The 15 Best Chicken-Fried Dishes In The US

There's something about breading and deep-frying a steak (particularly cube steak) as if it were a piece of chicken and slathering it in creamy gravy that feels quintessentially American. Chicken-fried steak has come to be a point of pride across the South, but the pastime is familiar across around the country. The preparation is so popular that there's even a designated holiday for the decadent dish (it's October 26, for those who wish to celebrate).

Though said to be an Americanized riff on German Wiener schnitzel (via Texas State Historical Association), chicken-fried steak has evolved over the years, taking on many different iterations and recipes. Nowadays the crispy technique is applied to all sorts of atypical dishes. In addition to exemplary, high-quality riffs on the staple, made with high-end cuts of beef and inventive sauces and seasonings, chefs are giving everything the chicken-fried treatment, from carrots to quail. Here are some of the best chicken-fried dishes to try in the U.S.

Wagyu chicken fried steak at Wild Oats in Houston

With Texas being the epicenter of chicken-fried culture in the U.S., it's no surprise that many of the finest interpretations of this unabashed comfort food can be found throughout the Lone Star State. One such example is the superlative steak cooked up at Houston's Wild Oats, a restaurant that bills itself as "a fresh take on traditional Texas." Chef Nick Fine traverses Texas to learn all about traditions, techniques, and culinary pastimes, which means chicken-fried steak is a menu mainstay.

The menu describes Fine's chicken-fried steak as "fancy meat" with mashed potatoes, green beans, and jalapeño bacon gravy — a modest description for a hearty entrée consisting of top-tier Wagyu steak that's coated in breading infused with dehydrated buffalo-style potato chips for added heat and crunch. Each crispy filet is then heaped with jalapeño-bacon gravy that's made with bacon grease, before getting topped with a smattering of toothsome green beans, green onions, and crispy bacon morsels.

Chicken fried frogs' legs at Bar Marilou in New Orleans

From beignets to crispy shrimp po' boys, New Orleans is a city that's well known for its love of the deep-fryer. But while crispy savories and sweets can be found throughout the foodie paradise, chicken-fried recipes aren't nearly as common, which is what makes the snack menu at Bar Marilou such a standout. Bedecked like a glam, romantic Parisian parlor in the Warehouse District, the chic lounge is the perfect place to lift a pinkie, sip a twee cocktail, and pair it with some chicken-fried frogs' legs.

In line with the atmosphere and theme of the bar, the menu at Bar Marilou fuses French ideologies with Southern flavors and techniques. Case in point: a finger-licking plate of chicken-fried frogs' legs, wherein the plump appendages are dipped, dredged, and fried to a crackly crisp. Before hitting the fryer, the legs are soaked in a marinade made with buttermilk and Fresno hot sauce, then dragged through a seasoned flour mixture. After being fried, they're sprinkled with a Szechuan spice blend for a bit more flare and welcome tongue tingles.

Chicken-fried quail at Diner Bar in Austin

Award-winning Savannah chef Mashama Bailey is well-versed in the art of elevated Southern comfort food. Recently, Bailey spread her wings to Texas and opened a pair of restaurants in Austin. Diner Bar, located at the Thompson Austin, is Bailey's all-day full-service spot where the focus is on seasonal contemporary Southern fare layered with local Texan inspiration. And that's precisely where her chicken-fried quail comes into play.

Alongside other Texas-tinged items like a bone-in wagyu ribeye and buttery beef tartare swimming in bottarga mayonnaise, her dinner menu sports a unique riff as an entrée option: chicken-fried quail. Eschewing a thick slice of steak for the decidedly daintier bird, the crispy poultry sports a delicate crunch that pairs nicely atop a bed of creamy white grits and coffee demi-glace for a bit of fragrant bitterness — another stark departure from the typically indulgent cream gravy.

New Mexico-style chicken fried steak at The Pantry in Santa Fe

Sharing a border with Texas, there's naturally a lot of Tex-Mex overlap in cooking inspiration throughout New Mexico, even in a city like Santa Fe that's so entrenched in its own culinary foodways and traditions. In addition to standout breakfast sandwiches, frozen cocktails, and green chile cheeseburgers, this is a city that's apt to slather steaks in chile and cheese, as evidenced by one burly breakfast platter at diner-style mainstay, The Pantry.

Here, steak is a top choice for breakfast and brunch and it's offered in a few different iterations. One such option is the chicken-fried steak, a thick filet of beef that's breaded, deep-fried, covered in county gravy, and served with toast, tortillas, or biscuits, plus fries, beans, or grits in case all that wasn't enough. To really amp up the Santa Fe factor, though, customers can order their steak "NM style," which entails smothering said steak in chile and cheese.

Chicken fried blowfish tails at Little Donkey in Cambridge, Massachusetts

In the pantheon of chicken-fried fare, fish isn't typically a commonplace ingredient — let alone something as esoteric as blowfish tails. But considering their similarity to chicken wings, it makes sense that these surprisingly meaty morsels would get the chicken-fried treatment.

