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Ina Mae Tavern
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Where to find the best fried chicken in Chicago

Get your hands greasy with Nashville hot chicken, jumbo Korean-style wings, saucy tenders and much more.

Written by
Zach Long
,
Morgan Olsen
,
Allison Yates
&
Jeffy Mai
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Fried chicken is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Juicy flesh enveloped by crispy skin is a simple thing that sparks joy with each bite. Similar to the best pizzas in town, Chicago restaurants have mastered the art of frying poultry, offering it in a number of various preparations. If you like yours packed with blazing hot spices, look no further than Fry the Coop or Hot Chi Chicken & Cones. Korean-style enthusiasts will find jumbo-sized wings to devour at Crisp and Dak, while Chicagoans who swear by fried chicken with mild sauce—an iconic dish—have local favorites like Harold’s and Uncle Remus to enjoy. Just as nice: These are among the finest cheap eats in the city. So satiate your greasy cravings with the best fried chicken in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Discover more of the best restaurants in Chicago

Time Out Market Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • West Loop

Chef and owner Darnell Reed honors his grandmother Luella's southern roots with his iconic Lincoln Square restaurant. There's not a single dud on the menu, but the buttermilk fried chicken is hard to beat. Get it served with a biscuit, pimento cheese and smoked gravy or atop a sweet waffle. No matter which route you go, it's not hard to see why Reed's signature poultry has taken on a life of its own.

Best fried chicken in Chicago

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Andersonville
  • price 2 of 4

A trifecta of fats—ham drippings, leaf lard and clarified butter—endow Paul Fehribach’s signature cornmeal-dredged fried chicken with richness and tremendous crunch. It’s served in shareable half-bird portions, and while the smaller pieces can be overwhelmed by their crusty cornmeal encasements, the textural ratio clicks into perfect balance with the meatier thigh and breast, whose succulent strata conceal torrents of briny juice.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • West Loop
  • price 1 of 4

In 2015, our city became home to the first northern outpost of beloved Tennessee institution Gus’s. Just like at the Volunteer State original, the chicken here has a kick that doesn’t scorch the palette but rather lingers pleasantly. The breading—all golden-brown ridges and nooks and delicious craggy bits—maintains its structural integrity until the last bite, while the moist chicken beneath (particularly the thigh) practically demands to be picked clean.

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  • Restaurants
  • Wicker Park

On a quiet corner in Wicker Park, chef-owner Brian Jupiter is whipping up some of the best fried chicken this city has ever seen. Purists will dig the three-piece meal, which is served with habit-forming hot honey and buttermilk drop biscuits. But the Nashville fried chicken po' boy is not to be missed: Golden poultry is pulled straight from the fryer, bathed in tongue-tingling hot sauce and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, avocado and mayo. Open wide!

  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

A trio of sauces—BBQ, Seoul Sassy and Buffalo—applied post-fryer give the chicken at this cheerful Lakeview Korean spot the power to assume multiple identities. Personally, we’re total suckers for the Sassy, a sweet but not cloying concoction of ginger and garlic over a deep, dark base note of soy. The bird itself is fried to crispy, golden perfection, making every bite a home run. Just be aware that these are whole wings (drum and flat), so an order of five is more like ten wings.

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  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

The Alinea Group’s boisterous concept centered around open-hearth cooking changes its menu regularly. One dish that’s a mainstay, though, is the chicken. The thighs are double dredged, making the skin flaky and shatteringly crisp, and a drizzle of gravy or the addictive hot sauce over them is just the cherry on top. You’ll also get a piece of roasted breast meat with your order—a contrast in style but similarly delightful. At $43, it’s the most expensive fried chicken on the list, yet arguably the finest.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

The seventh location of upscale Southern restaurant Yardbird has come to Chicago, replacing the old P.F. Chang’s in River North. Expect to feast on soul food staples, including otherworldly fried chicken. Created by Yardbird co-founder John Kunkel’s grandmother, the recipe involves bringing the bird for 27 hours and seasoning it with a blend of secret spices. The chicken is served with a house-made honey hot sauce plus, if you desire (you should), cheddar cheese waffles and spiced watermelon. It's a newcomer to the local scene but already a strong contender for the crown.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Restaurants
  • Ukrainian Village

Owner Zoe Schor spent years perfecting her fried chicken recipe for family and friends, and the finger-licking results of her labor are yours to enjoy at her West Town restaurant, Split-Rail. The classic four-piece order arrives with a split boneless breast, plus a bone-in leg and thigh—all perfectly crispy and not overwhelmingly breaded. Plus, there are alternative recipes available for the gluten-free and vegan diners in your group so that no one feels left out. Load up on condiments like chili maple butter and pineapple habanero hot sauce for extra fun.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Lower West Side
  • price 2 of 4

Chef Thai Dang’s celebrated Pilsen restaurant is a showcase of Southeast Asian cooking. Included among the many noteworthy items on the menu are Vietnamese-style wings. Dang brines the chicken first before double frying and tossing it in caramelized fish sauce. The wings are then finished with chilis, garlic and green scallions for an absolutely craveable bite. Pro tip: You can get them at the bar during happy hour for just $10.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Lake View
  • price 1 of 4

