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September 13, 2012 Slideshows » Dining

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San Francisco's 10 Best Places for Fried Chicken 

These days it seems that chefs must constantly compete to remain relevant in modern culinary culture. Especially in San Francisco, where food trends roll in and out with the fog. But no matter the direction the most recent current shifts or what the latest fuss is about, there will always be a place in our stomachs for classic comfort food like old-fashioned, finger-lickin' good fried chicken. By Christina Spittler.

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Also Read:
- The Highs and Lows of Operation Fried Chicken
We traversed the city, foregoing salads at the peak of their season and sacrificing the efficiency of our arteries, to bring you our top ten favorites.
10. Fish & Farm
Cornbread madelines and Crystal butter accompany fried chicken at Fish & Farm. Not -so-obviously located in the Mark Twain Hotel near Union Square is Fish and Farm, a farm-to-table-type restaurant serving sustainably sourced New American cuisine. It might be surprisingly dark inside for a 5 p.m. dinner reservation, your server might take four long minutes to describe all the specials to you, and the soundtrack might jump from Rhianna to Paul Simon to Pitbull, but we promise this bizarre take on fine-ish dining will be worth it if you just order the fried chicken. Half of a chicken (four pieces) is served with buttery pureed potatoes, well-seasoned greens, cornbread madeleines, and a small glass filled with Crystal hot sauce butter. Their take on homestyle fried chicken is as good as the sides, and the sides are great.
9. Frisco Fried
Just the basics: fried chicken at Frisco Fried. Yes, Bayview is further afield, but the fried chicken at Frisco Fried is not only good enough to make the list, but it is also the most affordable of our favorites. The chicken is cooked well and the crunchy skin has a hard-to-put-your-finger-on-it savory component that rumor has it is simply garlic powder. And although, nothing here is necessarily happening very fast at all (expect to wait 10-15 minutes for your food), this spot may just be San Francisco's more locally owned and operated answer to fast food restaurants like KFC. Added bonus: the all black and orange interior would suggest you're in good company if you're a Giants fan. That or someone just really likes Halloween.
8. Chubby Noodle
Fried chicken has a spicy buttermilk batter at pop-up Chubby Noodle. In the back of the North Beach haunt Amante, there is a cash-only pop-up serving wontons, ramen, fried rice, pork belly buns and, curiously enough, fried chicken. At Chubby Noodle, buttermilk-brined Mary's Organic chicken wings and breasts are marinated in a spicy, buttermilk batter, then dredged in a dry blend of flour and spices that are fried to order and served with a creamy chili dipping sauce. However, these are not your typical fried chicken strips and wings: the shaggy crust is substantial yet uniform, the spicy heat second to none on our list, and the flavor weirdly enough welcomely reminiscent of hot dogs. Yes, we said hot dogs. Though strangely, we can't think of a better marriage of flavors than fried chicken and hot dogs, especially during a night of drinking at Amante.
7. Little Skillet
Fried chicken take-out for lunch at Little Skillet. Tucked away down an alley off Townsend is a small walk-up window that serves up solid soul food staples to a young and hip SOMA lunch crowd. The 3-piece fried chicken here is basic yet infallible: all dark meat that comes with a side and a cube of slightly spicy jalepeno cornbread. The crunchy skin doesn't have much kick to it but that's what the Tapatio and Crystal sauce packets are for. The white meat appears on the menu in the form of their fried chicken po' boy, which is another surefire way to ingest some delicious fried protein with a slathering of perfectly biting Dijon mustard, pleasantly acidic sliced pickles, lettuce, and tomato on a French roll.
6. Maverick
