Watershed on Peachtree
The legendary recipe wasn't touched—a 24-hour saltwater soak, a 24-hour buttermilk soak, then lightly floured/salted/peppered and pan-fried in a mixture of butter, lard... and ham. Fried Chicken Night is now on Wednesdays, but only until they run out. There may be fewer than 130 four-piece servings available, and it's likely to be long gone by 8 p.m. Simply magical.
Watershed on Peachtree: 1820 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta, GA 30309; 404-809-3561; watershedrestaurant.com
Mary Mac's Tea Room
Fill out your own order on a notepad as you enjoy complimentary potlikker (the liquid left behind after boiling collard greens, seasoned with pork and served with cornbread for sopping). The nostalgia of downhome sides like sweet potato soufflé, okra, and fried green tomatoes sometimes overshadows the basic fried chicken, but Mary Mac's is a quintessential tradition with one-of-a-kind Southern hospitality. How many other restaurants have a Goodwill Ambassador visiting each table to give guests a back rub as they dine?
Mary Mac's Tea Room: 224 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30308; 404-876-1800; marymacs.com
Curly's Fried Chicken
Like it spicy? Try Buddy's Secret Sauce... but the regular fry job has plenty of kick on its own. Either way, wash it down with a 20-ounce Styrofoam cup of actual Kool-Aid (lemonade, "red," or "purple") and a fried pie, which may be the closest thing to Mickey D's old-school version that still exists.
Curly's Fried Chicken: 1021 Howell Mill Road NW, Atlanta, GA 30318; 404-872-7888; curlysfriedchicken
Gladys Knight & Ron Winans' Chicken & Waffles
The Midnight Train is a quartet of golden-fried wings and a jumbo waffle on the same plate... and if you happen to let a little of that syrup drizzle over onto the wings, you won't be sorry. Not a wing nut? Produce your own smash hit by ordering pieces and waffles a la carte. Or try the smothered chicken, a fried boneless breast served over white rice and doused in rich gravy. Just remember to order the Specialty Waffle of the Day on the side.
Gladys Knight & Ron Winans' Chicken & Waffles: 529 Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30308; 404-874-9393; gladysandron.net
It's true cafeteria-style, so grab a plastic tray and slide it down, choosing dessert first and pointing at grandma-sized sides through the sneeze guard. Build your own platter with breasts, thighs, and legs in whatever quantity you want to pay for. It's all got a thick, crisp coating on it that encases juicy meat underneath. And it's piping hot, which only encourages you to eat quickly, and therefore surrender your coveted seat in one of three fluorescent-lit dining rooms to someone who's just gotten through the line.
Matthew's Cafeteria: 2299 Main Street, Tucker, GA 30084; 770-939-2357; matthewscafeteria.com
South City Kitchen
South City Kitchen: 1144 Crescent Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30309; 404-873-7358; southcitykitchen.com
Greenwood's on Green Street
Greenwood's on Green Street: 1087 Green Street, Roswell, GA 30075; 770-992-5383; greenwoodsongreenstreet.com
Busy Bee Café
The skin has a great crunch with juicy meat inside, thanks to a 12-hour marinade and pure peanut oil bath. You can also get your bird smothered in pan gravy. The tiny parking lot is hard to navigate, but worth it, and if you need help directing traffic, a police officer shouldn't be more than a few minutes away from leaving.
Busy Bee Café: 810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30313; 404-525-9212; thebusybeecafe.com
Carver's Country Kitchen
A rotation of sides changes daily, with choices often numbering over a dozen but their most famous is the baked ham and hash brown casserole. Founder Robert Carver passed away in March, but the chicken remains the same; his family (who still runs the cash-only place) jokes that he couldn't cook worth a lick and was there mainly to greet customers and peel potatoes anyway.
Carver's Country Kitchen: 1118 West Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318; 404-794-4410; carverscountrykitchen.com
The Big Chicken KFC Landmark
As for the fried chicken, sadly, it's just Colonel Sanders-grade KFC. But to list fried chicken joints in this town without a wink and a nod to this kitschy one-of-a-kind landmark? That'd be cluckin' crazy.
The Big Chicken KFC: 12 Cobb Parkway N, Marietta, GA 30062; 770-422-4716