We’re republishing out Fried Chicken Guide (originally posted March 16, 2016) because today, July 6, is National Fried Chicken Day! It’s a thing! -ed.
A few weeks ago we published our Last Meal in D.C. feature. We asked some of our favorite food writers, photographers, chefs, bartenders and more what they’d eat if it was their last meal in D.C. Something that stuck out to us was fried chicken. Why not fried chicken? Why don’t we eat more fried chicken (other than the obvious health reasons)? Where’s our fried chicken guide?
Here it is.
There’s no KFC on this list. We’re a Popeye’s site.
- 1833 14th St NW
There was a solid two-month stretch where I had Bar Pilar’s fried chicken at least once a week at the bar. Errands, OKCupid dates, just wanting to get out of Capitol Hill…any excuse was good enough for me to make it over to 14th. Imagine my disappointment last time I went and saw no fried chicken on the dinner menu. “It’s still on the brunch menu,” they said. “Fuck brunch,” I replied. Then I spotted the Green Circle Farms fried chicken slider. All is well in my Bar Pilar universe again. Although I sometimes find the excessive menu sourcing pretentious, listing Green Circle Farms makes sense; the chickens come from Lancaster, PA’s Green Circle Organics, where they definitely eat better than you do. The goddamn birds are fed scraps from some of NYC’s best restaurants, including Per Se, Daniel, and Gramercy Tavern. Naturally, this pampering (and air-chilling) makes for a delicious bird. Bar Pilar fries up mini chicken thighs until they’re crunchy and golden-brown, then throws them on pillowy, subtly sweet buns. Order four of these, and it’s almost, ALMOST the same as the old days. -Logan Hollers
- 1024 Wythe St, Alexandria, VA
Alexandria’s Blue and White Carryout does not pride itself on convenience. It opens at 5:30 in the morning and shutters by 3:30 that afternoon. It’s closed on the weekend. It only accepts cash. There is nowhere to sit, because its basically a shed. And yet, there is often a line at this no-frills establishment, which is really the only testimonial you need: That’s how good the fried chicken is.
Blue and White serves its bird with a slice of white bread, naturally, but load up on the mashed potatoes (drenched in hot sauce), collard greens, and corn, too. Your money goes a long way, which is one perk of bare bones overhead. Once the weather warms, take a long lunch and metro down to Braddock Road. You won’t regret it.-Phil Runco
- 1015 Half St. SE
In terms of pure fried chicken pleasure for the price, I’d put Bonchon up against damn near anyone. The wings and drumsticks (I prefer the former, but you do you) are twice-fried (to order, mind you); the exterior audibly shatters when you bite it. These wings draw stares. The hardest part for me was choosing which sauce I wanted to demolish…Soy Garlic is dope (obviously, it’s soy sauce and garlic), but buffalo wings are one of my favorite foods, so Hot & Spicy was usually irresistible. An employee saw me hemming and hawing once and told me I could just get a half and half. Game-changer. Never have I been happier to hug a complete stranger. Surprisingly good cocktails, too. I think they have, like, other food, maybe? But who cares: get that half and half order. -Logan Hollers
- 801 O St NW
Since we read it’s part of Washingtonian Contributing Photographer Scott Suchman’s last meal in D.C. list, it’s been on ours.
- 3415 11th St NW
The Coupe’s fried chicken sandwich has a hold over my house. Three out of the four of us who live there love it so much that we’ve all gone back multiple times because of that one dish. The fourth roommate doesn’t know what she’s talking about, because this sandwich is basically perfect. The soft roll is the perfect compliment to the crispy (yet moist as hell) chicken, but it’s still strong enough to hold everything in place. The cabbage slaw adds a brightness that cuts through all of the fried goodness, and the honey mustard is just the icing on the cake. Together it is fucking delicious, and the insane amount of fries they bring with it certainly doesn’t hurt. If I could eat it everyday, I definitely probably die, but if I wasn’t afraid of death it would be so worth it. -Kaylee Dugan
- 705 6th St NW
Daikaya has its own nod to the traditional chocolate city chicken and waffle plate, although I can safely say their take on it—a red-bean paste filled waffle in the shape of a fish, with tempura-fried chicken—is likely unobtainable anywhere else. -Riley Croghan
- 341 Cedar St NW
Evolve is a mysterious place. Situated a block away from the Takoma Metro, getting there feels a little like the one Broad City episode where Abby needs to go pick up her cutie neighbor’s package and feels terrorized the whole journey. The restaurant is nestled on the D.C. side of the Maryland/District border, and features drumsticks that are alarmingly like the “real thing.” Yeah, they’re one of those places that pops a bone in the middle of the drumstick and scares the shit out of you if you’ve sworn off of eating anything with a bone, but hey! It makes a messy dish far more manageable! Evolve does sweet with savory perfectly, and makes a vegan chicken wing with a lightly fried, braised skin that hints at just a little bit of sugar. The sweet mustard dripped on top is creamy, and compliments the brined flavor of the mock chicken itself. Go for the entire platter and make sure you get your collards on the side. -Lauren McGrath
- 1351 H St NE
One Eight Distilling’s Alex Laufer told us, “There are a lot of amazing fried chickens served in D.C., but I love everything Erik & James are doing at Maketto and cannot get enough of their version, slightly sweet with delicious spice.” It was also highly recommended by Thrillist’s Laura Hayes and Julep Public Relations’ Brittany Garrison. So it’s on this list.