While not a regular fixture on the menu, chicken-fried blowfish tails are a recurring special at Little Donkey, an inventive and eclectic tapas-centric spot in Camrbidge from chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette. The dish is a particular favorite for Oringer, who marinates the tails in yogurt before dredging them in a spiced flour mixture seasoned with garam masala, fennel pollen, chili, and lemon zest. The flavorful fins are then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown and served with a riff on Carolina barbecue mustard sauce made with Indian spices and mustard seed. In case chicken-fried blowfish tails weren't dazzling enough, keep your eyes peeled for more recurring specials at Little Donkey — both chefs have been known to tinker with recipes like chicken-fried sweetbreads and chicken-fried chicken of the woods mushrooms.

Chicken fried chicken livers at Cured in San Antonio

At Cured in San Antonio, chef Steve McHugh prides himself on paying homage to his home state, offering his own contemporary twists on Texan cuisine and local ingredients. McHugh goes to great lengths to make everything from scratch, sourcing from local farms, and cooking up inventive interpretations on timeworn regional traditions. Along with meaty fare like boar chops, charcuterie platters, and smoky sausages, this ethos lends itself to a standout starter of chicken-fried chicken livers.

Loaded into a mini cast-iron skillet and served as a hearty shareable starter resembling a pile of popcorn chicken, the crunchy livers are the perfect textural contrast between a creamy interior and a crackly, fryer-fresh crust. The bite-sized morsels are dotted with lemon aïoli and apricot pepper jelly, both of which help to balance out the gaminess and richness of the chicken livers with notes of acidity, sweetness, and piquant spice.

Chicken fried ribs and gravy at Revival in St. Paul

One surefire way to amp up the innate comfort food factor of a dish like chicken-fried steak is by fusing it with another cuisine that's just as hearty: American barbecue. At Revival, a St. Paul-based barbecue concept with a few locations throughout the Twin Cities, chef Thomas Boemer doubles down on chicken-fried traditions with his chicken fried ribs and gravy.

While St. Paul isn't exactly known for barbecue or chicken-fried recipes, Boemer debunks regional stereotypes and bridges culinary gaps with this standout dish that subs pork for steak. Here, thick and hefty St. Louis-style pork ribs are battered in buttermilk and spices, fried until golden brown and tender, and adorned with a country sausage gravy. The accompanying pickle slices serve as much-needed palate cleansers. With more smoky notes than the standard chicken-fried steak, it's a unique regional fusion version of this all-American staple. 

Country fried steak sandwich at Johnnie's Drive-In in Tupelo, Mississippi

Besides music, if there's one thing Elvis was known for it was his unrelenting love for over-the-top comfort food. Which is why it would be wise to follow the King's culinary advice and visit one of his favorite restaurants for a chicken-fried steak sandwich like no other. A stone's throw from where Elvis grew up, Johnnie's Drive-In currently holds the distinction of being the oldest restaurant in Tupelo, Mississippi. The longstanding legend that was such a favorite for Elvis that the frills-free restaurant still sports an "Elvis booth." While cheeseburgers were said to be his go-to here (via Roadside America), it's safe to suspect that he would have felt just as at home with Johnnie's chicken-fried steak sandwich. 

The kitschy drive-in offers a country-fried steak sandwich that's served on an aptly oversized toasted bun. Piled with fresh tomatoes and lettuce (to keep things healthy, presumably) and served with crinkle-cut fries, the only way this crispy fried steak sandwich could get any more Americana is if you savor it while sitting in Elvis' namesake booth.

Chicken fried cauliflower at Flyover in Columbia, Missouri

Located about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, in an area of the U.S. typified as "flyover country," the underrated city of Columbia proves its dining scene is worth a stop in and of itself — especially for the locally sourced, quasi-Southern cuisine served at the ironically named Flyover. Here, Midwestern and Southern staples like mac & cheese, meatballs, pretzels, and catfish are served alongside a standout vegetarian riff on chicken-fried steak.  

Plump cauliflower florets are seasoned, dredged, and deep-fried until crispy, golden, and reminiscent of veggie chicken nuggets. They're spread across a plate on a bed of smoked sweet potato puree, then topped with chimichurri sauce and fresh goat cheese. The result is a chicken-fried dish that, while utilizing the same techniques as deep-fried steak, veers as far from tradition as possible, with an impressive layering of flavors and textures along the way.

Tillie's chicken fried steak at Tillie's in Dripping Springs, Texas

Described as an "American Nouveau" restaurant, Tillie's is as quintessentially Texas as it gets. Located at Camp Lucy in Dripping Springs (Texas Hill Country), it offers a locally sourced contemporary menu of Texan and Southern dishes from chef Andy Knudson. That means chicken-fried steak is a must for a chef who grew up savoring the dish — so naturally, it's a star brunch entrée.

