September 2019: We ate our weight in buttermilk and breading to bring you a definitive list of places to go for the best fried chicken in Miami. Sadly, updating our guide meant saying goodbye to the now-shuttered Federal Donuts. But the big gaping hole its closure left in our collective hearts and stomachs has been filled by Jeremy Ford’s spicy sandwich and Kush’s sweet-and-savory brunch combo, both available at Time Out Market Miami. Plus, for the folks who like to get fancy with their chicken, we welcome Brad Kilgore’s buzzy restaurant, Ember, where you get caviar butter (!) with your dish.
A great piece of fried chicken should be several things: tender, moist on the inside and flaky on the outside. But since South Florida is a melting pot, the best fried chicken in Miami is not always the traditional bird you’re used to. If it’s brunch in Miami, you might find it served atop a thick waffle; at lunchtime, Miami sandwich shops like to serve theirs stuffed between buns or biscuits; and dinner is anyone’s guess—think spicy Korean-style chicken at one of Wynwood’s best restaurants or a Middle-Eastern version with toasted sesame seeds. Not sure where to begin your search for the best fried chicken in Miami? We’ve rounded up the top 13 spots serving up all types of options.
Best fried chicken in Miami
At Time Out Market Miami, Ford turns his eye toward Southern-inspired Korean food with a menu that bounces from simple fare to out-of-the-box head-turners. His crispy fried chicken sandwich manages to tick off both boxes—spicy, rich and coated in an incredible kimchi sauce you’ll definitely want more of. It’s hot, but the buttery bun helps offset some of the spice and keeps the deliciously messy sandwich somewhat together. Get in there and leave no crumb behind.
If you’re looking for Korean fried chicken, KYU’s satiates all cravings for Asian-style crispy bird. Theirs is not only twice-fried but also wood-fire grilled, a technique used for most of the meats on the Asian barbecue restaurant’s menu. Savor this spicy chicken dish from Wynwood’s hottest restaurant, which is served with butter-braised chicory over a sriracha-inspired hot sauce.
Every meal at Ember needs to include an order of the fried chicken—period. It’s less on-brand than the wood-fired lasagna or steak, but it’s every bit the down-home, comfort food Kansas City chef Brad Kilgore set out to serve at the Design District restaurant. You can get it with Kilgore’s house-made BBQ sauce or with caviar butter. The latter is a no-brainer. More unctuous fat on a dish that’s already juicy and packed with flavor is how you level up.
Chicken and waffles have taken over Benedicts on nearly every Miami brunch menu, and we’re fine with that—especially if it’s Kush’s version’s we’re eating. Both at the restaurant and at Time Out Market, the fried bird sits on a Belgian waffle, is sprinkled with crumbled bacon and dusted with powdered sugar like a delicious carnival snack. The sweet-and-savory combination is made even sweeter with a side of house-made maple syrup.
Yardbird’s opening chef, Jeff McInnis, took his famous chicken recipe elsewhere to his own Southern-style restaurant. At Root & Bone, he and wife Janine Booth dole out the much-beloved bird (now with their own spin) during brunch, lunch and dinner. The sweet-tea brined, lemon-dusted fried chicken is served with honey Tabasco sauce—a winning combo made better only by a side of the restaurant’s hot, flaky biscuits.
Chef Michelle Bernstein’s legendary fried chicken (which was popularized as an annual all-you-can-eat summer special at her now-shuttered restaurant, Michy’s) lives on at Sweet Liberty. Marinated in buttermilk, tarragon, Dijon mustard, celery seed and black pepper, the dish is available year-round at the South Beach bar. The downside? Servings are not unlimited, so be sure to order one for each person at the table. You won’t want to share.
You can’t go wrong with chicken made according to a 100-year-old recipe passed down to owner John Kunkel by his grandmother, Lewellyn. And Yardbird’s famous fried bird follows her instructions to a T: first it’s brined for 27 years and then it’s dredged in secret spices. The half bird comes with a side of spicy tabasco honey sauce—simple, just as grandma intended—but diners can also order it with chilled spiced watermelon, a cheddar cheese waffle and bourbon maple syrup. You’ll have a hard time sharing either. Trust us.
