Nestled quietly between the 4th of July and Bastille Day is a much lesser known holiday that, in my food-appreciating opinion, deserves some serious recognition: Today is National Fried Chicken Day.
Although fried chicken is often thought of as a quintessentially Southern dish, it actually dates back to Europe during medieval times, with Scottish immigrants being credited with introducing the method of deep frying chicken in fat to the Southern states.
Houston’s food scene has a well-established reputation for being a wonderful gastronomic melting pot though, which means that you can get fried chicken served up in a myriad of ways to satisfy any ethnic palate. There’s twice fried Korean fried chicken flavored with ganjang sauce and garlic; Indian fried chicken marinated in yogurt masala and coated with chickpea flour (the Tuesday special at Pondicheri); and even garlic and zataar laden Middle Eastern fried chicken (at Al Aseel Grill & Café).
Our eclectic city even has great Szechuan, Guatemalan and Malaysian fried fowl to satisfy even the most intense culturally-fueled fried chicken predilections.
Salivating yet? Good. Now wipe your mouth and check out some of the best local spots to satiate your sudden fried chicken cravings:
Crowned by Food & Wine magazine as one the country’s preeminent purveyors of poultry, the Barbecue Inn only serves up chicken that is cooked to order and worth the wait: once-battered chicken, seasoned just so, with perfectly crispy skin.
The cooks at the Barbecue Inn have been frying chicken in that kitchen for decades. With additional accolades from publications like Texas Monthly, the restaurant clearly has a strong following.
Long known for advocating that champagne and fried chicken are a match made in culinary heaven, Max’s now has another tasty offering up their sleeves: “gluten-friendly” fried chicken that is just as delicious as the original.
The idea, which came from Jerry Lasco, president of Max's present company Lasco Enterprises, who has Celiac disease, is made with a blend of gluten free flour and dried cauliflower fibers, creating a fried-like coating. The chicken is also cooked in a separate fryer and prepared in an independent area, which prevents exposing the chicken to other foods that contain gluten. Way to go, Max’s!
It’s clear that the folks at Liberty take their Southern fried chicken seriously since they named the dish “Dixie Fried Chicken.” Better still, it’s served with proper Southern-style accompaniments: cream gravy and hot sauce syrup. Although it’s typically a Wednesday special, the restaurant will be selling cold Dixie on National Fried Chicken Day. It can be eaten there or taken to go, perhaps for a little picnic.
Chef Randy Evans wants you to have your chicken and eat it too. The restaurant offers its incredibly tender and moist organic, free-range, buttermilk-marinated fried chicken dinner for four, complete with your choice of decadent sides, both in the restaurant as well as for curbside pick-up. Come to think of it, you could actually pick up the meal secretly, tie on an apron, dust yourself with a little flour, invite people over, and pretend you cooked it yourself. Your guests will rave over the deliciousness, and it’ll be just your and Chef Evans’ secret.
Chef Kevin Bryant of the new Eleven XI restaurant wants to prove his frying mettle right out of the gate. The restaurant offers a “Citrus Tea Brined Wild Game Hen” on the menu that’s fried…whole. The unique brining concoction makes the meat superbly luscious and moist, while the skin retains a good, solid crustiness.
Seeing that whole, small, fried-to-perfection hen, resting precariously atop a mound of French fries is a gorgeous sight. It’s a single serving, but even if it weren’t you still wouldn’t want to share.
Can a fried chicken list for Houston be truly complete without including Frenchy’s? Serving its customers fantastic fried Creole poulet has been the mission of this neighborhood institution since 1969. If you’ve never eaten at Frenchy’s (gasp!) you don’t know what you are missing. The spice blend that the Creuzot family uses on their chicken is the stuff that flavor legends are made of.
Looking for more choices? Check out Marene Gustin's column on best fried chicken that ran in 2011 and see if your favorite is on the list. If you have others, let us know in the comments section below.