Fried chicken with cornbread "croutons" and succotash, ham hock, and mustard gravy at Maverick. Maverick Restaurant is located in what appears to be a small, well-lit and orange-walled wooden box in the Mission. Despite its small size, Maverick has made a name for itself over the years, most recently for wine director and owner Mike Pierce's ability to pair wine with anything, but also for its Southern fried chicken. Served with cornbread "croutons" and succotash, ham hock, and mustard gravy, this is the juiciest chicken we tried during Operation Fried Chicken. Coupled with the standard, though delicious, well-seasoned and crisp skin, this dinner is certainly worthy of a spot in the top ten, which apparently is no secret as three tables around us order it as well.
5. Hard Knox Cafe
Fried chicken and waffles at Hard Knox Cafe. Right on the KT MUNI line lies the Hard Knox Cafe, a small, bustling restaurant in the Dogpatch. Lemonade comes in Mason jars, the tin shed walls are adorned with antique road signs and fishing paraphernalia, and everyone working is visibly hustling. There are two ways to eat fried chicken here: as chicken and waffles or with the three-piece fried chicken meal. All of the above comes with two very sweet corn muffins and soft butter to keep you busy while you wait. The chicken has a good crust, the skin is mellow in flavor, and the meat is the most chicken-y of all. Bonus: This spot has the most appreciated hot sauce collection with bottles of Crystal, Cholula, and Tapatio stationed at appropriate intervals along the 10-seater bar.
4. Firefly
Fried chicken dinner special at Firefly. On Tuesday nights at the quaint-yet-elegant Firefly in Noe Valley, the standard dinner menu is graced with the presence of their ever popular fried chicken dinner special. Four pieces of tender chicken with an exceptionally crunchy crust (that sticks to the meat!) comes with a summer pepper and squash medley, a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy, and a warm buttermilk biscuit. When butter and honey join the biscuit, a dining companion might suggest dipping the chicken in the honey. Insider Tip: Dip the chicken in the honey.
3. Wayfare Tavern
Lightly pan-fried chicken comes with a fried sage garnish at Wayfare Tavern. The Wayfare Tavern in the Financial District is not just known for its broad-shouldered patrons in suits on power-lunches or scantily-clad hostesses carting fruity cocktails with names like "poolside" (basil, watermelon, lime, and pisco and tastes like a Capri-Sun), but also for its spectacular organic fried chicken. As the shiny booths, roaring fireplace, and taxidermy buck mounted on the wall would suggest, the fried chicken at the Wayfare is a classy, more elegant riff on traditional fried chicken. Five pieces, lightly pan-fried, are served with roasted garlic, lemon wedges, and a fragile nest of fried sage and thyme balancing perfectly on top. This barely spicy and particularly herby version of this dish tastes more homespun and delicate than its deep-fried competitors, a variation we found to be as refreshing as the drinks.
2. San Tung Chinese Food
Sweet and spicy dry-fried chicken at San Tung. Not too far into the Sunset there is a place where the servers wear black bow ties and a dry-erase board plays host. Also, a cook may or may not be nonchalantly trimming a case of fresh green beans at a table in the corner of the dining room. At San Tung, the popular dry fried chicken consists of crispy chicken skin covered in a sweet and spicy sheen. The meat is perfectly cooked and piping hot, scallions and chile peppers stand up to the sweetness of the soy-based lacquer, and if you're jonesing for more heat, just drag a wing through the plate of super-spicy kimchi that comes with your meal. And definitely ask for more napkins.
1. Brenda's French Soul Food
Brenda's fried chicken is our choice for the best in the city. At Brenda's in the Tenderloin, there is a menu item boldly titled Best Fried Chicken (B.F.C.), a seemingly presumptuous title should it not deliver. However, as we learned firsthand, it is no misnomer. Three pieces of tender chicken are encased in a rich and succulent, although still satisfyingly crisp skin, with just the right amount of spice. And because Brenda's doesn't want you ever had, pickled watermelon rind, and what we have learned to be perhaps the most important component of any fried chicken meal: a Wetnap.
1/11
We traversed the city, foregoing salads at the peak of their season and sacrificing the efficiency of our arteries, to bring you our top ten favorites.
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