Los Angeles is currently in love with fried chicken. Sure, it's been available for as long as L.A.'s had poultry running around, but in the past couple of years Angelenos have completely lost their minds for it.
Below are our 10 favorite options for fried bird in the city — though it's worth mentioning two wild cards at different ends of the spectrum. Bouchon in Beverly Hills serves truly excellent fried chicken, but it doesn't make the list because the setting is so elegant that you don't feel quite comfortable eating with your hands, which is the right and true way to eat fried chicken. Also, there is a quiet but large cult of Angelenos who know when the Ralph's at La Brea and Third pulls its chicken out of the fryers, and they make a point of showing up for it. It's on par with anything in Atlanta, they swear.
But if you can't wait around at the grocery store, here are a bunch of other places to get great fried chicken any day of the week.
Though the doughnuts dominate visually when you walk in, there is a full menu of craggy-crusted fried chicken to be had. Customers can choose between white and dark meat on the bone, boneless tenders and sandwiches. Don’t let the ghost pepper referenced in the Spicy Bird description deter you — the sandwich barely evokes a warm glow, which is cut by cooling coleslaw and a couple of pickle slices. It’s the sort of sandwich you can see capping off an extended drinking session before you pass out at 3 a.m. —Scott Reitz
314 W. Olympic Blvd., downtown; (213) 536-5720, birdiesla.com.
You want to save room for pies when you eat at Honeybird, but it's hard, because the juicy, highly seasoned fried chicken is so darn good. It's brined for 48 hours before frying, which is Honeybird's not-so-secret secret to poultry success. The sides are well regarded, too, especially the garlic mashed potatoes — though this summer, you might opt for the watermelon-feta salad instead. Whatever your side, you're getting great chicken. —Katherine Spiers
714 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge; (818) 415-0489, honeybirdla.com.
Taiwan has a great tradition of fried foods. Like the many iterations of fried chicken around the world, Hot-Star's Taiwanese version has a secret recipe of herbs and spices. The signature menu item is a large chicken breast, pounded flat, coated with flour (traditionally sweet potato flour) and then fried. On the menu it's called large fried chicken. Fried chicken cutlets have been served for years at Taiwanese diners and snack shops such as the venerable Old Country Café — usually on a plate, over rice with pickled vegetables and half a tea egg — so this isn’t anything new in that regard. Hot-Star wasn’t even the first Taiwanese fried chicken breast chain to open in the SGV, as Buddy Chicken opened before it in Arcadia’s Westfield Santa Anita Mall. But it is the first time a place with a direct link to the Shilin Night Market has hit our shores. —Jim Thurman
7. Mom's Bar-B-Q House
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 barbecue (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. —Tien Nguyen
14062 Vanowen St., Van Nuys; (818) 786-1373.
6. Krispy Krunchy
If you haven’t heard of this Louisiana-based fast-food outfit with more than 2,000 locations nationwide, don’t be surprised. The core of Krispy Krunchy’s business model involves partnering with gas stations and convenience stores, which fry and sell its proprietary “Cajun recipe” chicken on-site. In Los Angeles, the two free-standing locations are located inside South L.A. shopping malls — one in the Slauson Supermall, the other in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. But don't be fooled, this stuff is more than food-court fodder. Krispy Krunchy’s chicken easily bests fast-food giants like Popeye’s and Church’s. The skin is as crackly as the name suggests, and the meat is quite moist thanks to a patented “Cajun flavor injection” technique, which is surely as terrible for you as it sounds. But hey, there’s also blueberry biscuits, and those are basically fruit, right? —Garrett Snyder
Various locations including 3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Baldwin Hills; (323) 293-3332, krispykrunchy.com.
