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Photograph: Martha WilliamsChicken waffle tenders at Popeyes

Chefs picks for Chicago's best fried chicken

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


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.”

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