Beasley’s Chicken + Honey
237 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh, ac-restaurants.com/beasleys
At the casual-cool Beasley’s, chef Ashley Christensen serves up expertly fried chicken in all of the ways—on a biscuit, atop waffles, nestled in a bun, or as a quarter bird. If you like it spicy, don’t miss the Carolina Reaper hot chicken sandwich, which gets its creeping heat from the namesake peppers. Be prepared to wait in line during weekend brunch, or arrive early to ensure first dibs on brunch-only menu items such as hot chicken eggs Benedict or a fried-chicken-and-egg biscuit sandwich.
The Chicken Hut
3019 Fayetteville Street, Durham, chickenhutnc.weebly.com
This Durham institution has been serving piping-hot, fried-to-order chicken since the 1960s. Whether you prefer dark or white meat (or a combo), it’s guaranteed to strike the right balance between crunchy skin and juicy meat. Round out your order with mac ‘n’ cheese and collards.
1116 Broad Street, Durham, deeluxechicken.com
Durham chef-restaurateur Scott Howell’s latest venture, DeeLuxe Chicken, is a fast-casual joint that’s already earned a reputation for its golden-crisp chicken and creative sides like the Velveeta mac ‘n’ cheese. Hit up the sauce bar to customize your bird’s dipping options, which include the Alabama white sauce or a kicky Peruvian green sauce.
Driftwood Southern Kitchen
8460 Honeycutt Road, #112, Raleigh, driftwoodraleigh.com
This cozy spot in Lafayette Village has multiple charms, but one of its charmingest is the honey fried chicken: a generous portion of expertly fried chicken with a dollop of drizzled honey, adding the perfect touch of sweetness. A hefty side of mashed potatoes completes the meal.
Geer Street Garden
Whoever said you don’t win friends with salad hasn’t been to this converted Fletcher’s Gulf Station. Get the fried chicken and arugula salad, a tender chicken breast deep fried to crunchy perfection and served warm over a mountain of arugula with a hard-boiled egg, parmesan, and ranch dressing. Best friends forever!
Jack Tar & The Colonel’s Daughter
202 Corcoran Street, Durham, jacktar-durham.com
Jack Tar’s elevated takes on classic comfort food work well across the board, but we’re especially partial to the fried chicken. You can always get the Nashville-inspired hot chicken, paired with house-made Hawaiian rolls and bread and butter pickles, but don’t miss the Sunday supper special, where craggy pieces of fried chicken are served with family-style Southern sides and optional glasses of modestly priced bubbles.
Joyce & Family Restaurant
129 North Main Street, Fuquay-Varina, facebook.com/joyceandfamily
When you sidle up to the cafeteria-style ordering line, you’ll be presented with a bevy of down-home Southern options, including baked chicken, smothered pork chops, ribs, and all the fixins. But don’t miss matriarch Joyce Sutton’s—aka Miss Joyce—fried chicken. It’s everything you want in a golden bird: crisp, hot, and juicy, served with a side of Southern hospitality.
311 Holland Street, Suite B, Durham, facebook.com/MkokkoDurham
M Kokko—chef Michael Lee’s second “M” restaurant, following M Sushi—only has a handful of items on the menu. He does them all well, but Korean fried chicken remains the core of this concept. Locally sourced birds are air-dried to ensure maximum skin crispiness, then fried and rested before being sluiced with a spicy soy-garlic glaze. The space is small (it shares a kitchen with M Sushi), so opt for an early lunch to beat the rush.
13 East Martin Street, Raleigh, mecca-restaurant.com
A meat-and-three that’s been around since the thirties, Mecca lays claim to downtown Raleigh’s oldest restaurant. Its fried chicken has remained a menu mainstay and is almost as iconic as the restaurant itself. Though the Dombalis family recently sold Mecca to restaurateur Greg Hatem, the fried chicken recipe and old-school vibes remain the same. Snag a red vinyl stool at the bar and order the fried chicken special, served with rice and gravy, two sides (get the collards and black-eyed peas), and sweet tea.
2815 Brentwood Road, Raleigh
The Korean fried chicken here is tender, crispy, and coated with rich, flavorful sauce. Bring friends for dinner and split a few plates of chicken so you can sample all of the sauces. If you only get one, opt for the Soga sauce, which packs a sweet, garlicky punch.