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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)