The art of enjoying a piece of fried chicken, once upon a time, mostly involved reaching for a drumstick, and making sure that there was a little barbecue sauce nearby, if such a thing was your particular pleasure.
Then? Blissful, bread-sweet, bite-nice goodness.
But the crumb-laden, spice-rich dish has gone well beyond its traditional presentation in recent decades. Fried chicken salads are now a staple of nouveau downhome cooking, and the fried chicken sandwich, in all of its cheese-melty, special-saucy glory, is a wonder to behold. (Well, for about five seconds, before the beheld wonder is promptly eaten.)
Wednesday, July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day, a timely occasion falling, as it does, just after the Fourth of July and just before that long stretch when summer-style dining, really settles into the season.
Where to find the tender classic, in all of its fresh iterations? Look to...
Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar + Grill: The coating of your chicken can make much of the difference, and sometimes all the difference, in how moist the meat ultimately turns out. If a matzo meal breading intrigues you (mmm), as well as spicy adds like togarashi and paprika, head for The Grove. A wasabi-honey sauce provides more powerful piquancy.
The Bellwether: The Studio City eatery walks the flavorful fried chicken path in a few ways, including a Hot Chicken Sando. What lends the zing? Green tomato chow chow, while a pimento cheese furthers the spicy kick.
1212: If manchego is your go-to cheese, and ciabatta your must-have bread, best swing by this still-new Santa Monica spot, which incorporates both in the Smoked & Fried Chicken Sandwich. Also adding to the whole picture? Bacon, roasted peppers, romesco, and a free range chicken breast.
A.O.C.: A well-breaded, well-seasoned plate of fried chicken can stand alone, but some fans want the dips, sauces, and seasoning to play as big a role as the star of the meal. Look to A.O.C.'s Spanish Fried Chicken, which is accompanied by both romesco aioli and butter that's zesty with chili and cumin.
Tender Greens: Straight-up fried chicken and chicken sandwiches have their devoted followings, but so does the fried chicken salad, a work of leafy art that is enhanced by an interesting dressing choice. Look to this boutique chain for a few variations on fried chicken, including the Southern Fried Chicken Salad. Butter lettuce is on board, as is a dill dressing, adding a bright green flavor point to the richness of the bread and chicken.