There are two locations—Roscoe Village and River West— to enjoy Roost's buttermilk-brined, hand-breaded chicken. The same level of care goes into the buttermilk biscuits, which are made from scratch in small batches throughout the day, so you'll never get a day-old pastry. Try both menu highlights when you order a fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit, which includes your choice of spice level.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Garfield Ridge
  • price 1 of 4

Fluorescent lighting and canary-yellow formica are about as much as you’ll get in the way of ambience at this neighborhood favorite, tucked down a side street just off of Archer Avenue in Garfield Ridge. But that chicken, though. Fried to order (veterans know to call 30 minutes in advance), it arrives clad in a mellow gold coating (or “butter crust”) that’s sturdy and salty and satisfyingly crunchy—a beautiful complement to the juicy meat beneath.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Avondale
  • price 1 of 4

The hip aesthetic all but dares you to dismiss this Avondale spot as a trend-surfing lightweight. Boy, would that be a mistake. The namesake fried chicken—a mix of bone-in drumsticks and boneless breasts and thighs—wears a hearty breading that’s supremely crunchy and fragrant with smoked paprika. Slather it with the sweet, airy house honey butter (which melts and mingles with the poultry’s juices) and you’ve got one of the city’s best takes on fried chicken. Bonus: Chicken orders include petite, crispy-edged corn muffins, perfect for mopping stray butter and breading crumbles from your tray.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Grand Boulevard

Named after chef Kristen Ashley’s grandmother, Cleo’s Southern Cuisine melds beloved family recipes with Creole classics. At Ashley’s Bronzeville restaurant (not far from her childhood home), she serves authentic comfort food that leaves a lasting impression long after your final bite. No order is complete without Cleo’s wonderfully crunchy, addictively juicy fried chicken, which can be ordered by itself, atop waffles or covered in sauces. After just one bite, you’ll understand what all of the hype is about.

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  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Greater Grand Crossing
  • price 1 of 4

Attempting to put her finger on the essence of the chickens in her one-time home of France, Julia Child mused, “They were so good and chickeny.” A similar assessment fits the fried bird at one of Chicago’s most iconic dining institutions, Harold’s: It’s just so fried chickeny. The meat is tender, with a faint funky undertone of grease; the breading savors simply of salt and pepper, and fresh from the fryer, it boasts a pastry-like flakiness—a result, perhaps, of the beef tallow allegedly incorporated into the cooking oil. A vinegary hot sauce (aka mild sauce) adds an optional acid zip and the complimentary slice of white bread allows you to soak up all the delicious juices once you've picked the bones clean.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • River West/West Town

With several locations throughout the Chicagoland area, Joe Fontana’s Nashville hot chicken is a go-to spot for folks who love fried chicken sandwiches and tongue-tingling heat. With both brioche and glazed donut bun options, as well as six heat levels—ranging from Country (No Heat) to Insanity (RIP)—you can satisfy the cravings and spice tolerance of everyone in your group. All locations serve beer, but the West Town outpost is the only one with a full service bar—and you can score a chicken tender for $1.50 with the purchase of any cocktail.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • Edgewater
  • price 1 of 4

This family-owned and operated Edgewater restaurant has consistently been recognized for serving some of the best Korean chicken wings since it opened in 2013. At Dak, wings are fried no less than three times, made fresh to order and always prepared in small batches. The owners would argue that—as cheesy as it sounds—their wings are great because of the love they put into cooking and feeding their guests. Heads up: you’ll want to order ahead or be prepared to wait, because orders take at least 10-30 minutes to prepare. Still hungry? Add Dak’s second most popular item, bibimbap with your choice of protein.

  • Restaurants
  • Chatham
  • price 1 of 4

Housed in the space of a former Harold’s Chicken, this Chatham joint does Nashville hot chicken a bit differently by infusing garlic, onions, sumac, paprika and other Middle Eastern flavors into the batter. Each order comes with two jumbo tenders, which are more than enough for most appetites. If you’re a purist who prefers bone-in chicken, the wings dipped in hot honey butter sauce and topped with Alabama white sauce, cotija cheese and pickles won’t disappoint either. Afterwards, cool off with an indulgent peanut butter pie ice cream cone.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
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  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Austin

With five locations scattered around the city and the suburbs, Uncle Remus has established itself as a fried chicken destination in Chicago. But not many residents realize that the restaurant's roots trace all the way back to 1963, when Gus and Mary Rickette opened G & G Chicken Shack in West Garfield Park. The concept has changed names and locations over the past six decades, but the quality of the chicken remains. These days, wings can be ordered by the piece and customers can specify exactly how they want it (i.e. soft fried or light on the sauce). You can try it every which way, but we love the simplicity of Uncle Remus's mild sauce.

