7 Places to Find Great Fried Chicken in Seattle

With all sorts of cultural influences colliding in Seattle, it’s no surprise that the fried chicken scene here is as diverse as it is delicious. In all kinds of neighborhoods, you can find various parts of a chicken fried and presented in a bag, basket (dare I say bucket?), or biscuit—or shining on its own piled-high plate.

Ezell’s Famous Chicken has been around for more than 20 years, made famous when Oprah fell in love with it and requested delivery. Southern-style fried chicken makes its mark here, available at grocery stores, gas stations, and mini-marts. If you have your heart set on them, gizzards and livers are plentiful.

Asian renditions prevail, too, with Japanese karaage, KFC (Korean fried chicken), and Chinese versions are available in the International District. Meanwhile, it’s a Hawaiian-influenced restaurant that’s earning some of the biggest accolades for fried chicken at the moment.

What’s not to love? Fried chicken is food you eat with your hands—moist meat cradled by a crackly crust, great hot but incredibly satisfying cold as well. Read on for a look at seven places to find great fried chicken in Seattle.

The Wandering Goose's sawmill sandwich

At The Wandering Goose, fried chicken is so popular that there’s a Fried Chicken Friday devoted to it. But you can go any day and get fried chicken in a salad or on a plate with collard greens, coleslaw, and a biscuit. Since The Wandering Goose is the product of talented baker Heather Earnhardt, I wanted a biscuit, so I got the Sawmill Sandwich ($10). A beautiful biscuit arrived with a generous portion of chicken thighs, fried rather dark but still juicy inside. The heavy batter splinters into a sage-flavored gravy full of big sausage chunks and shredded cheddar cheese, making it extra-rich. You’ll need a hearty appetite to finish this one.

Hue Ky Mi Gia's fried butter chicken wings

One of my favorite dishes at Chinese noodle house Hue Ky Mi Gia is the Fried Butter Chicken Wings (Cánh Gà Chiên Bo, $7). I’m far from the only one who enjoys the wings, as you’ll find them on virtually every table in the restaurant. This appetizer is a bountiful start (8 pieces) to a bowl of noodles. The wings are crusted with garlic, green onion, chili, and salt, making them delicious to eat as-is, or dipped in the tangy, sweet chile sauce that’s served on the side.

Ezell's 2-piece dark snack pack

Talk about fried chicken in Seattle, and Ezell’s Famous Chicken is likely to be the first place to come up in the conversation (probably with great debate). After all, this is the chicken that Oprah made famous. There are a number of locations, along with several Heaven Sent chicken shacks sprung off as the result of a family dispute. A good introduction to Ezell’s is the Two-Piece Dark Snack Pack ($4.59), which comes with a thigh, a drumstick, and a dinner roll. Choose from regular and spicy (I split the order in the picture), and you’ll likely find that you crave the peppery profile of the spicy over the very mildly seasoned regular option. Satisfy further cravings with Ezell’s coleslaw, baked beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, and peach cobbler in a fast-food setting.

Quick Pack Food Mart's box

Ezell’s may be famous, but those in the know go to Quick Pack Food Mart just a few blocks away. (They do advertise with a sign saying “the BEST fried chicken in town!”) Quick Pack is a convenience store with lots of beer and cigarettes, but when I arrived just past opening time, everyone was waiting for the chicken to come out of the fryer. Wings were the popular order, but a bargain for variety is the Breast, Wing, and 2 Drums box ($5.99). The fried chicken is cheaper than Ezell’s, and considerably plumper (actually, this appeared to be chicken on steroids). Both have batter that’s light and crunchy. Quick Pack’s is somewhat underseasoned, but look for wing-like hot sauce by the cash register to add pizzazz—I’m told it’s Frank’s RedHot with a “secret” ingredient added.

Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky

Garnering the greatest raves in Seattle for fried chicken at the moment is Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky. Under the previous name of Spring Hill, chef Mark Fuller’s Monday night fried chicken dinners were so popular that he reinvented his restaurant as Ma’ono, reflecting his Hawaiian roots. The menu now includes fried chicken ($20 for half, pictured here, or $39 whole) served daily. It comes with kimchi and rice, and sweet chile sauce for dipping. The chicken has a slightly thick crust with juicy, flavorful meat inside; the staff tells me the secret is in their technique, which involves brining, soaking, multiple dredgings, and double-frying.

