Kansas City might be known as a meat-and-potatoes town, but fried chicken has long been popular here.
“Fried chicken is popular because it’s inexpensive, usually, and it tastes good,” Charles Ferruzza told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.
Besides that, Ferruzza said, “It travels well — it’s just as good cold as it is hot.”
Ferruzza, along with fellow food critics Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara, searched out the best fried chicken in and around Kansas City.
Here are their recommendations:
Mary Bloch, Around the Block:
- Brookside Poultry Company. Chef Charles D’Ablaing uses a 48-hour sour cream brine for his fried chicken.
- Black Dirt — fried chicken dinner. Made with an herbed breading and served with mashed potatoes.
- EJ’s Urban Eatery — hot chicken. Often a weekend special, this Nashville-style chicken can be ordered mild or “hot damn.” It comes with pickles and Texas toast. It’s really satisfying.
- Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken — hot chicken. Based on an old Memphis recipe. I like that you can order dark meat only. No levels of spiciness; just hot with a slow burn.
- Rye — fried chicken sandwich. Rye is known for its fried chicken baskets, but you can also order a fried chicken sandwich. The chicken is brined with dill and honey, and it can be ordered mild or spicy. The sandwich is served with pickles, Dijonnaise, lettuce and onions.
- Blvd Tavern — KFC (Korean Fried Chicken). Korean-style chicken wings, with kimchi and gojuchang, are on the regular menu. There's a bit more breading than I like, but I love the flavor.
- Blvd Tavern — chicken on a biscuit. Available for Sunday brunch. The chicken is fried with cornflakes and is served on a biscuit with bourbon gravy.
- Gram & Dun — chicken and waffles. Available at brunch. The side of homemade hot sauce along with maple syrup is just a really great combo.
- Brady’s Public House. Chef Sean Brady uses a maple brine for his fried chicken, which comes with lemon pepper butter and mashed potatoes
- Grand Street Café — Bill’s Chicken Salad. This is an iconic salad in Kansas City. It features fried coconut chicken with mixed greens, avocado, egg, tomato, cheese, artichoke hearts, balsamic vinaigrette and hot mustard.
Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:
- Sailor Jack’s Snack Shack. With so much fantastic seafood on the menu at the new Sailor Jack’s in Westport (formerly The Foundry), it is hard to fathom ordering anything else. That would be a mistake. Get the Old Bay-spiced Campo Lindo fried chicken, a half-chicken that comes with coastal cabbage slaw, Creole dirty rice and housemade hot sauce. It takes 20 minutes to make, but with chef Devin Campbell in the kitchen, you've got time for this treat.
- Tribe Street Kitchen — Hat Yai fried chicken. Happy hour starts at 2 p.m. at this new River Market restaurant, and only on that menu can you find this spicy, sweet and sticky southern Thai version of fried chicken. It features a full chicken breast and a wing that has been battered and fried with a spicy crunchy crust that is then covered in sweet chili sauce for only $7. Chef Lance Gipson makes sure that this and ice-cold beer will take you to your happy place.
- Christine’s Firehouse on 20th is most famous for its battered and fried pork tenderloin sandwich that is big enough for four people to share. And my rule of thumb is that most places that fry something well fry everything well. This is certainly true of the Monday night chicken fried chicken special. For $7.95, you get a chicken fried chicken breast, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. It is fried chicken without the bones, and it is delicious.
- Grand Street Café. I posted to Facebook a few weeks back that everyone in Kansas City is connected by fewer than seven degrees of separation to Grand Street’s Bill’s Chicken Salad, which features fried coconut chicken. It’s named after Bill Crooks, the creator of PB&J Restaurants and Chicken N Pickle, and his restaurants still serve a version of this beloved fried chicken salad. Chefs learn how to make it and tend to take it with them onto new menus, and we secretly (and not so secretly) continue to order it and love it.
- Brookside Poultry Company — BPC's Chicken Tenders. This menu has plenty of whole spit-roasted chicken and duck to enjoy, but the chicken tenders crackle under the crunchy coating that chef Charles D’Ablaing dips them in before frying them golden brown. The tenders are topped with fried jalapenos and served on cabbage and celery. Order home fries and a salad and make a meal out of it.
