One of the few foods that are always delicious is chicken. Add it to sandwiches, soups, salads, or even rice; you just can’t go wrong with it. One other form of chicken that is a millennial’s (and everybody else’s) favorite is crispy, fried chicken. Not everyone makes it the same, and that’s the beauty of it. Whether you go for fried, grilled, smoked, or even baked, chicken is the holy grail of all good food.
We’ve compiled a list of the best fried chicken restaurant chains for all chicken lovers. If you’ve never been to any of these restaurants or want a break from your regular favorite, we recommend you check out these places for a scrumptious bite. Here are our picks for the best chicken restaurant chains.
Best Fast Food Fried Chicken
- Church’s Chicken
- El Pollo Loco
- Raising Cane’s
- Shake Shack
For millennials, the name Popeyes brings back memories of the classic cartoon with Popeye the sailor, but the restaurant is altogether a different story. The chain has 2,347 units in the US, and the number seems to increase. Popeyes has regularly seen an increase in sales over the years and is giving Chick-A-Fil tough competition.
For spicy chicken lovers, nobody does fried chicken better than Popeyes. Their chicken is equally crunchy throughout from the outside and so juicy inside. With so many locations, it’s a real challenge to maintain excellent quality in every unit, but they’ve done it.
Before 2019, Popeyes was famous for their bone-fried chicken, but then came the now supremely popular Popeyes Chicken Sandwich, which turned the chicken world on its head. The sandwich turned out to be a viral sensation and ran out just as fast.
The concept was nothing extraordinary. A fried chicken breast topped with pickle and sandwiched in a brioche bun, with either mayo (mild) and cajun sauce (spicy version), yet it turned out to be one of the best chicken sandwiches ever created.
After the initial mind-boggling response, the sandwich didn’t return until two months. But when it did, people lined up and waited for hours to grab their favorite chicken sandwich. If you’ve never been to Popeyes, after reading our review, you’d surely want to try it out.
The fact that Chick-A-Fil tops the American Consumer Service Index year after year is enough proof of why it is rated as the Best Fast Food Restaurant in the US. Their customers are fans of everything on their menu. Although their fried chicken sandwich consists of a buttery bun, a fried chicken breast, and pickles, nobody knows how they make it so good despite the very simple concept.
Another menu item worthy of praise is the chicken nuggets with the sweet Polynesian sauce. Chick-A-Fil not only tops as the chicken expert but other offerings by the chain are equally delicious such as waffle fries and milkshakes.
Church’s Chicken has been in business for 67 years, and with 1045 locations in the US alone, it has become a go-to place for many fried chicken fans. Nobody does hand-battered chicken better than Church’s Chicken. The chicken is well-seasoned and crisp; it’s all about quality.
The runner-up item is their honey-butter glazed biscuits that are buttery and crumbly. If you’ve never tried these, you’re missing out on the amazing flavor. Other try-worthy items on the menu are the Southern-style sides, which include fried okra, and jalapeños, as cheese bombers or pickled.
Bojangles is primarily a chain located in the Southeastern parts of the United States with hundreds of locations throughout. Although on my recent trip to Roatan Honduras, the locals we quite proud of their recent addition of Bojangles stores to the island community.
Specializing in cajun-seasoned fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, you can’t go wrong with ordering one of their chicken biscuit sandwiches or traditional bone-in chicken meals. The have classic sides like fries, mashed potatoes and green beans as well as southern inspired items like grits, and their twist on tots called bo-tato rounds.
Founded in 1996, Raising Cane’s has become one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the US, with 400 operating outlets as of yet. The chain got its name from a yellow Labrador which belonged to one of the owners. In 2018, the chain saw a record 22.8% growth in systemwide sales.
Raising Cane’s specializes in boneless, battered, and deep-fried chicken fingers that come with their signature sauce. Add in crinkle-cut fries and coleslaw for extra crunch.
