Planning a fried chicken round-up in San Francisco is no easy task. There are just so many options, for one, and so many differing opinions on what makes fried chicken truly great. There are hole-in-the-wall dives slinging cheap boxes of chicken and top-rated restaurants putting out $20 fancy pants plates. And, there's the hater-laced dismissal of, "Well, it's not the South. How good can it be?"
But we're not ones to shy away from a serious eating challenge 'round these parts. So we set out to track down some of the city's best fried chicken. We're staring with the classic Southern-style iterations—chicken as American as apple pie and as susceptible to strong opinions as anything our great country has to offer.
We rated each spot on a 5-point scale, noting sides if we tried them, but not penalizing places that didn't offer them. Since we wanted to get a decently broad range of San Francisco's offerings, we tried chicken at all price points -- we noted the cost/value if it stood out for better or worse, but again did not include this in our rankings.
Here's our fried chicken criteria:
- Skin & Batter: Is the batter texturally interesting, and have a nice appearance? Does it adhere well to the skin, or peel off?
- White Meat: Is it properly cooked, and well-flavored? Is it juicy and tender?
- Dark Meat: Same questions as white meat, with an addendum - is it greasy?
- Spiced/Spiciness: Are both crust and chicken well-seasoned?
We limited our tastings to San Francisco only, rather than branching out into the North, East, and South Bay (though we know there are some serious gems to be found there as well). But, even then we didn't make it to every spot on our list. Have you tried the Monday-night fried chicken at Mission Local, or the Tuesday special at Firefly? How about the "Best Fried Chicken" at Brenda's, or the fried chicken and pork belly recently added to the lounge menu at Fifth Floor?
And tell us, where do you love to eat fried chicken in San Francisco, and the Bay Area?
The Overall Winner: Memphis Minnie's
For the Fried Chicken Purist: Frisco Fried
Impressively Good White Meat: Hard Knox Cafe
The "Stay For The Beer" Chicken: Magnolia
The Damn Good Fancy Bucket: The Front Porch
The Cool Kid: Mission Bowling
Best Fried Chicken and Waffles Duo: Little Skillet
Best Dipping Sauces: Wing Wings
The Good and the Greasy: Auntie April's
Crustiest Crust: Citizens Band
The 3AM Good/Bad Decision: Van Ness Gas Station
We warned you...this is just part one! Stay tuned for our round-ups of Asian-style fried chicken, and of course, fried chicken sandwiches. Got tips? Let us know!