Forget about national food holiday; you can almost consider National Fried Chicken Day a holy day. So many people in the United States loved fried chicken, the crispiness of the battered skin, the soft, juicy meat underneath it, the family memories that come with such a deeply traditional meal. But…I am unfortunately not one of them. :-[ I feel like such a loser for saying this, but…I hate fried chicken! No matter where I’ve gotten it from, from chain restaurants to high-end fare to homemade blends, fried chicken just doesn’t do it for me. I find it greasy and heavy, a lot of work for not a tasty payoff. I’ll stick to my other delicious ways of preparing chicken (not that I don’t like deep fried things! I love me some deep-fried things!) but everyone else can go and enjoy their fried chicken today 🙂
But where are some of the best places to get fried chicken in New York City? (I’ll give you a hint: they don’t start with the letters “KFC.”) There are so many variations and so many different price ranges it’s tough to pick out “the best,” but I’ve tried to give a good sampling–with help from the celebrity chefs at the Food Network! Some of the greats over at the famed studios in Chelsea have sounded off on their favorite foods all throughout the country, and New York City always gets some top mentions for the best food around. Super helpful for all us New Yorkers! And Chef Michael Psilakis, featured on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” says the best fried chicken he’s ever had is over at the Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Brooklyn. This is definitely no Southern-fried recipe: the fried chicken that’s in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and is featured at the Brooklyn Bowl uses matzo meal as its breading, which gives it a crunchier, thicker crust. After they’re fried, the chicken pieces are seasoned with paprika and served with mashed potatoes and collard greens. It’s definitely one of the most celebrated fried chickens in the city but also high in price: a platter of fried chicken, even in the cheaper borough of Brooklyn, will set you back about $26. But if you’re looking for a great meal of fried chicken in a way that you’ve probably never had it prepared before, Blue Ribbon gets the gold.
Blue Ribbon Brasserie Brooklyn
280 5th Ave (between 1st St & Garfield Pl.), Park Slope
“The Bromberg brothers have been kind enough to share their recipe for Northern Fried Chicken in the Blue Ribbon Cookbook. Their secret? Matzo meal. If you don’t feel like making it yourself, head to Blue Ribbon Brasserie, where it’s served with greens, mashed potatoes, gravy and, as a decadent touch, honey.”–CBS New York
“This is no daintily fried chicken–the crust crackles and crunches and seems to have a life of its own. It’s a mouthful to get through, but in a good way. It’s the kind of crust so good you keep gnawing on the bones when the chicken is gone, in hopes of getting one more morsel of fried goodness. This is a crust for the ages.”–Serious Eats
“Blue Ribbon has won countless kudos for fried chicken over the years and the secret isn’t their Southern pride but their city sensibilities. “We’re just a bunch of Jewish boys from New York,” says co-owner Kris Polak of himself and his two co-owners, “but we’re also French-trained chefs. We were just trying to make a fried chicken that was really cool.” Their results – now served at the new Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg – are just that. They batter their birds in egg whites and flour kicked with matzo meal, then dust the babies just out of the fryer with a seasoning mix made of salt, pepper, paprika and herbs they grind and dry themselves.”–New York Daily News
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Best fried chicken and sides in NYC – the only place that always gets it right (white meat is juicy; the chicken is not par-fried as at Buttermilk Channel, and the seasoning is on-point, unlike the dish at Red Rooster) and treats the collards as well as the chicken. The portion is significant, which is important since it’s $25.”–Bish P.
“We shared the oxtail marmalade with Beef Marrow. I loved the oxtail spread much more than the marrow (very hypertensive , but still tasty though). For entrees, I had the Paella Basquez while my fiance had the fried chicken. Both dishes were winners. My paella came with mussels, calamari (very few of), spicy sausage (too much) and of course lots and lots of rice (seriously enough to feed 3 people). The fried chicken was finely crisp on the outside, very tender on the inside. Also came with a honey dip which added to the collard greens and mashed potatoes. I really give props to the chef for pulling off all these different dishes.”–Annie T.
Scott Conant, another Food Network heavyweight and owner of Scarpetta, believes differently. He believes that another fried chicken in New York reigns so supreme, it’s the best fried chicken he’s ever tasted. That, my friends, is located at Hill Country Chicken, the offshoot of the New York barbecue joint. They are as serious about their fried chicken as they are about their ‘cue: chef Elizabeth Karmel, hailing from the BBQ-famous Hill Country region of North Carolina, makes this chicken traditionally Southern-fried, and pairs the wing & drumsticks with freshly made pies of all varieties. They use a pressure-cooker method of frying that makes the meat juicy on the inside and crisp and crunchy on the outside. You can get two different varieties of chicken: classic, cooked with the skin on, or Conant’s favorite, “Mama El’s” style–skinless, but no less flavorful. Try this kind best in between two potato buns as the Chickwich–now, a fried chicken sandwich, I can definitely get behind!
