Cry fowl! There’s a decadent fried chicken renaissance in Austin. Here, the best places to get messy!
Hot take: The Bucket o’ Bird, a mix of dark and white meat served with jalapeños and pickles, is the popular choice at Lucy’s on the Fly.
Once the sole territory of old-guard classics like Top Notch and Hoover’s Cooking, Austin’s fried chicken scene is on a decided upswing. Several of the city’s hottest chefs are delivering personal takes on the classic, adding quality sourcing, new techniques, and under-appreciated cuts of fowl to bring something new to the (picnic) table. Now that leading lights like James Holmes and Jesse Griffiths are serving up fresh fried chicken, even sophisticated diners can’t resist.
J.T. YOUNGBLOOD’S The scene: Mueller and Windsor Park locals recently welcomed this casual revival of the 1940s-’60s Texas friedchicken chain, courtesy of Lenoir’s Todd Duplechan and partners. The main event: Duplechan’s high-end background shows through in the crisp but light breading on the fried chicken, which comes in regular or “Texas Heat” versions. On the side: Hoppin’ John, spicy red cabbage, and an assortment of pies. 1905 Aldrich St., No. 120, 512-649-8333
LUCY’S ON THE FLY The scene: At this takeout-centric iteration of Chef Holmes’s popular Lucy’s Fried Chicken, families line indoor booths and picnic tables, while little ones run the playground and admire the chicken coop. The main event: The "Bucket o’ Bird" is the go-to order here: a portion of mixed white and dark meat made for four, complete with pickles and jalapeños. On the side: Fried okra, corn grits with cheese, and smoked potato salad. 2043 S. Lamar Blvd., 512-297-2423
THE TOWNSEND The scene: A dressy after-work and date-night crowd sips cocktails and grazes on a small but smart dinner menu. The main event: Known more as a bar, The Townsend’s take on hot chicken is a secret too good to keep: a hot curry chicken thigh platter served with pickles and flat bread. There’s heat, crunch, and acidity--each in good measure. On the side: The Really Big Board of cheeses and charcuterie. 718 Congress Ave. No. 100, 512-887-8778
DAI DUE The scene: East-siders and locavores converge to end the weekend in style at Chef Griffiths’ acclaimed restaurant, where fried chicken is a Sunday-only special. The main event: The brined and tallow-fried chicken from Dewberry Hills Farm wins raves for sourcing and flavor. Everything here comes from Texas, including the pickled jalapeños. On the side: Seasonal greens, house-made biscuits, and mashed potatoes. 2406 Manor Road, 512-524-0688
GUS’S WORLD FAMOUS FRIED CHICKEN The scene: Tourists, business travelers, and the working lunch crowd pack one of the rare chain restaurants embraced by locals. The main event: Gus’s recipe is a secret, but the spicy fried chicken’s notes of paprika, pepper, and cayenne have spawned countless Internet imitation recipes. This is a simple idea executed brilliantly, and a true Tennessee classic, albeit one in downtown Austin. On the side: Fried green tomatoes and Chess pie. 117 San Jacinto Blvd., 512-474-4877