People feel very strongly about their favorite fried chicken. When you find good fried chicken, you dream about it. You think about it until it’s in your hands. And then, in addition to shoving it in your mouth as fast as you can, you may feel the need to hug it.
Here are nine places in Los Angeles, plus one in Orange County, where the chicken is worth dreaming about.
A-Frame: Yes, it’s now a Hawaiian restaurant, but the O.G. cracklin’ beer can chicken remains on the menu -- at least for luau hour, otherwise known as Roy Choi’s version of happy hour. Choi says he never really knew what beer can chicken was, and planned on doing a play on Korean tohng-dak, made with whole chickens soaked in leftover beer overnight, then fried the next day. Choi’s chicken marinates in draft beer, herbs and spices before hitting the fryer until it is “crispy fried chicken that crackles like a can when you step on one,” said Choi. 12565 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 398-7700, aframela.com.
Honey’s Kettle: When you hear someone ring the bell in the kitchen at this Culver City restaurant, you know something good is about to happen. That sound means the chicken is finally ready. Owner Vincent Williams uses a secret batter, peanut oil and kettle drums to get his chicken coating crispy, without the grease. You could eat a basket on its own, but for the real Honey’s Kettle experience, dip it in some of the restuarant’s honey and hot sauce. Oh, and get a biscuit too. 9537 Culver Blvd., Culver City, (310) 202-5453, honeyskettle.com.
Jim Dandy: There is no human to human contact between you and the man at Jim Dandy Fried Chicken on Vermont Avenue. Instead, there is a bulletproof box, with the chicken inside. If this were “Game of Thrones,” and you were the lord of this establishment, you’d put this chicken behind a giant wall, or bullet proof glass too. When you think of classic fried chicken, this is it. The skin is so crisp it almost shatters, and the chicken, juicy. There are no discernible special herbs and spices. This is just good chicken, fried and served behind a bulletproof counter. 11328 Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 779-5567.
Jitlada: Chances are, you don’t come to this Thai Town favorite for fried chicken. You come for the fried morning glory, the off-menu Thai burgers and about a thousand fiercely spicy dishes. But you should be coming for the fried chicken, and specifically, for the lemongrass fried chicken. When the plate arrives, you’ll notice a mound of what looks like fried onions on top. These are actually fried shavings of lemongrass. So with each bite of additively spicy, fragrant chicken, you get an extra kick of lemongrass. 5233 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 667-9809, jitladala.wordpress.com.
Ledlow: This is the fried chicken you roll up your sleeves to eat. The chicken you’ll allow to burn the roof of your mouth because you can’t help but look at that golden brown skin and dig in. It’s moist and falls off the bone, and the skin, is thin, crisp, and covered in a well-seasoned coating. A single order comes with seven or eight pieces, biscuits and mashed potatoes. If you pay an extra $10 per person at the table, the chicken is now all-you-can-eat. 400 S. Main St., Los Angeles, (213) 687-7015, ledlowla.com.
Mario’s Peruvian: The chicharron de pollo is a big plate of fried chicken, with skin so crisp, it tastes like it’s been fried at least twice. There is no rhyme or reason to which pieces come with an order, in terms of white or dark meat, but each piece is cut to approximately the same size, with little nuggets of skin covering every inch and crevice. It’s served with a tart, vinegary citrus sauce with lots of cilantro. 5786 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 466-4181.
Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.: You’ll notice everyone around you using chopsticks in one hand and a plastic glove on top of the other. This is how you eat the fried chicken at this small chicken restaurant, located in a shopping center in Monterey Park. It’s served ferociously hot, and anything to initially minimize chicken to skin contact is recommended. The chicken is marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, then fried in rice bran oil. The effect is similar to what would happen if a restaurant made giant kaarage. The flavor of the meat is delicate and balanced, and the skin, super crisp. The restaurant serves honey bears full of housemade ponzu and spicy ponzu to dip it in. 122 S Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park.
Plan Check: Ernesto Uchimura’s smoky fried chicken plate is a revelation in both flavor and texture. It’s sweet and salty, crispy, and the chicken sides are both hot and cold. The smoky, bacon-scented milk gravy adds an extra depth of flavor, and you’ll wonder why every order of chicken, in a bucket or on a plate, doesn’t come with yam preserves and pickled okra. You can get the chicken on a plate, or in a sandwich with spicy green pimento cheese, duck breast ham and pickles. Ordered either way, you win. Multiple locations at plancheck.com.
Playground DTSA: Jason Quinn, the chef behind Playground in Orange County, is making fried chicken at his PFC chicken stall in the 4th Street Market in Santa Ana. Yes, we realize this is in Orange County, but this chicken was too good not to make this list. When you inspect the chicken, you’ll notice a sticky glaze on top along with something green. Quinn uses agave, jalapeno and lime zest to give his fried chicken some extra zing and a pop of heat. You’ll need extra napkins for this one. 201 E. 4th St., Santa Ana, lunchboxdtsa.com.
The Tasting Kitchen: The fried chicken at this Venice restaurant is called fried clucks, and it’s best when eaten with a giant waffle. The chicken is moist, the coating perfectly seasoned and crunchy. But the real kicker is making sure each bite of chicken comes with a square of fluffy waffle and a dunk in maple syrup. Here’s a pro tip: Strip the chicken and skin off the bone and place it in the middle of the waffle. Then roll it up like a burrito and dip the entire thing into maple syrup before each bite. People may stare, but when the perfect bite is at stake, who cares? 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 392-6644, thetastingkitchen.com.
If there were a fried chicken land, I’d be the major. Follow me on Twitter @Jenn_Harris_