Though it's flagrantly thumbing our nose up at any dietary do-gooding, what we usually want isn’t kale or quinoa or seitan. No, what we Detroiters need right now (and always) is hot, crisp fried chicken. And for that, we turn our hopeful faces to Detroit’s many skilled purveyors of the deep-fried bird. This list may not be comprehensive. If nothing else, it doesn’t have “My Aunt’s House” or “That One Lady from Next Door” on it, and those will always, always be the best places to get fried chicken. Nevertheless, this list offers enough brined, salted, deep-fried cheer to try for at least the next few months.
Sharing a strip mall with a busy legal marijuana dispensary on 8 Mile, Ms. E-Vee’s is the rare case where the weed store benefits more from the restaurant next door than vice versa. The food at Ms. E-Vee’s is beyond delicious, from the sweet, fluffy cornbread to the fried chicken, a luxuriously savory, crispy miracle whose flavor permeates clear to the bone. This is amazingly good food, and the sides are just as nice. The candied yams have the perfect touch of vanilla, and the mashed potatoes, rich with butter and heavy cream, are are made from scratch. Ms. E-Vee’s also serves pork chops, meat loaf, fried catfish, and roasted chicken. The sweet potato pie, sticky-sweet custard balanced with the heat of cinnamon and ginger and baked in a perfect butter crust, makes a run at Detroit’s best. This place is always worth the 20 minute wait, and the way the sides are separated with tin foil shows uncommon attention to detail.
This Livernois powerhouse, small, but mighty, dares diners to pair chicken and waffles, and while they're at it, offers some of the city’s most delicious candied yams. The chicken is juicy, with a crisp, lightly salted coating; the waffles are light and delicious, too. In addition to all-day breakfast and some of Detroit’s best fried chicken, Kuzzo’s whips up interesting cocktails, including a spiked sweet tea that incorporates bourbon, fresh lemon juice, and honey. Kuzzo’s offers red, blue, and purple Kool-Aid and house-made lemonade for the non-drinkers. It’s the perfect place for dinner after a few hours checking out Livernois’ avenue of fashion. It’s also convenient to Good Cakes and Bakes (next door, in fact) if you’d like to take a piece of caramel cake home to go with the leftovers.
This place is an homage to posters of yesteryear. You might not expect soulful Southern cooking from a restaurant in the basement of a casino, but if you try the fried chicken, you’ll be a believer. Served with creamy, scratch-made mashed potatoes and perfectly al dente green beans, the fried chicken at Motor City was juicy, lightly crisp, and not at all greasy.
This popular West Lafayette eatery helmed by Chefs Matt Hollerbach and Nelly Gonzalez is beloved in Detroit for many reasons -- there's an infamous menu of sliders, sides, soups, and salads, followed very closely by a long list of mixed drinks, all for about $3. While the cheeseburger slider wins hearts and minds, and the wedge salad is that perfect bite of chilly lettuce, rich bleu cheese, and bacon, it was the fried chicken slider that cooed to us in the first place. It deserves a place on this list, if for no other reason than sometimes you want that salty, fatty, juicy chicken dinner to last exactly three bites. Sometimes because you’re healthy and just came from the gym. Mostly because you have at least three other sliders to try, and variety is the spice of burgers.
A Tennessee original taken national by owners Gertrude and Vernon “Gus” Bonner, Gus’s offers a take on Memphis hot chicken. The Detroit outlet, in a brick storefront on 3rd Street (convenient to indie theater Cinema Detroit), offers the small franchise’s fried chicken, a very crispy take, and one just spicy enough that your eyes might water just a tiny bit. The meat inside is very moist and the hot sauce on the side may be more heat than some like, but if nothing else, you get a little something for your purse or packet drawer with your order.
Gold Cash Cold has a serious local rep for fried chicken served in a dining room lousy with haute hipster realness. The place is beautiful, and the food is farm-to-table. We admire the crispy skin on GCG’s signature fried chicken, and can fault neither the sides (lovely mashed potatoes here, too). What divides people is also the same thing that many diners call GCG's fried chicken the best in the city: the dill brine. The chicken takes on the piquant nature of a dill pickle, and you either love it or you don’t. If you don’t, have the fried pigs’ ears -- it's hard to displease with the deep fried pig.
We know what you’re thinking: “Grocery fried chicken? Why???” Here’s why: Village Market, serving the Pointes since 1938 out of an adorably compact brick building on Mack Ave, has fried chicken that will change minds about prepared grocery store foods, at least in the eastern 'burbs. The chicken here is tender, heats up well, and the dark coating is spicy and aromatic; a little greasy, but in the way of lakeside picnics and red-checked table cloths. Get the chicken while the place is uncrowded and small -- Grosse Pointe Farms City Council just approved plans for the store to expand, and Village Market will double in size and take over an entire city block by sometime in 2017.
Located in trendy West English Village, the New American favorite next door to Red Hook Coffee serves a high end, farm-to-table take on our favorite comfort food. The chicken doesn’t disappoint, and the mashed potatoes are creamy and light. The bacon braised greens offer an interesting play between rich and bitter. They’re nobody’s mama’s anything, but delicious nevertheless. The coffee we ordered with dinner (actually, an Americano, as Craft Work doesn’t traffic in drip brewing of any kind), comes with exactly one lump of unbleached sugar, perched adorably on a tiny spoon. The chicken comes from local farms, and, we understand, may have been named Colin.
