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Central Standard

Food Critics: The Best Fried Chicken In Kansas City

Kyle Palmer

What’s not to love about fried chicken? There’s the crispy, crackling exterior and a juicy interior. It’s portable and best eaten with your hands, making it the perfect picnic fare — especially for this holiday weekend.

It can be served hot or cold, and don’t forget the sides: Mashed potatoes, green beans, pasta salad, fresh corn and tomatoes, biscuits and so much more (cinnamon rolls, anyone?).

“It’s the ultimate comfort food,” Food Critic Charles Ferruzza told Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard.

And don’t worry the health factor, despite what Ferruzza says —“It’s a guilty pleasure because you should feel guilty eating it!”

On Friday’s Central Standard, chef Derek Nacey from Blvd Tavern told us about his Korean fried chicken dish, then the Food Critics searched out the best fried chicken in and around Kansas City — here's what they came up with.

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • The KFC at Blvd Tavern. It’s twice-fried Korean-style chicken wings that’s served with Napa kimchi. I love the Korean spices. I like it because it’s a little bit different; it’s like chicken wings on steroids. There’s a ton of meat within the wing and the crust is very crunchy and flavorful. It’s just quite different than anything else you’re going to find in town.
  • Rye’s fried chicken has been featured in national magazines. I love the crust and the meat is still really moist — which, to me, is a key component for fried chicken. The restaurant has hot sauces on the table, which I use for the chicken. It also comes with homemade pickles and ham gravy. I love their cottage fries as an accompaniment.
  • The fried chicken and waffles at Char Bar. It’s Tabasco-honey chicken wings (which has a little spice to them), smoked chicken tender, bacon-cheddar waffle, bourbon syrup and smoky hollandaise. I love how the savory, sweet and spicy complement each other. It just elevates the dish a little bit.
  • Beer Kitchen makes great chicken and waffles; it’s served at Sunday brunch. It’s a great oven-fried chicken breast in a maple-mustard marinade, and it’s served with a cheddar bacon chive waffle. You can also get chicken and smashed potatoes on its lunch and dinner menu.
  • Genessee Royale has a cobb salad that’s made with fried chicken, which adds a little crunch to the salad.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

Supper or brunch-only fried chicken:

  • Café Europa serves a buttermilk-marinated Europa fried chicken on Sunday nights (from 5:30 to 8 p.m.). It comes with a house salad, stewed green beans with bacon and onions, mashed potatoes, biscuit and dessert.
  • Story has a Wednesday night dinner special (from 5 to 10 p.m.). You get four pieces of fried chicken, savory bread pudding, Brussels sprout and bacon hash. The chicken has a nice crispy, crispy crust, which is more of a traditional crust.
  • Webster House serves a sweet tea-brined fried chicken on a black pepper and cheddar cathead biscuit. Also on the sandwich: American cheese, Duke’s Mayonnaise, kale slaw and pickled red onion. It’s a real nod to the South, and it’s just a nice tasty chicken sandwich. (On the Sunday brunch menu).
  • The fried chicken and brioche French toast is served with sausage gravy and maple syrup at Westport Café & Bar (Saturday and Sunday brunch menu). It’s just so good; it’s one of my favorite brunch picks there.
  • On Fridays (from 4:30 to 9 p.m.), Anna’s Oven serves fried chicken that’s marinated in buttermilk and spice for 24 hours. It’s a hormone-free chicken that’s battered, fried and served with mashed potatoes and coleslaw.

Everyday fried chicken:

  • Chicken Macaroni & Cheese. This place is lovely on the inside, the family that owns it are so nice, and you can get fried chicken on your fried chicken here with a side of macaroni and cheese.
  • Stroud’s is a Kansas City tradition, and I’d walk a mile for those darn cinnamon rolls.
  • Howard’s Grocery, Café and Catering (which just opened) has a good chicken sandwich too.

Future fried chicken:

  • Gus’s Fried Chicken is opening this fall. It’s a beloved chain out of Memphis, and it serves a hot chicken, Memphis-style, which, I’m told, is a spiced batter (with just enough spice to make you sit up and take notice).

