their poulet Vallee d’Auge…so why not enlist a handful of high-end, classically trained French chefs to judge the merits of America’s soulful summer classic: fried chicken. Legendary chef Pierre Pollin (formerly of Le Titi de Paris, now an instructor at Kendall College), Jacky Pluton of Narra, chef Didier Durand of Cyrano’s Bistrot & Wine Bar and chef Martial Noguier of one sixtyblue came together recently for a blind tasting of six of Chicago’s most popular fried chickens. Here’s how the birds rated:

Harold’s Chicken Shack #36
1361 N Milwaukee Ave between Paulina and Wood Sts, 773-252-2424
Pollin: “Fried too much, but still moist.”
Durand: “Not very crunchy and it needs salt. Boring like a Monday night.”
Noguier: “Missing salt and pepper and needs to be juicier.”
Pluton: “Crispy skin, but where’s the seasoning?”

17 S Wabash Ave between Madison and Monroe Sts, 312-372-8855
Pollin: “Flavorful and moist with good seasoning.”
Durand: “Nice salt balance. The one to impress a date with while Saturday Night Fever’s on the screen.”
Noguier: “Nice, crispy, well seasoned and juicy.”
Pluton: “I think this meat is spoiled.”

18 E Bellevue Pl at Rush St, 312-642-3400
Pollin: “Not too much flavor other than herbs, but it’s very moist.”
Durand: “Very crunchy. I love the herbs mixed into the batter, but it’s a touch too greasy.”
Noguier: “Not really crispy enough. Too greasy.”
Pluton: “It’s tender and moist, but it has too much flour and no seasoning other than the herbs.”

Stanley’s Kitchen & Tap
1970 N Lincoln Ave at Armitage Ave, 312-642-0007
Pollin: “It’s totally dry with no taste.”
Durand: “What happened to the batter? Where did it go?”
Noguier: “Too dry and definitely not juicy at all.”
Pluton: “Good seasoning. Juicy.”

Ina’s (Best of test)
1235 W Randolph St between Racine Ave and Elizabeth St, 312-226-8227
Pollin: “Moist and juicy with the most flavor of all. This ismy favorite.”
Durand: “Crunch isn’t there, yet there’s good flavor. Needs a bit more salt to be exciting.”
Noguier: “Perfect, crispy and juicy. The best.”
Pluton: “Good meat, great seasoning and crispy skin. The best of the six.”

Pearl’s Place
3901 S Michigan Ave at Pershing Rd, 773-285-1700
Pollin: “No taste or flavor, really.”
Durand: “It’s moist because of the fat content, but for the same reason it’s too greasy.”
Noguier: “Too dry and it needs salt. They need to change the oil in the fryer; it tastes old.”
Pluton: “Juicy, okay meat and crispy skin, but it’s missing salt.”