- Black Dirt — fried chicken tenders. The new lunch menu has finally launched at chef Jonathan Justus’s newish restaurant. The fried chicken tenders are simple but satisfying, served with fries or a salad.
- Go Chicken Go. Get two chicken tenders (because three is too much), order it with Go Sauce and a side of coleslaw. Mix the coleslaw and the Go Sauce together and top your tenders with it. You are welcome. Locally owned and drive-thru accessible.
Charles Ferruzza, food writer:
- Brookside Poultry Company. Charles D’Ablaing’s fried chicken is truly worth talking about. It is really tender and really crunchy and really good. The plump birds are marinated in sour cream (I still think buttermilk, with its sour edge, works best). The restaurant is small and outrageously noisy, but it has a friendly and accessible vibe and is totally kid-friendly.
- Aixois Bistro serves a first-class all-American fried chicken dinner on Tuesday nights only: a half fried chicken, green beans, mashed potato and French gravy. It’s really a good fried chicken; it's very meaty with kind of an evanescent crust, and the flavors are all pretty incredible.
- If you’ve never tasted the fried chicken lunch special — Thursdays only — at Portia’s Café on East Truman Road, you’re missing a world-class fried bird served with real mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, corn, green beans with bacon and onions, and two rolls. Very inexpensive and a really darn good fried chicken lunch.
- Pan-fried chicken is also the Thursday lunch deal at the historic Cascone’s Grill in the City Market, a tribute to the days when local Italian restaurants often served the best steaks and fried chicken in town. The meal includes two vegetables (often creamy mashed potatoes and sweet corn), a stack of Roma bread and a smear of "butter" (I’m not sure that dairy has anything to do with it).
- Also notable: The fried chicken served at The North End in Kansas City’s legendary historic Italian neighborhood is the Saturday night special, and the dinners include mashed potatoes, greens beans, and two pieces of garlic bread (you can – and should – add a house salad for two bucks extra).
- Anna’s Oven — Friday night chicken special. Great taste, made fresh and huge servings. Other than Hen House, it’s the best fried chicken I’ve had.
- Black Dirt's fried chicken is incredible, but the sage gravy served with it takes it over the top!
- A chain (which may be blasphemy) but it’s the truth: Popeye’s Chicken.
- RC's hands down!
- Red Door Woodfired Grill in Brookside. Tender and flavorful.
- Char Bar. Sunday only.
- RecordBar. Only for lunch on Wednesdays.
- Boru Ramen.
- Church's Chicken! Consistent crunchy quality.
- Niecies Restaurant. It takes me back to the home cooking of my youth.
- Oriental Express at 85th and Wornall has the best fried chicken and wings.
- Adam’s Bar & Grill in St. Joseph has the best broasted chicken (it’s kind of pan-fried, but covered). It’s a light golden brown, crispy, seasoned perfectly and juicy. You can’t bite into it for 15 minutes because it’s made fresh and it’s so hot.
- Pizza Ranch. It sounds like an odd choice, but surprisingly, it’s some of the best fried chicken in town. It’s really crispy and really tasty. Apparently, they use a pressure cooker.
- Price Chopper at 95th and Mission has excellent fried chicken. I’ve heard some other Price Choppers also have it. It’s just good and crispy, not greasy, with a great flavor. And it’s inexpensive.
- Go Chicken Go. It’s a little bit trashy, a little bit tacky, but the fried chicken is amazingly good. You’re not going in for a gourmet meal, but you’re going in for a good meal.
- Strip's in Olathe has gluten-free chicken nuggets. They’re locally owned, and they do strips, nuggets, wings and a pretty amazing pork tenderloin sandwich.
- Beer Kitchen has an entire gluten-free menu, which has fried chicken and an amazing mac and cheese on it.
- Johnny’s Donuts and Hamburgers on Prospect. Great fried chicken. It’s fried fresh and it’s crunchy, and it takes on a slight bit of sweetness from the fryer (I think he uses the same fryer for the donuts). You can get a glazed donut, fried chicken and a really good hamburger at 8:30 in the morning.