Get your Wet-Naps ready, people—it’s time to feast your eyes on the crispiest, crunchiest, gosh-darn best fried chicken in NYC, from classic chicken and waffles at New York’s iconic soul food restaurants to top-rate cheap fried chicken at Southern-fried diners and luncheonettes. From double-dredged drumettes to lunchtime chicken sandwiches, these freshly fried fowls can go beak-to-beak with anything you’d find below the Mason Dixon.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in NYC
Fried chicken we love so much that we welcomed them into Time Out Market
When Jacob’s Pickles opened on the Upper West Side in 2011, it was one of the first truly cool restaurants in a neighborhood better known for its sleepy dining scene than hip eateries and bars. The back-to-basics menu was one we could get behind (goodbye, stale chicken wings and greasy fries). The Southern-focused spot specializes in comfort foods: Nashville hot chicken, biscuits, mac and cheese and, of course, pickles.
Best fried chicken in NYC
A small, no-fuss space, this East Village chicken nook focuses on doing one thing very well. There’s no excessive crust, no overly aggressive seasoning—just beautifully fried-to-order fowl. After the overnight–sweet-tea–brined bird is dispatched to a pressure fryer, the result is rivers of juiciness. This is fried chicken for meat lovers, though the gossamer crust ain’t too shabby, either.
Sarah Sanneh’s pastry-dough creations share equal weight in the restaurant’s name, but the undisputed star of this Dixieland shack is the cult fried fowl, ye of eye-rollingly moist meat and irresistibly golden-crisp batter, zestily seasoned with paprika, black pepper and cayenne. Get it in a box, packed with three pieces of lightly crusted free-range chicken (white or dark, you choose), a buttermilk biscuit and your choice of side (burnt-end baked beans, cheese grits, cornbread).
One of New York’s only purveyors of Nashville-style hot chicken (brined pieces are fried then immediately doused with a wet or dry spice mix), the bird at this Bed-Stuy soul-food favorite is seasoned with tongue-sizzling cayenne and scorchingly hot ghost peppers after exiting the fryer. Peaches’ rendition is pleasantly greasy, and even after many spicy bites (or extra spicy, for you heat fiends), you can’t help but go back for more of that succulent inside.
Owned by Sylvia Woods, known around these parts as the “Queen of Soul Food,” the Harlem restaurant has been a neighborhood staple since 1962, doling out down-South specialties including especially great fried chicken and waffles, saucy barbecue ribs and cowpeas with rice.
It’s all about the crust at our Williamsburg winner. The fried chicken comes as three generous GBD (that’s “golden brown delicious,” BTW) thighs to a plate for a bargain price. It’s double-crusted, chef-seasoned (i.e., aggressively) and full of craggy bits, delivering a cartoonishly audible crunch and indulgent greasiness—a great way to soak up all the booze on offer at this hipster-happy gastrodive.
Before fried chicken became the It dish, Korea’s version enjoyed its own following, thanks to an impressively crisp shell and moist meat. For those who haven’t gotten their fill, BonChon offers wings, drumsticks and breast meat with one of two sauces (soy-garlic and hot-and-spicy).
In the middle of Soho, virtuoso Andrew Camellini’s deeply personal homage to the American melting pot at this worldly brasserie feels electric. The golden half-bird, available for lunch, brunch and dinner, is served with a rotating spread of sides such as coleslaw and flaky biscuits.
Twenty-fifteen was inundated with heavyweight chicken sandwich options, from Shake Shack’s Brooklyn-only ChickenShack to Chick-fil-A’s Manhattan debut, but one bird ruled the roost: David Chang’s poultry tour de force, with buttermilk-battered, Scotch-bonnet-smoldering meat spilling out from under a pliant Martin’s potato roll. Spare trimmings—a slick of briny butter, a few snappy pickle chips—allow for focus to remain on the bird, and what a mighty bird it is.
Fried chicken is elevated to elegant heights at this Southern spot from Top Chef toques Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth. The half chicken is a generous four pieces, brined in sweet tea, pressure-fried and then dusted with dehydrated lemon, parsley and dill and served with a masterfully balanced Tabasco-honey dipping sauce. So juicy it’s downright addictive, it updates a down-home tradition while still hitting all the satisfying comfort-food notes you want from fryer-fresh bird.
For some serious straight-up comfort food, go get golden pieces positively bursting with deliciousness from Harlem’s fried-chicken king, Charles Gabriel, at his namesake uptown buffet, where you’ll catch him hard at work shallow-frying his chicken in a large, open frying pan. A shatteringly crisp exterior gives way to tender flesh, and with the steady stream of truck drivers, cops and construction workers grabbing to-go orders, you know the price and flavor are just right.
Go very early or very late to avoid a line for chicken and waffles at this Brooklyn-and-proud-of-it restaurant. The chicken is baptized with sweet tea before getting dredged and fried, giving the meat a gentle sweetness, plus the joint puts as much of a premium on waffles (bacon-cheddar, rosemary-mushroom) as it does poultry, making comfy cushions to showcase that stellar bird. A strong selection of cocktails will soften any wait time, and the service is as sweet as the name.