Restaurant Roundup: Local Fried Chicken Joints | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Restaurant Roundup: Local Fried Chicken Joints 

A list of winner-winner chicken dinners.

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ALEX SPRINGER
  • Alex Springer

As it feels a bit like the Utah fried chicken trend is reaching the point of oversaturation, the time has come for me to deliver a definitive list of whose bird is the word. I've checked out all of the national chains that I know about, and while I've found them to be satisfactory, I just don't think they are ready to go toe-to-toe with the fried chicken scene that our local stalwarts have established. So, if you're wondering why no national restaurants made the cut, there's your answer.

Before we get into the list, let's talk about the judging criteria. I focused on spots that do chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches and bone-in chicken. I think chicken wings are a food group of its own, and far too nuanced to include here—plus, I already did a chicken wing roundup earlier this year. [Ed.: Here's the link for online: https://www.cityweekly.net/utah/restaurant-roundup-local-buffalo-wings/Content?oid=20276498]

As fried chicken is a fairly straightforward dish, I was after three things in particular. 1) Exterior: Was there something about the breading or seasoning that made the chicken special? 2) Interior: How does the chicken get treated before it gets fried? And 3) the total package: How do the interior and exterior complement one another? I noticed that my particular favor was swayed by places that struck a good balance among all their elements, but every now and again, a house-made sauce or side would be enough to tip the scales. It was a tough job all in all, but here are my favorites.

Best Overall: Pretty Bird (Multiple locations, prettybirdchicken.com): Anyone who has visited Chef Viet Pham's love letter to Nashville Hot Chicken will agree with me on this one, so it might not be the biggest surprise on the list. I've thought long and hard about what sets Pretty Bird apart, and I think it comes down to balance. Chef Pham's experience in the fine-dining scene definitely has something to do with this, but the fried chicken itself packs such a flavorful punch that it doesn't really need any explanation. I have also come to appreciate how the spiciest version of hot chicken brings the heat without sacrificing flavor; most spicy chicken places don't know how to do this, and it's a hell of a lot harder than it sounds. With a foundational bird that is consistently tasty, Pretty Bird's supplementary eats like the slaw and fries just make the party that much better.

Best Chicken Sandwich: Bok Bok Korean Fried Chicken (Multiple locations, bokbokutah.com): If you're just craving a straight-up fried chicken sandwich, it's hard to do better than Bok Bok. I first visited them at their now-closed American Fork location, but those local to the Granary District can now check them out at Woodbine Food Hall (545 W. 700 South, 801-669-9192, woodbineslc.com), or you can visit their Provo location (1181 N. Canyon Road, 801-691-0921) if you're in Utah County. Their signature chicken sandwich bests all comers for a few reasons, but chief among them is that house sauce. It's an impossibly versatile mix of sweet, spicy and savory that just makes that chicken sing. The house slaw and pickles provide some acidic crunch, and the whole thing can be yours for only $8. It's rare for a chicken sando to truly have it all, but that's how they roll at Bok Bok.

Best Chicken Tenders: Mr. Charlie's Chicken Fingers (Multiple locations, mrcharlies.com): Many of us would call chicken tenders the first food we fell in love with. At a young age, something about the simplicity of this classic finger food just spoke to us. If you're like me, that affection hasn't really gone anywhere, which is why I'm glad we have Mr. Charlie's. Their menu has undergone some changes over the past few years, but it continues to be based around their signature chicken finger. I've had many people ask how their chicken tenders can be any better than the ones you get at the supermarket deli, but they are leaps and bounds above the competition. It comes down to the quality of their chicken and their fry batter recipe, which is nuanced enough to enhance the chicken's existing tastiness. When it comes to tenders, Mr. Charlie's wins every time.

Best Bone-in Fried Chicken: Curry Fried Chicken (660 S. State Street, 801-924-9188): Any fried chicken list of merit has to include our friends at Curry Fried Chicken. If you haven't yet experienced one of the best culinary cultural exchanges in town, here's what you're missing. First, they treat their bird right here—it's always an incredibly juicy payoff once you bite through that extremely crunchy skin. The exterior has a modest dusting of curry flavor, which goes so well with fried chicken as a dish that I've come to expect it everywhere. Served with a side of curried veggies or lentils, these exemplars of perfect fried chicken are smoky, spicy interpretations of a comfort-food classic. If bone-in fried chicken is your favorite, then this place needs to be in heavy rotation on your lunch and dinner schedule.

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