Like egg rolls and gyoza, fried chicken is one of those dishes that your mother probably makes better than everyone else, because no one else's version is quite as crispy, or quite as juicy, or made with quite as much love. That said, when Mom isn't around and the craving strikes, there are quite a number of places, both down- and upscale, where you can find comfort in chicken that's almost as good as your mom's. Turn the page for our list of the ten best fried chicken in Los Angeles.
Donahoo's Golden Chicken is in Pomona which, if you live in L.A. proper, can seem awfully far to go just for a drumstick. But, if you happen to be driving east on the 10 anyway — because you're headed to the L.A. County Fair and need to supplement that deep-fried Kool-Aid, or, worse, because you're on your way to Ontario to take the California Bar Exam — then you'd be remiss not to make a chicken stop. Once there, you'll see folks walking out the door with pale white boxes; had you not just parked under a giant chicken hoisted high in the air, you might have thought you accidentally stumbled upon yet another cupcake shop. But, thankfully, you haven't: What's in the box, rather, are fries, which you can skip, and chicken, which you absolutely cannot. These are indeed golden pieces of chicken, with a batter simply but perfectly seasoned with salt and pepper. 1074 N. Garey Ave., Pomona; (909) 622-3213.
The debate over how to best get to and from LAX often sounds like something out of The Californians, but regardless of how you get there and why, your airport run likely will include a food-related detour. And if fried chicken is what you crave, head to Pann's, where the chicken wings are thinly battered, salty, crispy and flavorful; you can even get it with waffles to soak it all up if you want. It almost goes without saying that Pann's is worth a trip just to experience the classic Googie-style diner firsthand; that said, if you go and don't order at least a pair of wings? Well then, the joke's on you. 6710 La Tijera Blvd., L.A.; (310) 670-1441.
In the corner of a Van Nuys strip mall is Mom's Bar-B-Q House, a small joint where “Mom” is from Louisiana and her menu focuses primarily on great B.B.Q. (beef and pork ribs, hot and mild links, etc.). But enough people in line will order the fried chicken to convince you that you should at least try a wing with that rib, and you'll be all the better for it: Mom's fried chicken is nicely fried to a golden crunch with nary a slick of excess oil anywhere. Add that to her uniquely sweet macaroni and cheese and the almost disconcertingly friendly service, and you have a perfect lunch in the Valley. 14062 Vanowen St., Van Nuys; (818) 786-1373.
Way, way back when Wayne Gretzky played for the Kings and when it was actually really fun to be a Lakers fan, surely Bertha's Soul Food Cafe was a popular pit stop to or from the Fabulous Forum. Indeed, this is the oldest soul food restaurant in the city, and it serves up great fried chicken, one that is so unabashedly peppery that it would be overpowering if it wasn't quite so addicting. Underseasoned, this chicken is not. 1714 W. Century Blvd., L.A.; (323) 777-3373.
Chief among the Indonesian dishes at Merry's House of Chicken is the excellent ayam goreng kremesan, a fried chicken first marinated in a number of spices, then fried to a dark brown crisp. What separates this bird from the rest of the flock is the final touch: Golden, crispy rice-flour crumbs are showered all over the bird, more than enough to guarantee that every bite will benefit from this unexpected burst of texture. As if that weren't enough, it's served with sambal and a slice of lime for an extra kick. Maybe your Southern grandmother didn't fry her chicken this way, but she certainly would have approved. 2550 East Amar Rd. Suite #A5, West Covina; (626) 965-0123.
These days, you can find great fried chicken on the menu at all sorts of upscale restaurants like Cube Marketplace and Cafe, The Parish and M.B. Post. But so long as you're opening your wallet, you may as well go to either Bouchon or FarmShop for their pricey but superbly herbed and spiced fried chicken, with meat that is almost impossibly tender and juicy. Between the two, the edge goes to FarmShop, if only for accessibility: Its fried Jidori chicken is available à la carte in their market on Sundays and occasionally Mondays, so you can grab just a few pieces to go without breaking the bank. When you do get back to your car, chicken in hand, the aroma wafting from the container inevitably will lure you into taking at least a bite before driving home. You couldn't be further from South Central, but whether you're gnawing on a drumstick in the parking lot at Jim Dandy or at the Brentwood Country Mart, some rituals remain the same. 225 26th St., Santa Monica; (310) 566-2400.
4. Honey's Kettle:
The fried chicken at Honey's Kettle is thickly battered, then fried in enormous kettle drums, which, they say, help cook the chicken to a beautiful crisp while locking in its juices. Whatever works: Most pieces, even the white meat, are tender and flavorful, and the skin packs a solid crunch. Better still are the fluffy biscuits, and even better are the packets of honey that come with each order, for you to drizzle liberally on both chicken and biscuit. There are two locations of Honey's Kettle, but it's the original Compton location that consistently cooks up the better bird. 2600 E. Alondra Blvd., Compton, (310) 638-7871; 9537 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 202-5453.
If you have never had K.F.C. — that is, Korean fried chicken, twice-fried and lacquered with a soy-garlic or (better) a spicy sweet sauce — well, what are you waiting for? Because much in the same way that your first reading of a Lydia Davis short story will challenge and reform your impression of reading itself, just one bite of Korean-style fried chicken will be so affecting that you will never look at 2-piece meal the same way again. Kyochon probably is the most convenient spot to pick up some K.F.C., but, as this is routine Korean pub grub, you also can find it at Koreatown beer joints like OB Bear. The soju and beer only makes the chicken that much better. 3833 W. Sixth St., L.A., (213) 739-9292; 6000 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, (310) 391-2449.
Out in Torrance, past one or two ramen joints, past one or two phở noodle houses, down the street from a Korean restaurant specializing in sul lung tang is Flossie's, a dimly lit place with enough knickknacks lining the walls to make you feel like you've stepped into a someone's living room. Along with oxtail, fried catfish and other Southern classics, Flossie's makes fantastic fried chicken, golden and juicy, with a batter that's remarkably neither too thick nor too thin. The sides here are also something of a legend: Among a variety of others, you have your choice of red beans, macaroni and cheese, yellow squash and “corn-okra-tomatoes.” Flossie's also might be the only spot in town where you can find Mississippi hot tamales, so consider those as mandatory as the mac and cheese. 3566 Redondo Beach Blvd., Torrance; (310) 352-4037.
1. Jim Dandy:
You can't miss Jim Dandy, sitting on the corner of Vermont Avenue and the Imperial Highway in South Central Los Angeles; if anything, it may have missed you. Indeed, its pale yellow and faded orange signage feels like something out of the 1970s, throwing you back to an era when the Jim Dandy chain thrived across the Midwest. The chain has since petered out, but this outpost continues to make fantastic fried chicken with a crust so perfectly crunchy that it alone is worth the wait in line. As for the sides, opt for the corn fritters: A cross between a lightly powdered beignet and a hush puppy, these are so good that one woman, having waited well over 15 minutes for her turn, was content to order just a trio of fritters with extra powdered sugar. Jim Dandy was our pick for the Best Fried Chicken of 2012, but it's also the winner, winner, chicken dinner of having the best side of the year. 11328 S. Vermont Ave., L.A.; (323) 779-5567.
And because you always could use more options, also consider the lovely traditional Southern fried chicken at Carolyn's Kitchen, the Filipino fried bird at Max's of Manila and chef Ludo Lefebvre's version at his LudoTruck.
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