Comfort food; nothing satiates like freshly fried chicken. A staple for bone-in parts, fried chicken was a special occasion meal because only young birds were tender enough for the preparation, but the advent of the fresh fryer changed all that and, post-war, a fried chicken frenzy occurred.
Experts agree that brining in buttermilk is the key to adding a depth of flavor to the meat before producing a crispy crust over top. Season raw poultry with a dry rub for a few hours in the fridge before coating in a quart of buttermilk and allow an overnight soak.
Seasoned APF (all purpose flour) is the classic coating for southern fried chicken but straight up salted corn starch can produce excellent gluten-free fried chicken if that’s your preference. Fry pieces in at least four inches of hot oil until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached, testing three places with a probe thermometer. Serve hot for a crispy exterior or cool in the fridge for what’s considered picnic style, a coating with some chew.
The Carolinas offer tremendous, even iconic stops for fried chicken. From deep-fried to pan-fried and pressure-fried, there’s a chicken to suit every taste.
Since it feels like a summer for traversing a backroad, we compiled a bucket list of fried chicken destinations along with an outing in each town. Whether you take a daytrip or an overnight jaunt or merely a stop in route to the coast, these fried chicken purveyors are worthy of your rapt attention.
Want to try our favorite fried chicken recipe? Find it on Instagram @athome.magazine or on athomeupstate.com
907 Pendleton St. & 5284 Calhoun Memorial Hwy
With two locations, there’s always a place to get your OJ’s fix but arrive for lunch between 11-11:30am to get in on piping hot fried chicken, all house made from whole foods. The sweet potato cobbler (and friendly service) is an institution.
Outing: Stone Mural Project Along the Stone Ave. corridor lies the City’s first mural project. The ongoing project is notable for its artists (including Joseph Bradley, Jean Wilson Freeman and Sunny Mullarkey) as well as Stone Academy fifth graders’ participation.
1000 North Pine St.
Since 1947, Wade’s has been feeding Spartanburg made-from-scratch southern meats and veggies including fantastic fried chicken with the perfect amount of salt and pepper, which is always juicy no matter the cut. Don’t pass up the yeast rolls.
970 South Pine St.
New to the scene but extra worthy, Flock Shop shines with no ordinary sandwich; the Coop de Ville is a fried breast with pepper relish, lemon aioli, slaw and pickles on a steamy bun. Order it “Flock Style” to add Alabama white sauce and hot honey.
Outing: Glendale Shoals Thirteen acres along Lawson’s Fork Creek are peppered with the ruins from Glendale Mill. A natural stone outcropping creates a divine place to picnic while watching water rush over the dam and a 24-hour creek cam is a handy way to check in on water levels.
Zesto of West Columbia
504 12th St.
Corn starch gives Zesto’s fried chicken an irresistible crunch and the chocolate dipped cone atop the building is rather adorable. Lines move quickly and service and cleanliness are top notch. Milkshakes and cones are special here too.
Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles
7001 Parklane Rd. & 1260 Bower Pkwy
SC Chef Ambassador Kiki Cyrus opened two locations of her popular chicken and waffles restaurant. The signature dish is four fried wings over a Belgian waffle, you can even make it a red velvet waffle. The fried green beans are fantastic too.
Outing: Columbia Museum of Art With a renovation completed just this year, the museum is a top spot for national touring exhibits. The former downtown Macy’s department store has a peopled courtyard and sits just a few blocks from Lula Drake wine bar and Sweet Cream Company ice cream.
Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oyster Shop
698 King St.
No place may be more fun than hanging out at Leon’s. Its casual vibe does not limit guests from ordering champagne in coups with their oysters and fried chicken. The spicy hard coating crust is a dream alongside the best scallop potato you’ve ever eaten.
2332 Meeting St.
Lowcountry dishes shine on the plate at Bertha’s, started in 1981 by Albertha Grant. The oxtail is a fantastic order and the mac and cheese with a crunchy bottom. The fried chicken is known for its crispy crag. Bertha’s is also the spot for legendary sweet tea.
Outing: Rainbow Row Be that person and stroll Rainbow Row once again, one of the most famous residential streets. Play tourist in your home state and take a tour of the Custom House and Exchange at the corner of East Bay and Broad St.
Old South Catery
509 Dicey Ford Rd.
Available Sundays, the fried chicken at Old South is part of the overwhelming 50 items available for brunch and boxed supper. The professional catering company lays it out once a week, open to the public.
Outing: Vintage Pianos Inside of the Ten Eleven Gallery is a gorgeous piano purveyor dedicated to vintage grands. It shares an overall space with Salud restaurant, so it’s possible to sip a margarita and hear a Steinway play at the same time.
Biddy Banquet Restaurant
220 John C Calhoun Dr.
An ideal stop on the way to the Low Country, Biddy Banquet has a storied past and extensive hours. The chicken is heavily brined and sports a picturesque hard crust. There’s an original walk-up window too.
Outing: Edisto Memorial Gardens With the first rose planted in 1951, today the Edisto Memorial Rose Garden contains 79 beds of award-winning roses and is a site of the American Rose Society’s testing program.
480 North Brooks St.
The que is worth the trip for the vinegar-based sauce but get the fried chicken too with its crisp bite. The tiny restaurant also has outdoor tables and is only open about half the week. Manning is a great cut-through to the beaches of Pawleys Island and Litchfield.
Outing: Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden An easy half hour north of Manning lies Pearl Fryar’s three-acres of topiaries. Started from the cast-off plants of area nurseries in the 1980s, Fryar has created a wonderland and is entirely self-taught. The grounds are open to visitors and are part of the Fryar’s family residence.
