The Barbecue Inn
Courtesy of The Barbecue Inn

Barbecue Inn

Brenda's Meat and 3
Courtesy of Brenda's Meat & Three

Brenda's Meat and Three

Busy Bee Cafe
Courtesy of Marcus Ryan

Busy Bee Cafe

chicken shack evanston
Mike Gebert/Thrillist

The Chicken Shack

gus's fried chicken
Flickr/Evan Blaser
hollyhock hill
Courtesy of Hollyhock Hill

Hollyhock Hill

honey's kettle culver city
Courtesy of Bob Hodson Photography

Honey's Kettle

Federal Donuts and Fried Chicken
Courtesy of Michael Persico

Federal Donuts

mama dip's chapel hill
Flickr/jennifer yin

Mama Dip's

Motor City Soul Food
Megan Frye/Thrillist
Old Country Store lorman
Flickr/Karen Green
People's Pig
Andy Kryza/Thrillist

The People's Pig

Prince's Hot Chicken
Flickr/Alaina Brown
root & bone
Courtesy of Lauren J. Kaplan

Root & Bone

louisville fried chicken
Josh Johnson/Thrillist

Shirley Mae's Cafe

Stroud's Oak Ridge Manor
Courtesy of Stroud's
Lacey Muszynski/Thrillist
top notch austin
Flickr/Jodi Bart

Top Notch

Willie Mae's Scotch House
Flickr/T.Tseng (edited)
Photo by 50Eggs Inc.
Courtesy of Zehnder's of Frankenmuth
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1. Barbecue Inn 116 W Crosstimbers Rd, Houston, TX 77018

Barbecue Inn's menu has been mastered for over nearly 70 years, by tweaking and perfecting their family recipes. Their fried chicken is out of this world, and it’s not even the best thing on the menu! People drive in from all over just to enjoy their fried shrimp! With either pick, you are going to enjoy a homemade batter so crispy and tasty that it will be hard to go home and tell granny that hers still the best.

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2. Brenda's Meat & Three 919 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (Western Addition)

This Western Addition diner is Brenda Buenviaje's follow-up to her Tenderloin gem, Brenda's French Soul Food. The spot is more casual and more Southern than the original, but equally crowded for weekend brunch and dinner. The hallmark of the menu is the namesake meat & three, where you choose one meat (fried chicken, meatloaf, BBQ beef brisket, to name a few) and three down-home sides (potato bacon hash, collard greens, glazed yams). The spicy, peppery, and crispy fried chicken is near addictive, as is the veggie po' boy.

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3. Busy Bee Cafe 810 Martin Luther King Jr Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30314 (West End)

Busy Bee Cafe serves traditional Southern eats. Their specialty is a 12 ­hour ­marinated masterpiece that draws fans from Macon to Marietta, and the only way to eat it is “smothered” in pan gravy. In the past year, Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike broke bread and fried chicken bones in political fellowship. Some would say BBC is “hot” again, but it’s had hot sauce ready for hungry guests and neighbors since icons of the Civil Rights Movement dined there for strategy sessions.

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4. Evanston Chicken Shack 1925 Ridge Ave, Evanston, IL 60201 (Evanston)

Not to be confused with the popular Chicago mini-chain Harold's Chicken Shack, Evanston Chicken Shack's fried chicken stacks up to the best of the Windy City from its post on the north side. The bare-bones hole-in-the-wall is cash only, but you won't need much: For under $10, you can get two to four pieces of fried chicken (depending on your part preference), with fries and bread, or an entire eight-piece mixed bucket for under $15. There are other options on offer, like fried catfish nuggets and hot links, but you are, without question, here for the fried chicken.

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5. Federal Donuts 1219 S 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19147 (South Philadelphia)

With several locations around the city, Federal Donuts has grown into a sugar-coated Philly favorite. FD's secret weapon is a "Donut Robot," a mechanical monster-mastermind that handles all the dough dispensing, frying, and flipping. The deep-fried dough rings are sweet, sinful, and eminently scarf-able -- coming in flavors like maple-bacon, lemon bar, spicy PB&J, Turkish mocha and, of course, classic glazed. Because specializing in just one caloric indulgence doesn't cut it, this spot slings famous fried chicken in a changing lineup of rubs and sauces (coconut curry, anyone?).

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6. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken 310 S Front St, Memphis, TN 38103 (Downtown)

Gus's has spent the past 60 years spreading the gospel of fried chicken across the land, transitioning from its original location to the outskirts of Memphis to the city proper, and ultimately to other TN cities, as well as Arkansas and Texas. Regardless of the location, no two trips to Gus's will taste the same, thanks to an ever-changing recipe that kicks its fresh bird with a spicy secret breading.

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7. Hollyhock Hill Restaurant 8110 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46240

This quaint restaurant, open since 1928, serves “famous, Hoosier, pan-fried chicken.”

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8. Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken 9537 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232 (Culver City)

Honey's Kettle cooks up delicious golden-brown farm fresh fried chicken with the perfect crunch and juiciness. Choose a number of sides to complement your heavily battered fried chicken, such as buttermilk biscuits and honey from a spout. It's no surprise that Honey's Kettle was named Best Fried Chicken in LA by Los Angeles Magazine.

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9. Mama Dip's 408 W Rosemary St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Mildred Council, aka Mama Dip, so nicknamed because her “long arms allowed her to ‘dip’” to the bottom of the rain barrel as a kid, started serving her lightly peppered shortening-fried chicken back in 1976.