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1. MS. E-Vee's Soul Food201 W. 8 Mile, Highland Park
2. Kuzzo's Chicken & Waffles19345 Livernois Ave, Detroit
3. Good Cakes and Bakes19363 Livernois Ave, Detroit
4. The Lodge Diner at MotorCity Casino Hotel2901 Grand River Ave, Detroit
5. Green Dot Stables2200 W Lafayette, Detroit
6. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken4101 Third St., Detroit
7. Gold Cash Gold2100 Michigan Ave, Detroit
8. Craft Work8047 Agnes St., Detroit
9. The Red Hook Detroit8025 Agnes St, Detroit
Ms. E-Vee's offers a soulful feast just South of 8 Mile, with trays of down-home eats featuring mountains of meat and ladles of decadent sides. You'd be hard-pressed to pick a bad combo: Mr Robert's special features four crispy pieces of fried chicken with mac & cheese, yams, greens and cornbread. Meanwhile, the Mr. James's stars a large hunk of gravy-drenched meatloaf, with mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and cornbread as back-up. Of course, feel free to create your own version, choosing among pork chops, catfish, and beef short ribs as meaty mains. Whatever you land on is bound to have soul, just be prepared to wait a good 20mins for it.
Kuzzo's doesn't take its 'Chicken & Waffles' title lightly: the Southern-style kitchen owned by ex-NFL-er Ron Bartell serves an entire menu inspired by the comfort dish. From the What Up Doe (3 pieces of crispy chicken atop two waffles with grits and two cheesy eggs) to the Big Red (a red velvet waffle with 3 wings, a bourbon-maple drizzle, and your choice of side), the golden bird is the crown jewel. Still, other soulful eats are served, like a T-bone steak & eggs or shrimp & grits, and can be washed down with pretension-free cocktails like a Kuzzo's Long Island made with Blue Raspberry Kool-Aid ice cubes.
Good Cakes and Bakes was started out of the head baker's home before going pop-up and ultimately landing at this Livernois Ave brick-and-mortar: proof that foodie pet projects can launch into successful operations. You get just what you expect: enough scones, cakes, brownies, cookies, and muffins to satisfy both carb- and sugar-cravings. Mini cheesecakes are irresistible, but the giant cinnamon rolls dripping with wet cream cheese icing are what you need to rush for before they sell out.
Gamblers aren't the only ones seeking out The Lodge Diner below the MotorCity Casino Hotel: the place has a fried chicken good enough to entice an enthusiast. It comes in four flash-fried pieces that are served on top of waffles, as part of the 24-hour breakfast program (good morning!). Otherwise, a typical casual American menu sates you between slot machine gos, featuring everything from fish & chips to heaping sandwiches and burgers. The plain jane dining room is nothing fancy, but considering the place is a casino diner, it doesn't have to be.
You expect sliders to be on the bar menu. But how about 22 different kinds of them? Lansing's Greed Dot Stables takes the slider staple and brings it to its most elaborate end with a selection of playful takes. You can always get a buffalo chicken or cheeseburger slider (which are on offer, don't worry), but try out the unexpected combos: the Korean hosts kimchi and peanut butter atop a beef patty while a PB&J is given a savory zing with chipotle-raspberry jam. And because surprise is the spice of life, you can always order the mystery meat. The rest of the wood bar, designed to recall a horse stable, feels familiar as any neighborhood drinking hole... just with fried baloney on the menu.
Gus's is proof that Nashville-style hot chicken isn't the only Tennessee chicken that's worth your time. An import from Memphis, the Detroit spot has the super-crispy, just-spicy-enough fried chicken of your dreams. Not to mention, the sides, including the mac & cheese and fried okra, will rock your world.
Gold Cash Gold, named for the pawn shop that previously occupied the space, serves up farm-fresh American fare in the cleverly repurposed space. GCG kept the shop’s iconic exterior murals and signage and even used salvaged wood from the old shop, along with warehouse windows re-welded and set with stained glass, and serves a menu just as timeless and unique. Whether you stop in for brunch or dinner, expect to find upscale dishes like Buttermilk Soup au Lait (pistachio dumplings with a pecorino crisp), dry-aged duck with tequila red beans, pork sausage, sweet potato purée, and chilis, and pickle-brine fried chicken and waffle with homemade ranch. Keep an eye out for the fresh-baked daily doughnut that’s definitely worth the calories.
Chef Aaron Solley put in a lot of work to remake the West Village's Craft Work, classing up the offerings with Mediterranean and French touches in the library-like space. Come for the cocktails -- which keep things classic with Moscow Mules, Manhattans, negronis, and Old Fashioned -- but stay for the food. Red curry mussels, lamb over couscous, and pork should plates make for elevated eating. Even the venerable bar burger is spruced up with Wagyu beef. Perhaps most notable the raw bar, serving up oysters, ceviches, crudos, and fresh sushi that beg to be had with any of the European and Californian white wines.
West Village's The Red Hook, an expansion of the Ferndale location, is just the café this neighborhood needed: light-filled, austere, and serving expertly made coffee from Stumptown beans. The owners hail from Brooklyn's Red Hook, and have brought New York's cafe culture along with them. Edison lights shine on hard wooden banquettes, and walls are lined with charging ports so you can work while you get your caffeine fix. Pies, muffins, scones, and croissants are brought in daily from nearby Pinwheel bakery.