5. 77 Kentucky
Since the fried chicken fad swept through Koreatown a few years ago, the pinnacle of the genre has probably been Kyochon, a fast-casual spot with wings by the box, or O.B. Bear, a throwback tavern where Hite beer towers harmonize with sticky glazed chicken parts. The newest standard bearer, however, might be 77 Kentucky (or, Chil Chil Kenteoki in Korean), the first international outlet of a 1970s-era chain based in Busan, which specializes in American-inspired fried chicken and french fries served in oversized steel bowls. The whole situation is kind of meta, like when a Panda Express opens in China, but fortunately the chicken is spectacular enough to transcend any cultural confusion. The flavor options are numerous and delicious: garlic-glazed chicken, sweet and spicy chicken, “Real Hot Pepper” chicken, “Chinese” chicken or the “Original Style,” the latter arriving as a quarter bird plunged in hot oil until its skin turns to glass and seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper that you sprinkle on for yourself. —G.S.
698 S. Vermont Ave., Koreatown; (213) 263-2686.
4. Mama Joan's Soul Food
There are few soul-food gems in L.A. that can keep pace with Mama Joan’s, a family-run establishment in a Ladera Heights strip mall (motto: “putting the soul back in soul food”), where the chicken is fried to order rather than plucked from a steam tray. The chicken skin comes out crackling and golden, worlds away from the stodgy, heavy-breading variety. You can get the chicken smothered in brown gravy if you like, but that just means more distraction from the extra-crispy crust. If you have room, the made-from-scratch sides are equally comforting — succotash, red beans and rice, gooey mac and cheese — which, along with a sweet tea and cornbread muffin, can easily turn your quick lunch into a long afternoon nap. —G.S.
5496 W. Centinela Ave., Ladera Heights; (310) 670-5900.
3. Gus's Fried Chicken
The excitement was palpable when this Memphis export opened on the corner of Crenshaw and Pico. Spicy chicken! Fried green tomatoes! Pecan pie! B.B. King! And sure enough, Gus’s did little to disappoint. The sole type of fried chicken here is the spicy kind, distinguished by a deep rusty hue but much milder than what you’ll find at Nashville-style hot chicken spots. The crust is liberally seasoned, encasing the tender meat beneath like a shaggy coat of armor, and as with the best fried chicken, the salty crunchy skin has a certain addictive quality. —G.S.
1262 Crenshaw Blvd., Mid-City; (323) 402-0232, gusfriedchicken.com.
It’s unclear by what dark magic Crawford’s in Westlake is able to channel the cozy grunge of a dive bar without, you know, actually being a dive bar. Is it the frosty $3 mugs of Bud on draft? Is it the Christmas lights strung up behind the bar? Is it the Big Buck Hunter arcade game? The best answer might be the unfussy $10 fried chicken, which comes on a paper tray along with a cup of coleslaw or sweet baked beans. In lesser hands, this bar snack would be nothing but stomach spackle for barflies, but former Little Easy chef and Mississippi native Brian Garrigues is cooking serious buttermilk-brined chicken out of the small kitchen behind the bar. The standard version is killer, but you can also ask for the hot fried, which gets doused in chili oil before serving. —G.S.
2616 Beverly Blvd., Westlake; (213) 568-3133, instagram.com/crawfordsbarla.
1. Howlin’ Ray’s
Part of the allure of Howlin' Ray's is undoubtedly the dare that lies at the end of its infamous, hours-long wait in line: How hot can you handle? There are six levels of heat, and anything above the third level, called “medium,” is hot enough that it comes with a warning. “Do not touch your face after eating the chicken,” the guy at the cash register warns if you order anything “hot” or higher: “You will burn your skin.” Yet there's something about the sting of cayenne (as well as a ton of other kinds of peppers, including ghost peppers) that creates a similar endorphin rush to jumping into a freezing river or being initiated into Fight Club. Even if you order the “country” style chicken — that is, level one, no heat at all — you'll find that this is incredible chicken, with or without the heat: The way the skin shatters and gives way, the utterly perfect spicing of the batter, the way it's indistinguishable from the skin of the bird, the juicy flesh underneath, all goes to show that there are far worse things you could do than spend half a day with your fellow weirdos, waiting in line for chicken so good it's made us all lose our collective minds. —Besha Rodell
727 N. Broadway, Chinatown; (213) 935-8399, howlinrays.com.