RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in NYC
You'll forgive the unhurried service at this Korean chain—the double-fried wings and drumsticks (small $8.99, medium $12.99) are cooked to order and encased in a greaseless, crispy shell that traps all of the meat's moisture. Of the two soy-garlic–based glazes, we prefer the subtle, slow-building heat of the spicier one.
Chef-owner Joaquin Baca made his bones in the chilly Momofuku empire, but walked away from David Chang's dominion last year to build this charming Southern-fried venture. A supremely juicy sweet tea glazed brick chicken ($27) offers flavors both delicate (lemon and thyme) and robust (rice, with apple, ham and pea leaves). The resto's fried bird (served during dinner Sunday and Monday) and Chicken and Waffles (served during brunch) are enhanced by a special house seasoning and served over Meyer lemon and black pepper waffles.
With its old arcade games, Schaefer in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, this gastrodive offers the city's best cheap-ass bar eats, served in a seedy venue where folks come to get blotto. Chef Stephen Tanner, formerly of Egg and Pies 'n' Thighs, heads the kitchen, cooking up fried chicken that trumps even that of his former employers: three fat thighs with extra-crisp skin and tender brined flesh, served with thimbles of sweet-and-spicy vinegar sauce and biscuits with soft honey butter ($12).
Harlem fried-chicken ace Charles Gabriel's hole-in-the-wall soul-food joint is known for its budget-friendly all-you-can-eat buffet (lunch $10.99, dinner $13.99, all day saturday and sunday $13.99), but more modest appetites can also cash in on a two-piece platter with two sides (like collard greens, and mac and cheese) for just $9.50. The signature bird—skillet-fried in soybean oil for a consistent, thin-crusted coating that doesn't drown out the meat's juiciness—is excellent even when it's been sitting in a warming bin. For the full experience, hold out for a fresh batch, sizzling from the heat of the pan.
The name of this spot refers to Nashville-style hot chicken, a cayenne-laced, sweat-inducing take on the Southern-fried classic. The all-natural, cage-free poultry is spiced with a well-guarded secret pepper combo (co-owner Craig Samuel calls the hotter of the two "uncut China white") before and after frying, then served bone-in on a thick slice of white bread and a side of your choosing. The "extra-hot" version is as fiery as it sounds, but there's real flavor—succulent protein and a distinct tanginess—beneath the lip-tingling crunch. • $13
The cult fried chicken that solidified the reputation of this Williamsburg hot spot is tender and briny, with a crisp golden crust that comes out just on the right side of greasiness. For the best deal, skip the three-piece chicken box ($14.25, with biscuit and a side) and instead wrap your mitts around the $7.25 chicken biscuit. The flaky yet dense saucer-size specimen cradles an oversize cutlet slicked in hot sauce and honey butter.
Arkansas native Rob Newton taps into the South’s penchant for both skyrocketing cholesterol and super-casual eats with this fried-chicken–focused canteen. That fowl, marked by a high-decibel crunch and juicy, flavorful meat, is sold by the piece—breast ($6), thigh ($4) or drumstick ($3)—or gas-station–style on a skewer for a fiver. But the best bang for your buck is the old-school chicken dinner ($14), a stick-to-your-ribs plate featuring half a bird, coleslaw, a Martin’s potato roll, buttermilk dressing and one side, such as braised collards dotted with country ham and smashed-and-fried Red Bliss potatoes.