- 2928 Georgia Ave NW
The name seems to change on a bi-weekly basis, but thank god their vegan chicken drumsticks menu has not. The protein used as the meat is often touted as “super close to the real thing,” (not that I can even recall what that tastes like anymore) and the breading is deep-fried, super salty perfection. While the drumsticks are available drizzled in either their own barbeque or buffalo sauce, I’d recommend going with the latter. It’s spicy without sending you home with an angry stomach, and loaded with plant-based butters to make the texture thick and deletable. Grab them a la carte with a side of Nuvegan’s mac and cheese and mix some of that buffalo in for something that could only taste more sinful if it weren’t entirely vegan. -Lauren McGrath
- 709 D St NW
The name says it all, doesn’t it? Half roasted, half fried – the best of both worlds, like that Jay Z and R. Kelly record but actually good.
A peak behind the curtain, according a Washington Post article from last year: The chicken is brined for twelve hours, rotisseried for another two, and then fried in beef fat for 150 seconds. And there’s no batter involved, so you can almost convince yourself that this unholy alliance of moist and crispy isn’t bad for you. Chef Nate Anda also gets extra credit for the accompanying honey hot sauce, which does not skimp on the heat.
If you’re going to the Partisan and you’re eating meat, then you’re getting this. It’s the star of the menu, and the perfect choice for when you don’t feel like going full-fried indulgence. -Phil Runco
- 2446 18th St NW
We did a Taste Test of Roofer’s Union brunch the day after our annual Pride event. This was Andrew Bucket’s favorite dish. “The Chicken and Waffles is the jewel: the waffles are not too sweet and the creamy sausage gravy against the crunchy fried chicken skin is gonna change your life.”
- 2446 18th St NW
- 50 Massachusetts Ave NE
- 800 F St NW
- 7924 Tysons Corner Center, McLean, VA
Shake Shack’s always had amazing burgers. Not, like, In-N-Out awesome, but a damn close second place. That commitment to quality extends (of course) to its new Chick’n Shack sandwich. A massive crispy chicken breast (100% ALL-NATURAL AND HORMONE FREE AND ANTIBIOTIC FREE BECAUSE 2016) manages to stay moist and juicy inside, yet maintain the sharp crackle you want out of fried chicken; slices of green pickle lend a crunchy brininess; and a dynamite buttermilk herb mayo, tangy with actually noticeable hits of chives, parsley, and thyme. Shredded iceberg lettuce doesn’t add a ton outside of even more crunch, but whatever. #VEGETABLES A few liberal splashes of Louisiana hot sauce, and “fast food” fried chicken doesn’t get better than this. -Logan Hollers
Some Thoughts On Salt By Jeb Gavin
Let’s talk salt.
Let’s talk specifically about why the hell everyone’s scared of it- because apparently people are knuckleheads. Sorry, I don’t mean to swear, but at BYT’s resident Andy Rooney-level crank, why precisely am I paying $10+ a plate for chicken that isn’t seasoned properly, in a crust that no matter how shatteringly crisp still tastes of fryer oil rather than herbs and spices? I get that salt makes things salty. But it also makes things taste good. Say what you will about Popeye’s, Bojangles, Chick-fil-A, KFC- they’ve got it down to a science. Even Bonchon knows how to season their chicken, and also season their sauce. So why are fancy and not so fancy restaurants in this city serving bland fried chicken?