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.
Several family-owned chicken shacks across the region prove that you don’t need fancy digs—heck, you don’t even need tables—to dazzle the High Priestess of Comfort Food, Oprah Winfrey. (Yup, there’s her portrait with Ezell up on the wall.) The crunchy fried chicken is dazzling enough—moist, not greasy (okay…maybe a little greasy)—especially when you order it spicy, along with a few fried livers and gizzards, throw in some cole slaw…and how about just one slice of sweet potato pie? Best to make sure it’s all there, as friendly servers invariably miss something. “Honey,” replied one, double-checking an order, “there’s a whole lotta love in that bag.”
Oh god, the difference a thigh makes. When Monica Dimas first 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. After departing its original home inside RGB, Sunset Fried Chicken Sandwiches has since resurfaced inside Capitol Hill’s Queer/Bar (and a Sea-Tac location is forthcoming too).
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 jalapeno lime and sweet honey chili. Waffles come in flavors like green onion and melted cheese—definitely not just underpinnings for the chicken.
This three-location chainlet makes unstoppable Korean-style fried chicken—its delicate shattering crust akin to a Pringle, in the best possible way—then proceeds to have a lot of fun with it. Wings, drumsticks and thighs, and even the tenders can surely stand alone, especially next to some kimchi mac and cheese or tots with chile salt. But the lineup of chicken sandwiches (like the one with yuzu aioli and charred chiles) packs major flavor and texture inside soft, toasted buns. Chef Brian O’Connor is a veteran of Skillet Diner and Roux, as evidenced by Bok a Bok’s perfect biscuits.
A thread of the original Catfish Corner’s Southern legacy continues on at this prime 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. Seasoning is sufficient for grown-ups and mellow enough for the many (many) kids in the room. Replacing a neighborhood landmark is a tricky business, but at Fat’s you can eat well for $15, and service is incredibly hospitable: promising signs of a new neighborhood institution.
When Ezell Stephens cut loose from Ezell’s Fried Chicken, he opened the nearly identical Heaven Sent, both home to spicy and original chicken, sweet yeasty rolls, and peach cobbler. Right now the performance edge goes to Heaven, which offers a crunchier crust bursting into juicier, more consistently greaseless meat. Heaven Sent also features the widest selection of sides: all the usuals from Ezell’s plus collards, peppery mac and cheese, and—oh yes—ice cream versions of the famous peach cobbler and sweet potato pie.