Hill Country Chicken
1123 Broadway (between 25th St & 26th St)
“Chicken ($1.75 for a wing, up to $5.50 for a breast) comes in two styles: classic and Mama Els’, both deep-fried. The lovely mahogany chunks are laid out on racks, so you can choose not only the style but precisely the piece you desire. (For fried-chicken freaks, this is key.) Classic is cooked with the skin on, and offers a basic, satisfying palette of salt, fat, crunch and pepper. Mama Els’ (for Elsia, owner Marc Glosserman’s grandmother) tastes like the ancestor of Shake ’N Bake, with an herbed cracker-crumb crust that is nicely crunchy but doesn’t make up for the lack of skin; also, the herb flavors are distracting. Try both kinds, unadorned or with shakes of honey, hot sauce and herb mix, all thoughtfully provided.”–The New York Times
“But as solid as the Hill Country classically prepared thighs and drumsticks are, they are surprisingly surpassed by two other items on the menu. The Chickwich is a slightly dressed-up version of the classic Chick-fil-A sandwich. A piece of boneless fried chicken breast and a couple of slices of pickle on a squishy, soft hamburger bun. It’s a perfect sandwich: crispy, crunchy, salty, meaty, and sweet in every bite. In a city like New York, where the only Chick-fil-A is tucked inside an NYU building, this chickwich seems heaven-sent.”–Serious Eats
” had one drumstick of the Hill Country Classic recipe. It had the skin on it and a think crust around it. The meat was moist and it was very good. But sitting on my plate next to this vision of pure crunch, I found I couldn’t concentrate on it as much. The Mama El’s recipe has a layer of breading that rivals any chicken skin you’re likely to find nearby. It’s crisp and made up of thousands of tiny bits of fried batter fragments.”–Midtown Lunch
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“What is there that I can possibly say that is negative about Hill Country Chicken? I found them prior to a recent trip to NYC on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” and decided it seemed like a fantastic idea to check them out. My girlfriend and I tried the classic/original with skin and it was flavorful and really good quality chicken. You should definitely check out the mashed potatoes…some of the best I have ever had!”–Kacie D.
“The chicken was amazing. Breaded using “mama els recipe,” incredibly juicy and just downright cooked perfectly. It was teamed up with some buttery biscuits and went right down with my sweet but tarty flavored strawberry lemonade. Yeah…I completely forgot to save any for my dessert pairing.”–Colleen C.
One of my favorite things about New York cuisine is, when you say the words “best fried chicken,” you don’t automatically think South…you might think East. As in, the Far East. While buttermilk-soaked fried chicken may be the standard in most places in the country, in New York we have a thriving Korean community, which means a thriving Korean-style fried chicken fad as well! And there’s no other place like Mono+Mono’s Korean fried chicken. Double-fried to make it extra crispy, their fried chicken pieces are then slathered with a spicy Korean barbecue sauce–kind of like the Korean equivalent of hot Buffalo wings, but bigger, and tastier! The atmosphere of the place is full-on old-school jazz: a massive vinyl jukebox houses their own in-house DJ, so you can groove while you munch. Mono+Mono even has its own Food Network stamp of approval, even if it hasn’t been labeled as some celebrity chef’s “best” food they’ve ever eaten: Troy Johnson of Crave featured the fried chicken here on the episode aptly titled “Deep Fried Love In A Bucket.”
116 E 4th St (at 1st and 2nd Ave)
“Among the standout plates coming from the glassed-in kitchen is organic, double deep-fried chicken done up in Korean spicy sauce, or a soy-and-garlic number. Audibly crispy and nearly greaseless, the piles of legs and wings are more refined than those at even the uber-popular Bon Chon, but neither the consistency nor the flavor matches Momofuku’s rightfully esteemed version.”–New York Magazine
“Theatrical noshes include traditional myung bean pancakes that’re ground tableside in a circular stone press and topped w/ everything from pork belly to sea urchin, and also 20+ flavors of steamed rice (lobster, beef short rib, green tea..), but chicken’s the highlight, served ultra-crispy (double-cooked & deep fried) with soy garlic sauce, grilled with a traditional fiery hot sauce, and braised at low temp over night in MJ’s Special Sauce –don’t stop ’til you get enough and they’ll have to tell you to beat it, though that’s just human nature…Thriller!”–Thrillist
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“1. The wings are super flavorful. I had the half n half of the soy garlic and the spicy wings. Usually, the spicy wings I’ve had at the other places weren’t as spicy as I had hoped but Mono+Mono’s spicy wings made me gulp down multiple glasses of water. Caliente!! 2. The skin on their wings is pleasantly crunchy. They somehow were able to puff the skin of the wings away from the chicken meat so when you bite into the wings, its like biting into a crunchy cream puff. It boggles my mind as to how they were able to make their wings so amazing.”–Nicole D.
“Let’s talk about the fried chicken. Two words, that when used separately cause culinary arousal, but when put together…. WATCH. OUT. No breasts or thighs here. JUST WINGS AND LEGS. Fried the “Korean way” which is unlike any chicken preparation I’ve ever had. I promise you’ll want more. They say they fry it twice…the second time burns off the fat….THIS MEANS IT’S HEALTHY! Crisp, not greasy but still moist, balanced, essentially PERFECT.”–Mark M.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!