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Logan Square
  • price 1 of 4

Whether you like your fried chicken solo or in a sandwich, hot or mild, Parson’s has just the cure—if you’re willing to wait. With a line that can easily set you a few hours on a warm day, you know Parson’s is the real deal. The reward, however, is worth your time (and the negroni slushies aren’t a bad idea while you wait). The chicken here is best enjoyed on its own, and you can choose from two pieces, a half or whole bird or a skillet, which includes fixings. Boasting a perfectly seasoned crust and a mahogany-colored fry, Parson’s chicken is just right. Swing by locations in Logan Sqaure, West Town, Andersonville and Lincoln Park.

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  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Uptown

What started as a food truck has blossomed into a brick-and-mortar business with two locations (the other is in Humboldt Park). And it's not hard to see why—the indulgent eats at Lucy's deserve to be consumed while sitting down. Diners can indulge in stacked burgers, fried chicken, loaded fries and decadent milkshakes. Here for the poultry? Go with the spicy fried chicken sandwich, laced with cooling coleslaw and American cheese. Looking for something richer? The Juicy Lucy's double patties are hiding a pocket of melty American cheese. Get your sugar fix in the form of a milkshake, vintage soda or soft serve cone.

  • Restaurants
  • Bridgeport
  • price 1 of 4

You can get wings, breasts, thighs and tenders at this Bridgeport fried chicken joint, but for the real Big Boss experience, you need to order the Big Boss Sandwich. The house specialty coats a comically large piece of boneless fried chicken in your choice of spicy sauce (ranging from mild spicy to Big Boss hot) and places it between a small butter bun with coleslaw and jalapeños. You're going to end up with sauce all over your fingers no matter how daintily you try to eat it, but that's what napkins are for. If you're still hungry, add a couple of curry puffs, curly fries or a tower of French toast sticks to your order.

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  • Restaurants
  • South Deering
  • price 1 of 4

This fry house in South Deering offers a variety of crispy treasures, ranging from chicken and shrimp to liver and gizzard. No matter what you fancy, be sure to douse it in the restaurant’s signature hot sauce, a zingy mustard-vinegar condiment that has a cult of fans on the Southeast Side. It pairs nicely with the heavy seasoning on the bird.

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Jeffy Mai
Editor, Time Out Chicago
  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 1 of 4

Up until several years ago, most attempts to bring Nashville-style hot chicken to Chicago were hampered by unfortunate missteps, from texturally weird breading to barbecue-tinged cayenne paste to wimpy spicing. But then came the Budlong, a chain of Chicago shops frying up hot chicken that hits all the right notes. The meat is briny, the breading is shatteringly crisp, and the cayenne coating will make you sweat. In true Nashville fashion, it’s even crowned with a skewer of cooling pickles and served up on a slice of thick white bread that draws in crumbled crust and spicy drippings like a delicious sponge.

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  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Grand Boulevard

If you crave something a little sweet to counter all that fried goodness, look no further than this South Side favorite that’s located just off the 47th Street stop on the Green Line. The sunny spot serves its fried chicken alongside cinnamon French toast and sweet honey butter (which you should slather all over the chicken, too). Each bite is the perfect blend of sugar and spice, a nice option for breakfast enthusiasts who can't decide. You can also have the fried chicken tossed in Peach's signature sweet and spicy Hangover sauce. 

  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Grand Boulevard
  • price 1 of 4

No, there's no relation to L.A.’s famous Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. But you can still get that sweet and salty duo of fried chicken and waffles any time of the day here, and that’s really all that matters. Both the Bronzeville and Oak Park locations of Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles serve waffles topped with your choice of fried chicken (both white and dark meat options are available), plus sweet add-ons like apple, blueberry, banana, strawberry, chocolate chip or pecan. And if you're not a fan of the restaurant's namesake combo, you can add fried wings, thighs, breasts and legs to anything on the menu.

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  • Restaurants
  • Korean
  • River West/West Town

A virtual spin-off operating out of Perilla, Sir Chicken delivers free-range tenders coated in flavors like hot and spicy, honey butter and buffalo, and dusted with sesame seeds, toasted seaweed and dehydrated scallions. If you prefer your chicken in sandwich form, you can snag the tendies on a potato bun alongside coleslaw, mayo and pickled peppers.

  • Restaurants
  • Bridgeport

There's no false advertising going on here: Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream wears its menu on its sleeve. And like its name suggests, golden poultry from Kimski chef Won Kim is at the heart of the menu. The chicken tenders come with your choice of sauce—buffalo ranch or honey mustard—and you can add some sides to round out your meal. Want to carb it out? The chicken sandwich is tossed in Korean fire sauce and topped with gochujang aioli, napa cabbage and Asian pear slaw, pickles and greens.

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  • Restaurants
  • Soul and southern American
  • Humboldt Park
  • price 1 of 4

With red accent walls that evoke a barn, a collection of hanging metal chickens dangling over wood tables and vintage booths lined with portraits of poultry, Feed feels like the Cracker Barrel’s cooler, more authentic cousin. The restaurant’s fried chicken is left to season overnight and then baked before it’s fried. Your juicy and crispy bird is accompanied by two sides of your choice—we recommend the succotash, okra or corn pudding—as well as cornbread or a biscuit. Feed is known to sell out of chicken, so get there early, and make sure to bring your favorite booze—it’s BYOB.

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