Miss Ann’s Fried Chicken
1032 Main St.
A bit off the beaten path, but worth the hunt Miss Ann’s Fried Chicken is known for its peppery finish. A family owned restaurant for 32 years, the popular spot wins local awards for their crunchy chicken and, if you’re not stuffed, consider the pie.
Outing: Festival of Flowers. In its 53rd year, the festival of flowers happens during the month of June and the topiaries are up at nearly every street corner. Enjoy lovely Greenwood by car or by foot.
Julia Belle’s Restaurant
2513 W. Lucas St.
Located at the Pee Dee State Farmers Market, Julia Belle’s is a darling lunch stop with umbrella laden outdoor tables. The fried chicken is plump and delicious and the dessert board is hard to pass up including strawberry shortcake, pies and other baked goods.
Outing: Hewn Timber Cabins Two slave-built cabins from the Gregg cotton plantation today sit on the campus of Francis Marion University. Tour them by appointment from March until November and learn about the remarkable family who lived in them until 1953. Constructed of hewn timber with handmade tools, they are an engineering marvel.
Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack
1455 Patton Ave. & 3749 Sweeten Creek Rd. Coming soon to Laurens Rd. in Greenville.
We have never been disappointed at Rocky’s no matter what level of fried chicken spice ordered. The attention to quality is tremendous from creamy pot pies to all the sides. Fried tenders are as good as the bone-in pieces. Biscuits are spot on.
348 Depot St.
Available as a weekly special, chefs Josiah and Shannon McGaughey offer resplendent fried chicken at their River Arts District eatery. If a boozy cocktail and a chef driven app followed by fried bird is your jam, then Vivian is your destination.
Outing: Wedge Studios Metal artist John Payne first reimagined a century old triangular building into studios. Today, two dozen artists have studios here and the back lot includes the trifecta of Wedge brewery, The Bull and Beggar restaurant and Bottle Riot wine bar.
Price’s Chicken Coop
1614 Camden Rd.
Cooked in peanut oil and seasoned “just right” since 1962, this Charlotte institution has no tables and accepts only cash payment. Chicken is offered by the quarter, half or whole for takeout in cardboard boxes and a tagline of “all food guaranteed satisfactory.”
Outing: Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Catch Jazz at the Bechtler if you can, offered some Friday evenings during the summer. The Bechtler family amassed the collection for 70+ years, featuring works of mid-20th-century modernism.
1647 Cole Mill Rd.
Marinated in smoked buttermilk, Picnic’s fried chicken has a devoted following. The addition of rice flour contributes to the crispy crag. The pulled pork here is tremendous and the deviled eggs, with a dose of rendered bacon fat, are dreamy.
311 Holland St.
The tiny, somewhat hidden eatery specializes in playful preps of chicken influenced by Korean and Japanese cuisine. Chef Michael Lee’s Korean chicken sando is brined in the pickling liquid from their famous pickles and then tempura fried, topped with garlic aioli.
Outing: Jeddah’s Tea/Zen Succulent The two women-owned businesses sit right on Market St. Morgan Siegel of Jeddah’s Tea is a font of tea knowledge. Go there for a cup and bring product home. Zen Succulent is an urban garden store of high design; co-owner Megan George stocks the space with regionally made gifts and art.
200 West Acadia Ave.
Winston-Salem’s version of hot chicken is at Slappy’s in Washington Park and their secret sauce is out of this world. It’s dark, peppery and a bit sweet. Spicy, yes, but not blow the doors off hot. The Mac & Cheeze uses crushed Cheez-It crackers. Wow!
Miss Ora’s Kitchen
605 North Trade St.
Next to Sweet Potatoes, Well Shut My Mouth is Miss Ora’s Kitchen with its half dozen seats and fangirl following for the pan-fried chicken. Chefs Vivian and Stephanie Tyson are devoted to a well-seasoned cast iron skillet and the chicken proves its power.
Outing: The Kimpton Cardinal The protype of the Empire State Building, it was also the corporate headquarters for R.J. Reynolds, built in 1929. With its limestone exterior and brass and marble interiors, The Cardinal has retained its Art Deco details. Sip a cocktail at the lovely Katharine Brasserie, notably with chef Adam Barnett at its helm.
2519 Fairview Rd.
Chef Shawn Fowler’s farm driven restaurant in the Hayes Barton neighborhood serves gorgeous chicken and waffles. A fried Joyce Farm breast comes with buckwheat waffles, greens and is topped with truffle honey. The biscuits here are no joke too.
Outing: Historic Yates Mill State Park Visit the restored Oliver Evans style gristmill, circa 1756, and learn about the natural history of the region. A 20-acre lake and hiking trails make this a gorgeous outing. NC State uses the park for ongoing natural history research.
23 S. Fayetteville St.
Inspired by the meals of their childhood, specials change nightly, but the cast iron skillet fried chicken always remains as Magnolia 23, which turns 10 this year. The pretty restaurant with chalkboard menus also serves really notable greens.
Outing: NC State Zoo This is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world (bigger than San Diego if you can believe it). Add the “zoofari” option to tour through Watani Grasslands, the closest thing you’ll get to a safari on the East Coast.
1901 South Main St.
Shaped like a derby hat, how could you not make a stop here for fried chicken; the staff currently has more than 100 years of experience at the Derby, which opened in 1937. A full menu is available but people flock to the Bannertown stop for the fried chicken plate.
Outing: Shelton Vineyards With lovely views of the Yadkin Valley and wine grown utilizing sustainable farming practices, Shelton Vineyards is a delightful destination and there’s cheese to buy, walking paths to traverse and picnic tables lakeside.