Perfect fried chicken is easy to spot. Light, crackly crust must give way to juicy, flavorful meat, and the ratio of crust to bird has got to be spot on. When it's right, the perfect fried chicken is one of the fastest tickets to pure comfort. Our five must-tries span from a hole in the wall to fancier restaurant fare—enough to get any aficionado through the summer months.
Go into this Bernal Heights restaurant any night of the week and you can bet there will be a bucket of fried chicken on every single table. The kitchen uses Rocky Jr. chickens and a secret blend of herbs and spices. Try the same fried chicken at sister Rock Bar after 11 p.m. a.k.a. "chicken at midnight," or with homemade sweet potato waffles at the newish Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Housed nightly inside the North Beach bar Amante, The Chubby Noodle offers everything from garlic noodles to ceviche, but the popcorn bucket full of five fried chicken pieces always sings: Its text-book fry gives way to superbly moist meat. Owner Pete Mrabe also offers a boneless rendition, for those who wish to devour at a faster pace.
This nearly 20-year-old Noe Valley staple was one of the first restaurants to serve fried chicken in San Francisco, and they still offer it weekly on "Fried Chicken Tuesday." The kitchen uses the biggest Cornish game hen Mary's has to offer, allowing them to offer a full half-bird. The fried wing, breast, leg and thigh come on a plate brimming with gravy mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and a warm flaky biscuit.
Maverick rings in its seventh birthday on Friday, and one of the things they've certainly mastered through the years is classic Southern fried chicken. It's crunchy, perfectly salty crust yields to sweating, juicy mounds of flesh. Swipe it through the heap of mashed potatoes and mustard gravy underneath, and try not to groan. At $24, it's one of the pricier renditions in this list, but it's a must on any enthusiast's list.
The sleeper of the group, this unassuming Outer Richmond chicken wing devotee is lined with bottles of hot sauce on one wall. Order the KFC, "Korean Fried Chicken," a flavor explosion of garlic, ginger, soy, and spicy Korean chili paste gojujang. It's all balanced with the sweetness of agave, then triple fried.
Where's your favorite spot for fried chicken? Tell us all about it in the comments.