On my list to try fried chicken:

  • The North End. On Saturday nights only, John Cuezze, one of the former owners of Woodsweather’s Cafe in the West Bottoms who is now retired, comes in to make a fried chicken dinner that includes mashed potatoes, green beans and from-scratch biscuits.

Charles Ferruzza, The Pitch:

  • I love Niecie’s. It’s a little soul-food-kind-of-diner place. They do fried chicken dinners but I prefer the fried chicken wings with the waffles; I prefer that combo of sweet and savory. They also do really good waffles too. The fried chicken wings are big and really, really crunchy, and I like the juxtaposition of crunchy wings and the soft waffle. To me, the sides are just as important with fried chicken — maybe more important. Chicken has to have certain sides. Even if I order chicken waffles and have that sweet thing going on, I still like a side dish of collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and sometimes mashed potatoes.
  • The fried chicken at The North End on Saturday nights is really good.
  • Chicken Macaroni & Cheese. The chickaroni is their signature sandwich. It’s their very good fried chicken that’s chopped up and mixed in with their homemade macaroni and cheese and served on a bun.
  • The fried Korean chicken wings at Blvd Tavern.
  • Pan-fried chicken — that’s the art of Stroud’s. Those chicken fryers, they’re artists. They know what they’re doing.
  • Galvin’s Dinner House in St. Joseph makes the kind of fried chicken our parents probably had. It’s not the big, massive, steroidal pieces (and I’m using steroidal as a metaphor, as opposed to reality). It’s just regular old barn house chicken; the pieces aren’t big (fryers). The chicken is a little bit not meaty and maybe not so juicy, but it’s very crunchy and very satisfying. And they have all of the old-fashioned side dishes, too.
  • For deep-fried chicken: Rye and Popeye’s.

Listener Recommendations:

  • I think the best fried chicken is at Portia’s Café. It’s a lunch-only, family-owned place and on Thursdays, it serves fried chicken. You can get light or dark meat served with real mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, green beans with bacon and onions, corn and two rolls. The chicken is seasoned perfectly.
  • Price Chopper has the best fried chicken in Kansas City. It’s really good; the chicken is perfectly cooked and never dried out. The crust is exact the way deep-fried chicken can be — not oily. Even the white meat is really moist.
  • The chicken and waffles at Niecie’s. It’s no-frills. Nice, crispy, big wings that aren’t overly breaded and one big waffle. Smother them in syrup. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
  • The fried chicken at the Red Door Grill was just so great — tasty, moist and served with jalapeno sauce.
  • Stroud’s for cream gravy. The fried chicken is good, but for me, it’s all about the cream gravy on the mashed potato and chicken.
  • Coda Bar & Grill has a two-piece dinner. The chicken is good; crispy and moist. It’s served with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans.
  • The Brookville Hotel in Abilene is so worth a stop if you’re driving out West. The fried chicken (you get half a chicken) comes with mashed potatoes, gravy, cottage cheese, homemade coleslaw, homemade pickles and homemade candied apples — and it’s phenomenal. It’s a good idea to get reservations. Abilene is about three hours from KC.
  • Fried chicken is not a menu item I usually order, but The North End is great.
  • The Standard Pour
  • The best fried chicken in town can be found at The Mixing Bowl Noshery.
  • If I were on death row, my last meal would be Popeye’s spicy fried chicken.
  • Bonchon Chicken. Korean fried chicken is a tasty twist on the traditional fried chicken. I'm a KC native, but I lived on the East Coast for a while. I learned to love Korean food out there, and Bonchon became a regular dining location for me.
  • My favorite fried chicken north of the river is Cedar Ridge in Atchison. They serve fried chicken and fried catfish along with soup, salad, green beans, fried potatoes and cobbler on Fridays. The chicken is moist with the perfect amount of seasoned breading. Very good!

Producer's note: On the show there was some debate about whether the chicken at Rye was deep-fried or pan-fried. We have verified that it is, indeed, deep-fried.