For Knudson, familial recipes and pastimes lend themselves to a lot of his cooking inspiration. The chef notes that his Texas grandmother's chicken-fried steak, along with his North Dakotan aunt's fried pork chops, were primary influences in crafting his brunch menu. Paying homage to family pastimes, Knudson cooks up thick-cut filets that are breaded and fried, then sauced with a fragrant roasted poblano red-eye gravy. Served alongside breakfast potatoes, it's a burly option that would make any Texan grandmother proud.

Steak & eggs at Millers All Day in Charleston

Seeing as Millers All Day is the kind of restaurant that serves things like biscuit dough cinnamon rolls, lobster fries, and birthday cake scones, it's safe to expect that this is one place that doesn't shy away from indulgence. Indeed, the inventive and whimsical Southern-style restaurant serves its own breakfast-centric riff on chicken-fried steak, upping the ante on the notion of steak & eggs by giving it a deep-fried makeover.

Along with other meaty daytime entrees, like ham-studded breakfast casseroles and biscuits and gravy, Millers All Day features an extra-hearty version of steak & eggs. A saucer-sized slab of beef is breaded and deep-fried, then topped with a generous dollop of rosemary-sausage gravy — you know, in case the steak wasn't savory enough by itself. A mound of soft, fluffy scrambled eggs round out the plate, along with a smattering of perfectly crispy home fries.

Chicken-fried carrots at The Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City

Like its Lone Star neighbor to the south, Oklahoma is a state known for its chicken-fried customs. After all, this is a place where the "state meal" consists of chicken-fried steak (via State Symbols USA) and a whole slew of sides so over-the-top it makes Thanksgiving look like Lean Cuisine. But while decadent feasts like this can be found throughout Oklahoma, not every version is a meaty spectacle. In Oklahoma City, The Jones Assembly puts inventive, well-balanced spins on Oklahoman fare, like the chicken-fried carrots.

A vegetal take on an Oklahoman standard, the shareable starter features a pile of colorful, locally sourced carrots that are dredged in a seasoned breading and deep-fried until the golden-brown morsels resemble a kind of fancy chicken tender. Strewn with pistachios, parmesan, and chives, the crispy carrots are served with a side of lustrous hot honey aïoli for a bit of sweet heat.

Chicken-fried Texas oysters at 97 West Kitchen & Bar in Fort Worth

Chicken-fried steak can be found in all shapes, cuts, and sizes throughout the steak-loving state, but it's not just beef that gets the chicken-fried treatment here. Even in Fort Worth, the kind of carnivorous city that lays claim to some of the largest stockyards in the nation, different culinary innovations, like chicken-fried oysters, can be found at inventive restaurants such as 97 West Kitchen & Bar.

Texas oysters, plucked fresh from the Gulf Coast, are a common snack throughout the state, but deep-frying the bivalves and covering them in crema? That's a different story. Kind of like a Texan riff on oysters Rockefeller, Gulf oysters are chicken-fried and served on the half-shell with some of the most eclectic accouterments to ever hit a chicken-fried platter. Chipotle butter adds some richness and smoke, while pickled mango pico lends an unexpected punch of tropical sweetness and tang. It's all finished with a bit of fragrant cumin crema, a decidedly lighter alternative to the typically Texan cream gravy.

Chicken-fried chicken at Dove's Luncheonette in Chicago

Epic fried chicken dishes are nothing new in Chicago, but a chicken-fried chicken dish is much more of a novelty — especially when it's served at a Tex-Mex-style hot spot from one of the city's most prolific restaurant groups. At Dove's Luncheonette, a sunny and hip diner-style hot spot in Wicker Park, fried chicken gets even more golden-brown (and even more extravagant), with a recipe that digs a lot deeper than the deep-fryer.

First, boneless and skinless chicken thighs are brined in salt, sugar, and water (via Michelin), then dredged in a flour medley infused with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and chile powder. It's all dunked in buttermilk, before being dredged again and deep-fried until all its nooks and crannies and perfectly crackly and crisp. Said crannies are then filled with a green chorizo verde gravy and the whole platter is dotted with sweet peas and sweeter pearl onions.

Chicken-fried okra at Loretta's Last Call in Boston

From creamy clam chowder to lobster rolls and its namesake cream pie, Boston certainly isn't lacking in decadent comfort cuisine, but Southern-style, chicken-fried delicacies aren't nearly as common in this part of the country. And that's precisely what makes Loretta's Last Call such a welcome novelty. This is the type of place where crispy vittles feature less chowder and more pimento cheese, sausage gravy, and deep-fried okra.

An apt homage to the American South, where okra is a staple ingredient whether it's being pickled or prepared in a gumbo, Loretta's Last Call serves a chicken-fried okra dish as a finger-licking appetizer that could hold its own in any region of the country. Here, whole pieces of okra are dredged, seasoned, spiced, and deep-fried, so that they retain their satisfying snap when you bite through the crust. They're served stacked together in a mini cast-iron skillet with a side of Cajun remoulade as a spiced condiment.