Rotisserie chicken is the house specialty at Wynwood’s Le Chick. But the fried alternative is nothing to scoff at. It’s soaked in buttermilk and fried until the outside is brown and crispy and the inside is tender and juicy. The free-range bird is well-seasoned enough to enjoy on its own, but we like to dunk it in sauce, alternating between the spicy maple syrup and the house-made ranch dressing it’s served with.
Bird & Bone’s chef/partner Richard Hales executes the signature sweet-and-spicy combination of Nashville-style hot chicken to perfection. Though he does take some freedom in the presentation: it's drizzled it with hot mustard sauce and Florida honey, topped with house-pickled cucumbers and served on a thick slice of Zak the Baker country bread. While the dish is flawless as is—tender meat, flaky skin, addictive flavors—the brunch version takes it to new gluttonous levels with a thick cornbread waffle, candied bacon and bourbon syrup. You might need a nap after this one.
Sure, it’s a sushi restaurant, but Blue Ribbon is a sushi restaurant that’s as famous for its fish as it is its fried chicken. (In fact, cities like New York and Las Vegas have Blue Ribbons dedicated to just “good ol' finger-licking fried chicken”.) In between bites of toro and uni, do yourself a favor and save room for this matzo-crusted bird sprinkled with Japanese chili spices. The side of wasabi honey is not to missed be either.
South Miami’s Whisk is tough to beat when it comes to Southern comfort food, namely its buttermilk fried chicken, which can be ordered in a variety of ways and with all kinds of sides: atop a spinach salad, as an entrée with smashed potatoes and bacon gravy or—our favorite way—on a bacon-buttermilk biscuit with layers of pepper jelly and gravy. Whisk’s fried chicken biscuit may be listed as an appetizer, but know that the boneless quarter chicken and flaky biscuit is filling enough to qualify as an entrée.
When you really want fried chicken but also crave exotic flavors (read: hot sauce just won’t cut it), we suggest Byblos’s fried chicken smothered in garlic aioli, za’atar spices and toasted sesame seeds. The restaurant’s Middle-Eastern-style bird is brined in honey, garlic cloves, thyme, peppercorns and lemon and then coated in flour spiced with paprika and cayenne. Unlike other fried chicken dishes accompanied by waffles and syrups, this one is served with a simple side of cucumber slaw.
The bird to order at Pao is Paul Qui’s 35-spice East Side King Fried Chicken—a small plate of crispy boneless chicken bites tossed over a bed of greens and pickled red onions. Though what really makes this dish for us is the side of sweet banana ketchup, a staple of the chef’s native Filipino cuisine.
You don’t have to shell out a wad of cash to enjoy a night out at Joe’s Stone Crab. The South Beach institution may be known for its fresh Florida stone crabs (which, at market price, can quickly rack up a bill), but it also ranks high in the fried chicken department. Joe’s famous fried chicken isn’t just delicious, but it’s also dirt cheap at just $6.95 an order, which includes a side of coleslaw and house-made potato chips. The combo platter easily feeds two people.
The exclamation in its name is not gratuitous. Everyone should be excited about Chicken Guy! Guy Fieri’s Aventura Mall eatery keeps it simple, serving chicken tenders exclusively. Its sauce game, however, is so extra. Dip the fried fingers in everything from avocado crema and something called Donkey sauce to curry mayo, or whatever else you fancy from the list of 22 dipping flavors.
While you won’t find the signature half bird with honey hot sauce or chilled watermelon at Yardbird’s fast-casual offshoot, Spring Chicken, you will find an equally tasty fried chicken menu boasting dishes made from the same recipes and ingredients. We suggest opting for one of Spring Chicken’s crispy chicken sandwiches made with boneless, skinless fried chicken breast. The classic Yardbird sandwich—a simple combination of chicken, pickles and mayonnaise on a soft potato bun—is juicy and satisfying.