The only downside about the restaurant is that they only offer chicken fingers and no other fried chicken option. This makes it a good spot for occasional eaters.
The fact that Wingstop has around 1,150 outlets within the US and scored a 15.3% increase in sales in 2018 proves people’s love for tender, juicy chicken wings. Whether you prefer boned on boneless wings, like it mild or hot, Wingstop has enough variety for everyone.
If you like your wings spicy, indulge in the Atomic wings but remember to order a big glass of iced water to go with it. The best part is, the spiciness doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the meal. Another delicious but spicy choice you could have is Mango Habanero. However, if spicy flavor is not your thing, opt-in for the mild flavor of the original hot or try the buttery garlic wings with parmesan or the tangy and sweet Hawaiian.
Unlike other restaurant chains that specialize in either chicken wings or fingers, Zaxby’s offers both in a variety of flavors in its menu. The fast-food chain has over 900 units in the US and is still going strong.
You can fill up on a chicken fingers sandwich or Kickin’ Chicken on Texas Toast, which comes with a ranch dressing and the flavorful Tongue Torch sauce. Another item worthy of mention is the bone-in-wings with a sauce of your choice. You can either go for the chain’s original buffalo sauce or the wimpy sauce (if you prefer mild flavor). But if you really wish to heat things up, go for the hottest sauces known as Nuclear and Insane.
Besides fried chicken, Zaxby’s also offers other items on its menu, such as salads, appetizers, and sides.
Originally from the Philippines, Jollibee made its way to the United States in 1998 and now has over 1300 outlets worldwide. But the chain doesn’t operate on a very large scale in the US as it has only 37 units in the US. Its wide variety of menu and distinguished flavors make it stand out from the crowd.
Their Jolly Spaghetti contains a sweet sauce made from banana ketchup (yes, you read that right), and they have a Halo Halo dessert, which is actually delicious although it is made from beans. The Jollibee chicken isn’t sweet but packed with flavor.
No matter what you try from the menu, be it the breakfast chicken sandwich, the bone-in Chikcenjoy, or the boneless chicken dippers, nothing seems to disappoint. The inside is tender and juicy, while the outside is crunchy, exactly how fried chicken should be.
Shake Shack is famous for its burgers, but their fried chicken is just as tempting. The chain’s signature fried chicken sandwich, the Chicken Shack, is a flavorsome combination of fried chicken, lettuce, pickles, and buttermilk mayo. The toasted potato bun adds to the mouthwatering taste.
The size of the sandwich is enormous, and you can’t get enough of the peppery bread crumbs wrapped around a giant, juicy, crunchy chicken breast. Shake Shack turns the concept of a simple fried chicken sandwich into an experience.
It won’t be wrong to call KFC the granddaddy of all fried chicken chains in the US. The first KFC restaurant launched 89 years ago when Harland Sanders opened his first restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky. Although KFC may have 4,100 outlets in the US alone, they saw a 0.4% sales decline in the year 2017.
There was a time when KFC was the go-to fried chicken joint for everyone, but their inconsistent quality has cost them many customers who turned towards alternate chains. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a tender, juicy, and crisp fried chicken, but if not, you’ll be in for a disappointing experience. That’s why it gets the bottom spot on our list.
Although the chicken is a hit-or-miss case, KFC still does a decent job with the mashed potatoes, gravy, and the buttery, flaky biscuits.
The chain also tried capturing the vegan market by introducing a plant-based chicken sandwich, but many people are still skeptical about the idea as rumors are afloat that the plant-based chicken is fried in the same fryer as the real chicken.
Chicken is one of the easiest foods to prepare, but it takes skills to master the art of fried chicken. All the chains above have earned themselves a reputation for their distinct choice of flavors and service quality. Of Course, some are doing better than others, but we’re fortunate to have an endless variety to try out.
You’ll see countless videos tutoring how to prepare restaurant-style fried chicken at home, but somehow the taste doesn’t turn out 100% similar. It’s better to leave the fried chicken to the experts.
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