Nothing says Southern-style comfort fare quite like a bucket of fresh fried chicken. That floured, battered, deep-fried bird has so much American nostalgia swirling around it, it's a dish that's about as American as burgers, wings, and pizza.
Crisp, well-seasoned skin is the mark of a well-made piece of fried chicken. To get that, there's usually a lot of work (and family secrets) involved. Here are ten spots in South Florida that have their fried chicken recipes down to a science, be it a barbecue joint, Caribbean restaurant, or soul food café.
10. The Fat Rooster
204 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-266-3642, or visit thefatrooster.com.
Gary Rack's latest concept, the Fat Rooster in downtown Delray Beach, offers Southern-style fare and American comfort classics morning, noon, and late night in a nostalgic, diner-like setting. The Fat Rooster menu — developed in conjunction with Rack and Rack Restaurant Management Group culinary director Matthew Danaher — presents a series of menus that focus on rich, hearty, old-fashioned meals. Every item on the menu has a history, with the idea to trigger childhood memories in the form of your favorite comfort foods. The main focus, however, is also guaranteed to be a menu favorite day or night: the bird section, where you'll find the restaurant's signature fried chicken. The recipe took months to perfect, a Southern-style fried chicken served atop fresh buttermilk waffles and drenched in a whiskey honey syrup.
9. Curly's Caribbean
1892 Abbey Road, West Palm Beach. Call 561-434-7077.
This tiny takeout joint located in a West Palm Beach strip mall is the perfect place to sit down day or night and grab some really, really good Caribbean-style chicken. It comes jerked, roasted, in a brown stew, and even curried. One of the best takes, however, is fried. Get it on lunch special and order it up with any of the restaurant's Jamaican-style sides like fried breadfruit or dumplings instead of the usual mashed potatoes and gravy.
8. Himmarshee Public House
201 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-616-5275, or visit publichouseftl.com.
Himmarshee Public House is all about comfort food. That means fried chicken and mashed potatoes needed to make an appearance on the restaurant's latest menu roll-out. The dish is served with Southern-style fried breasts, wings, and legs and an accompanying side of homemade mashed potatoes with a parsley-flecked brown gravy.
7. Church's Chicken
2401 W. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-581-5866, or visit churchs.com.
Church's serves up a rich tradition of gracious Southern hospitality, but everyone knowns it best for the freshly prepared, hand-battered, authentic, home-style fried chicken. Church's menu includes its crunchy, juicy chicken in both an original and spicy flavor, available on the bone, in tender strips, or as a chicken sandwich with classic sides and handmade-from-scratch honey-butter biscuits. The best pairing: dipping that fried chicken in a side of creamy mashed potatoes with gravy.
6. Granny B’z Chicken & Waffles
Food truck. Call 305-606-4671, or visit granny-bz.com.
A food truck that does nothing but fried chicken and waffles? Now that's a food truck we can all appreciate. This casual, everyday style food is made the way it was meant to be enjoyed: fresh, all-natural ingredients from local farms made to-order reminds us of our family's home cooking. The menu includes four takes on the classic pairing, including the classic Plain Jane (a regular waffle with fried chicken); The Red Carpet (a red velvet waffle); The Blue Dream (blueberry flavored waffles with a creamy icing drizzle); and The Chip O'Late (chocolate chip studded waffles). Find them at places like Brian Piccolo Park
5. Keese's Simply Delicious
4350 N. Ocean Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Call 954-776-4616, or visit keeses.com.
At Keese's Simply Delicious in Fort Lauderdale, the fried chicken has been prepared the same way since 1953: big, meaty chicken legs, thighs, wings, and breasts deep-fried in peanut oil for a rich, nutty flavor and sharp, crunchy crisp. Each piece is cooked to order, so be patient — this isn't fast food. It's slow home cooking. Order it with a choice of sides including corn, homemade garlic bread, grilled vegetables, soup, coleslaw, baked beans, or rice. Watching your weight? The chicken is also available roasted without breading. No matter how you like it, a custom basket can be mixed with any cut and piece you like for a family-style meal everyone can really sink their teeth into.
4. Carousel BBQ
204 S. Powerline Road, Deerfield Beach. Call 754-212-4535, or visit carouselbbqfla.com.
Carousel got its start with Dora McElhaney, a Georgia native best-known for her award-winning barbecue ribs and Southern homestyle cooking served from what was once an old ice cream shop on NW Ninth Street in Fort Lauderdale. Today, current owner Leroy Jones — whose mother, Ruthie, was a lifelong friend of McElhaney's — runs the new location in Deerfield Beach, which carries on the tradition (and many original recipes) for a number of McElhaney's Southern-style dishes she learned to make from her mother and aunt, like collard greens, green beans, and candied yams. A specialty here: the fried chicken, full breasts, legs, and thighs fried up with Carousel's special batter and seasoning and served with any side you like.
3. Betty's Soulfood
601 NW 22nd Road, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-583-9121.
Creating a delicious piece of fried chicken is a particular culinary feat. Success requires many trials and, often, age-old family recipes. Betty Taylor — the eponymous owner of Betty's Soul Food in Fort Lauderdale — has all the right ingredients. Each piece is fried to order, each piece the perfect golden brown with just the right amount of crisp giving way to tender, juicy chicken underneath. When it comes to fried chicken in South Florida, there's nothing quite like spending a Sunday afternoon with an ice sweet tea, a pile of paper napkins, and a basket of fried chicken from this Broward County soul-food institution. Of course, the menu includes a ton of mouth-watering comfort-food standards, from chicken livers and ham hocks to oxtail and smothered pork chops.
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2. Bay Bays Chicken & Waffles
2400 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Call 844-229-2297, or visit baybays.com.
Since it opened in 2012, everyone knows about the fried chicken at Bay Bays in West Palm Beach. Here, it's about satisfying the area's craving for that unlikely duo, chicken and waffles. Owner Israel Johnson spent months perfecting his fried chicken recipe before opening, putting the bird through an 11-step process including a dip in a secret blend of specialty herbs and spices before it hits the plate. You can choose from dark- or light-meat platters, plus score wingettes and specialty waffle options like apple cinnamon and Cuban coffee. They've got your standard soul-food sides like collard greens and mac and cheese, plus lots of other Southern-style eats, from shrimp poorboys to baby back ribs. There's wine and beer too, so you can make it a full-fledged night out at this urban bar and grill.
1. Fran's Chicken Haven
1925 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Call 561-395-0781, or visit franschickenhaven.com.
A sign hangs on the wall at Fran's Chicken Haven in Boca Raton that pretty much says it all: "If the colonel had our recipe, he'd be a general." Why? This joint has been serving comfort food for close to five decades. Opened in 1964 by Fran and Joe Gerace, today the restaurant is owned and operated by Boca Raton native Chris Stuart, who remembers eating there as a child with his father, who at one time delivered the bread. Since he took over in 2013, Stuart has used the original Fran's fried-chicken recipe, a sugar-sweetened blend of spices that fries up to a perfect crisp. Some things, though, have changed. A menu that once served nothing but fried chicken with a side of coleslaw or fries today includes homemade sides like mashed potatoes and gravy or macaroni and cheese. If you're extra hungry, go for the fried chicken and waffles, an oversized Belgian waffle served with a fried chicken thigh and leg and a choice of a regular, chocolate, or apple caramel waffle. For dessert, add another hour to your cardio session the next day and follow up all that fried bird with a fried Oreo or Twinkie.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.