Beyond the Bucket

Seattle Is Having a Fried Chicken Moment

Five new and notable destinations for crunchy, juicy bird.

By Allecia Vermillion July 12, 2016 Published in the August 2016 issue of Seattle Met

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A fried chicken sandwich at Sisters and Brothers.

Let’s not call fried chicken trendy—it’s been claiming our devotion and slicking up our fingers for at least a few centuries now. But in the past year its presence in Seattle has been reinvigorated. The local spectrum, long defined by takeout spots like Ezell’s at one end and Ma’ono (the erstwhile Spring Hill) at the other, has made room for Nashville hot chicken, Korean-Southern mashups, and the nationwide chicken sandwich obsession. 

Sisters and Brothers

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Nashville’s signature hot chicken—brined for 48 hours, fried in cast iron, and daubed in spice-saturated crimson lard—has arrived in Seattle. Moreover, it’s landed at an unassuming bar with a wide-angle view of Mount Rainier and the regular rumble of airplanes landing across the street at Boeing Field. Chicken comes naked, mild, hot, or insane; even the mild will make things tingle. The rest of the small menu has way more finesse than you’d expect at a place with video game tables and a black velvet unicorn painting on the wall: smoked gouda mac and cheese, deviled eggs, a wedge salad with dressing and bacon both made in house.

Sunset Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Oh god, the difference a thigh makes. When Monica Dimas set up a takeout window in the corner of Rachel’s Ginger Beer on 12th Avenue in May 2016, she imported the fried chicken sandwich obsession recently sweeping New York and Los Angeles. Sometimes toppings like crunchy cabbage slaw and pickles camouflage sad, dry, overfried chicken, but not here: Dimas fries thighs, not breasts. Each sandwich contains two pieces, threatening escape from the bun with each bite, but the juicy meat and crispy crust make the extra mess and effort totally worthwhile. The menu balances Southern overtures (fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, pimento cheese) with a beautiful wedge salad and the decidedly nontraditional General Tso sandwich, a spin-off from Dimas’s Neon Taco.

Bok a Bok Fried Chicken

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Bok a Bok's Korean fried chicken drumsticks with a side of fries.

What’s with all the people milling around outside this spare White Center storefront? They’ve come for Korean-style fried chicken—in sandwiches, rice bowls, and served straight up with a compulsory pile of wet naps. In this context Korean doesn’t imply spicy (that’s what the sauces are for), but rather a delicate, shattering crust. It’s more akin to a Pringle, in the best possible way. Chef Brian O’Connor is a veteran of Skillet Diner and Roux, as evidenced by Bok a Bok’s perfect biscuits. But the rest of the counter-service menu that debuted in early June nods hard to the East, like a chicken sandwich with yuzu aioli and charred Korean chilies alongside the requisite spears of pickle or kimchi mac and cheese.

Fat’s Chicken and Waffles

A thread of Catfish Corner’s Southern legacy continues on at this storied Central District corner via fried chicken atop old-fashioned thin waffles, the kind with tiny squares. Chef Patrick Dours coaxes heroic amounts of personality from boneless, skinless chicken breasts; his tricks include a combo buttermilk–pickle juice brine and an elaborate dredge-and-chill process to keep the crust from falling off the minute it encounters your knife. Seasoning is sufficient for grown-ups, mellow enough for the many (many) kids in the room. Replacing a landmark of a neighborhood’s African American heritage is a tricky business. Sure, owner Marcus Lalario—of Li’l Woody’s and 95 Slide—brought in some hip midcentury benches and a busy brunch service. But you can eat well for $15, and service is incredibly hospitable: promising signs of a new neighborhood institution.

Bramling Cross

No, Ethan and Angela Stowell haven’t opened a chicken restaurant (not yet, at least) but a whole fried Mad Hatcher bird is the showpiece at their new Ballard Ave gastropub. It arrives, amidst the room’s bookcases and wainscoting and tasteful faux taxidermy, heaped in a ceramic dish—enough to stuff two hungry adults or feed three or four people hoping to save room for anything else. An overnight dry rub means you taste the peppery spice mix deep down within the juicy meat rather than in the (properly crunchy) crust. Each bird comes with buttery grits and bacony collard greens. If you’d rather not share, Bramling does a half chicken with biscuits at brunch.

Nate’s Wings and Waffles

A trio of partners headlined by basketballer Nate Robinson have consolidated their chicken and waffle venture to a single student-friendly location near Seattle U. Let the street-style Seattle skyline mural, array of Robinson jerseys, and regulation basketball hoop be your first hint: This isn’t a house of Southern classics. Choose either wings or strips, both sold by the pound; they’re largely vehicles for all the sauces, from classics like teriyaki and buffalo to coconut jalapeño lime and sweet honey chili. Waffles come in flavors like green onion and melted cheese—definitely not just underpinnings for the chicken. 

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