The Best Fried Chicken In America 2014

Eight must-hit fried chicken joints across the USA

We've declared August 11-22 Fried Chicken Fortnight. Watch this space for two full weeks of recipes, chicken talk, chef tips and more.

Oh, fried chicken, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Done right, the iconic American dish is the quintessential sorry-not-sorry meal.

Here are eight spots across the country, both high-end and not, that do right by the bird. But be warned: You might have to unfasten your seat belt for this particular trip.

Ad Hoc, Yountville, CA

Thomas Keller's casual counterpart to the French Laundry is utterly revered for its spicy buttermilk fried chicken. The tenderness comes from an herb-lemon brine, while the sublime meat-to-crust ratio is achieved by using small farmers' market chickens. Those still jonesing for a hit the next day can grab an order to go from Addendum, the restaurant's takeaway lunch addition.

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, Los Angeles, CA

The soul food mini-chain is an L.A. institution that hardly needs an introduction, but in case you're not familiar, here's the rundown. Harlem native Herb Nelson opened the first outlet in 1975 and has since won the devotion of everyone from David Beckham to Barack Obama. Obsessives can head out as late as 4 a.m. for the perfect sweet-and-savory nightcap of crunchy dark-meat chicken and syrup-soaked waffle. (See more of our favorite fried chicken in LA here.)

Central Michel Richard, Washington, DC

It might seem sacrilegious to order fried chicken from a James Beard Award winner, but that's what helped Richard earn the honor in the first place. The juicy, crisp dinner entrée comes atop velvety mashed potatoes with a gravy boat of rich aioli on the side; more fun still is the bucket of chicken to go during lunch. Fun fact: Richard added that bucket after falling in love with KFC during a business trip.

Fried chicken at Momofuku Noodle Bar | Photo: Gabriele Stabile

Willie Mae's Scotch House, New Orleans, LA

Loyalists call it the best fried chicken in the country; we're simply calling it a can't-miss. Off the beaten path in Treme, this truly no-frills joint lures both regulars and tourists with a crazy-crisp hat trick of fried thigh, wing and drumstick. Willie Mae's great-granddaughter, Kerry Seaton, runs the kitchen and is fiercely protective of the family recipe, though there are rumors of a Coke-based brine floating around. Customers are so devoted, they helped rebuild the restaurant after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Jestine's Chicken, Charleston, SC

Salty, juicy, crunchy, and cheap—there's a reason why there are regularly lines snaking out the café's door. The classic Southern comfort food joint sates all manner of fried-chicken fanatics with its platter of either all-white or all-dark meat. Worried about your cholesterol levels? Take heart: The recipe comes from Jestine Matthews, former housekeeper to the owner's family, who lived to the ripe age of 112. Fried chicken = fountain of youth.

Prince's, Nashville, TN

In Nashville, it's all about hot chicken, and Prince's sets the standard out of a hole-in-the-wall strip mall location. The recipe is top-secret, but one theory holds that cayenne goes into the wet rub, the dredging flour and the cooking oil before the chicken is coated in, yup, a cayenne paste. Some words of warning: Even the mild version is no-joke spicy, and those in the know get there early—this stuff goes fast.

Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York, NY

Step 1: Round up seven of your favorite people. Step 2: Call David Chang's acclaimed noodle bar to reserve the family-style chicken meal. Step 3: Fast. Step 4: Savor the last-meal spread of two whole fried chickens—one Southern buttermilk , the other Korean triple-fried—served with four different sauces and an herb basket. Eat it straight or fold the meat into a mu shu pancake with carrots and radishes. (For the record, we're also big fans of Momofuku Má Pêche's spicy fried chicken, a different recipe that's available a la carte, as opposed to the large-format feast at Noodle Bar.)

Federal Donuts, Philadelphia, PA

Coffee, donuts and fried chicken—this place means business. Michael Solomonov's Philly mini-chain lets you enhance your chicken order with spiced seasonings ranging from za'atar to toasted nori to buttermilk ranch and glazes including sweet soy and garlic and honey-ginger, but many purists go au naturale. And should you regret choosing savory over sweet, rest easy: All chicken orders come with a honey doughnut on the side.

We've got birds on the brain—so much so that we're throwing a big party celebrating fried chicken. Get more details here.