Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket
645 Joliet Road
Willowbrook, IL 60527
Eons before young chefs transmogrified their menus from small particles of edible matter to vats of mac 'n' cheese and colossal meat-centric dishes, Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket was presenting platters of unbelievably tasty fried chicken and fixings - and it's been doing so since the 1940s. The restaurant is situated on one of the planet's most renowned roads, Route 66, and people from all over the globe continue to indulge in fresh, seasoned and hand-breaded chicken fried in trans fat-free oil. You'll wait a half-hour or so because the chicken rests in between breading and frying, and everything is cooked to order. Regulars also adore home made corn fritters, hand mashed spuds, hot biscuits and the sautéed chicken liver appetizer.
3361 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
It's why peanut butter was made for chocolate and you feel compelled to dip your fries into a Frosty: sweet and savory. You needn't go overboard (and into the ER) with a donut burger - just get to Honey Butter Fried Chicken, a casual counter service Avondale shop. HB not only offers the most mind-numbingly good sweet and savory chicken on the planet, but also uses only humanely raised, antibiotic free chickens from Miller Amish Farms in Indiana that are butchered in the kitchen, brined, battered and fried in non-GMO canola oil. The fried chicken is devilishly good by itself, but do dip it into the honey butter. They remove the bones from thighs and breasts (for even frying as well as for stock), making it easier to ingest even more. Wear elastic.
959 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
Leave the plastic at home because both Leghorn Chicago and Leghorn Cafe are strictly cash only operations, but bring a wad because you won't believe how much you're going to want another order. The BYOB fast-casual chicken shop makes it easy - you want a breast or a thigh, prepared pickle brined or Nashville hot, on a housemade bun or a biscuit? Then think about adding organic lettuce or tomato, different cheeses, and sauces (even kimchi). Take a selfie of your first bite and see what that looks like. We thought so. Know that Leghorn butchers local farm-raised birds daily and cooks up extras such as fried chicken skins with creole seasoning.
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636 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60605
Harold's is an old-school south side chain of restaurants that offer low-cost buckets and snacks of juicy fried chicken fast. Founded in 1950 by Chicagoan Harold Pierce, the eateries were born and bred in the black community and are now inching into the north side. Fried in a combination of tallow and vegetable oil, the taste is closer to what you'd enjoy in the Southern states and since it's dropped in the fryer only after you order it (as opposed to lolling under a heat lamp forever), your chicken is hot, moist and satisfying.
1138 S. California
Chicago, IL 60612
If you've ever been coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, you can appreciate lying in bed and fantasizing about your next meal from Crazy Bird Chicken. The barbecue joint/chicken shack is helmed by Larry Tucker, who learned how to cook Southern soul food from his dad including "the 100-year-old recipe for a juicy, mouthwatering fried chicken used at Crazy Bird today." It's brined for juciness and the crust is nicely seasoned. Southern sides are a revelation from collards with smoked turkey meat to to New Orleans red beans with sausage and hocks.
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