Chicken Valley Farm Stores' sampler

Fried chicken need not be a filling meal. When visitors go to Pike Place Market, I always recommend they make a stop at Chicken Valley Farm Stores for a sampling of the fried chicken. It’s a walk-up place across from the fish-throwers and the flower vendors, and while everything in the showcase looks tempting, I always opt for the organs. The Heart, Liver, and Gizzard Sampler ($3, or separately at $6.99/pound for liver and gizzards, and $7.99/pound for hearts) is perfect for snacking. Lightly breaded, the liver is soft, tender, and minerally; the gizzard a chewy, textural affair; and the heart somewhere in between. Be sure to get lots of napkins, and perhaps some Lipitor.

Skillet Diner's chicken sammy

In the quest for fried chicken comfort food, I find I like mine on a sandwich. There are many versions, but one of my favorites in Seattle is the Fried Chicken Sammy ($12) at Skillet Diner. The chicken thighs are flavorfully coated in fennel seed crust, and come with pickled and charred jalapeño aioli and kale, served on potato bread. You can go the fully fatty route by getting the sandwich with hand-cut French fries, or go nominally healthy by having a salad of baby greens instead.

(Originally published here at Serious Eats on January 6.)

The Wandering Goose on Urbanspoon

Hue Ky Mi Gia on Urbanspoon

Ezell's Famous Chicken on Urbanspoon

Quick Pack Food Mart on Urbanspoon

Ma'ono Fried Chicken & Whisky on Urbanspoon

Chicken Valley Farm Store on Urbanspoon

Skillet Diner on Urbanspoon

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6 Responses to “7 Places to Find Great Fried Chicken in Seattle”

  1. Jen
    January 25, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    Highly recommend the Chicken and Waffles at The Burgundian in Tangletown. Also good at Skillet, but the version at Burgundian remains my favorite.

  2. Irene
    January 27, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    Ezell Stephens no longer has a connection to the greasy spoon that still bear his name. As there are few decent fried chicken in Vancouver, I made the trek out to Seattle to try Ezell’s Heaven Sent Chicken. He was able to retain his original recipe.

  3. Jay
    January 27, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    @Jen: Thanks for the recommendation. Will keep in mind!

    @Irene: It’s fun to watch the Ezell’s vs. Heaven Sent debate. Maybe we’re lucky to have both options to meet personal preferences?

  4. Wes Neuenschwander
    March 15, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    A whole different spin on fried chicken, but the “broasted” chicken at the Marco Polo Lounge in Georgetown remains my favorite after many years and many ventures into other places and styles. The Marco is a true (tried and true) dive bar, in the thoroughly blue collar section of Georgetown and the Marco’s “chicken and jo’s” are a staple in the lunch and dinner time repasts of many locals (and visitors – I make the drive down from N. Seattle at least every couple of months or so). What stands out for me is the simple, unadorned buttery richness of chicken, lightly breaded and seasoned, prepared in that brilliant pressure cooker/deep fryer combo device, the Broaster (though I must say I’m always fearful in these places that the damn thing might explode; horror of horrors, hot oil laden super heated steam spewed… ah well, some things are better *not* considered.)

  5. Wes Neuenschwander
    March 15, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    On a somewhat different note: You mention in your intro, the frequently touted, but infrequently found KFC – aka Korean Fried Chicken. The odd (very odd) little Chicky Pub in the departed Paldo World, along Aurora Avenue North, did a very nice version (OK, several versions) of this unique style of fried chicken and the BBQ Chicken (aka “Best of the Best Quality Chicken”) place on the Ave at least used to have decent stuff (and I even liked the odd filip with the double fry in olive oil), but in spite of considerable buzz, where the hell is the real KFC action in the Seattle area??

  6. Jay
    March 15, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    Wes: That word “broasted” always bugs me, but I’ll certainly make note of Marco Polo Lounge. And, yes, Chicky Pub was good. (Isn’t Paldo World still there, but with fewer places in the food court?) Have you tried Cockatoo in Federal Way? You can search it on this site. I was a bit traumatized by the other food I ate there, but don’t remember the acclaimed KFC as being anything super-special.

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