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10. Motor City Soul Food 12700 W 7 Mile Rd, Detroit, MI 48235

Sure, the building housing Motor City Soul Food may not be the prettiest thing in Detroit, but let's face it, you aren't either. Put your hypothetical differences aside and venture inside -- because once you do, you'll realize you've been missing out on some beautifully delicious comfort food, like flavorful fried chicken, mac 'n cheese, pork chops, and more varieties of cheesecake than you ever thought you needed.

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11. Old Country Store Restaurant & Museum 18801 Highway 61, Lorman, MS 39096

Arthur David -- Mr. D. -- greets customers at his rural Mississippi shop with a song and some of the best fried chicken anywhere.

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12. The People's Pig 3217 N. Williams Ave, Portland, OR 97227 (N Portland)

Housed inside a weathered shack in Eliot, The People's Pig serves near-sinful barbecue, including a next-level smoked fried chicken sandwich that requires you wear anything but white. The crispy-skinned chicken thighs are smoked to perfection and coated in a house-made jalapeño jelly that you'll want to lick every last dollop of and jar for yourself. While this hefty creation is the star (did we mention it's served on charred sourdough?), there are plenty of pig-centric options too, like baby back ribs and pork shoulder. Meat isn't everything here though, considering the cast-iron cornbread trickled with honey will visit your dreams for nights to come.

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13. Prince's Hot Chicken Shack 123 Ewing Dr, #3, Nashville, TN 37207 (East Nashville)

Although you might have to wait awhile to get into this Dickerson Pike spot, it's totally worth it to try their succulent cooked-to-order chicken that comes in varying degrees of hotness, from "hot" to "medium" to "extra hot", the last of which will probably leave you crying. It's known as the first hot chicken spot in the city, around since the 1930s and remaining mostly unchanged in the time since. Be prepared for a wait that could last hours, and don't be caught at the register without cash. All things considered, a visit to Prince's is a process for a reason...a very delicious reason.

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14. Root & Bone 200 E 3rd St, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

Top Chef veterans Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth dominate Alphabet City's fried chicken scene with Root & Bone. It's a Southern kitchen doing takeout-able, down-home (yet sneakily refined) eats, in a spot that could easily be the ground floor of some country B&B somewhere. Irresistible offerings include gooey corn spoonbread, BBQ brisket biscuits, and, of course, fried chicken.

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15. Shirley Mae’s Café 802 S Clay St, Louisville, KY 40203

Located in Smoketown, Shirley Mae's is down home cooking at its finest. Everything is made by hand daily and if you want some of the best fried chicken in town, you gotta order it here.

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16. Stroud's Restaurant & Bar 5410 NE Oak Ridge Rd, Kansas City, MO 64119

Housed in an 1800s log cabin, Stroud's Oak Ridge Manor has been serving salty, crunchy, crispy fried chicken to North Kansas City since 1933.

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17. Tomken's Bar & Grill 8001 W Greenfield Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53214 (West Allis)

Sitting across from the State Fairgrounds in West Allis, Tomken's is an unpretentious neighborhood tavern that regulars (who all know each other's names) defend as Milwaukee's top wing joint. From Buffalo Bleu to Honey BBQ to Jerk-rubbed, the wings -- served grilled or fried -- are reliably moist and meaty no matter the sauce, and will barely make a dent in your wallet. For another good deal, order the fried chicken dinner, which offers four crispy, golden-brown pieces just like grandma used to make, plus crinkle-cut fries, cole slaw, and Italian bread. And what are wings without beers? There are plenty of American brews on tap to pair with your basket.

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18. Top Notch 7525 Burnet Rd, Austin, TX 78757 (Allandale)

Home to a classic Dazed and Confused scene, Top Notch delivers in real life as well. Whether you're in it for burgers or fried chicken, you can pull on up outside, roll down the window, and relax while you wait for your order to arrive. The old-school drive-in is known for its distinctly smoky burgers, achieved via charcoal broiling.

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19. Willie Mae's Scotch House 2401 Saint Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70119 (Mid City)

The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is the best in the United States. No joke: it was dubbed such by the Travel Channel and Food Network, and also won the James Beard Award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” Tucked away the Treme neighborhood, the cozy spot features all the accoutrements of a beloved local haunt -- memorabilia mounted throughout, news clippings chronicling the success of the family-owned business (which has been open since 1957), homey environs -- and it’s worth noting that there’s always a line out the door, regardless of weather. It’s a walk-ins only spot, so be prepared to wait -- but the soul food here is so satisfying, and it’s entirely worth it.

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20. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar 1600 Lenox Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139 (Miami Beach)

Before Yardbird opened in 2011, Miami wasn't known for its Southern comfort cuisine, which somehow seemed odd for a city that's geographically part of the American south. All that changed when Top Chef finalist Jeff McInnis, along with restaurant vets Chris Romero and John Kunkel, opened Yardbird in Miami Beach and instantly made a name with their fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and watermelon salad. The menu is chock full of quintessential down-home foods, and the well-stocked bar doles out house cocktails like blackberry bourbon lemonade and Bloody Marys with bacon-infused bourbon.

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21. Zehnder's of Frankenmuth 730 S Main St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734

One of the main draws for the Bavarian-themed city is its salt-forward, German-style fried chicken, which is served in endless portions by traditionally dressed servers in a gigantic banquet hall apparently attempting to break the record for cramming the most overfed Midwesterners into one place.