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
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
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