This all started innocently enough, with a press release reminding us that July 6 is National Fried Chicken Day. Actually, the wording is “National Fried Chicken Day is observed each year in the United States on July 6.”
We seldom think of these food “holidays” as being “observed.” July Fourth is “observed.” “Observed” is when you go out to the mailbox and slap your forehead after you get no mail and remember it’s a holiday. National Fried Chicken Day is — what? “Devoured?” “Chomped?” “Crunched?”
As usual, this led us on a quest, one that we haven’t even completed. The original idea was to find places that serve great chicken that don’t have “chicken” in their name, but we couldn’t stop there.
And of course, you have the option of making the fried chicken yourself (or eating some someone made for you) or going to any number of drive-through fast-food chicken joints. But here are some other places you might consider celebrating.
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FORT WORTH area
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House: The place in DFW for pigging out on fried chicken, which means a lot of people thinking about National Fried Chicken Day are going there — and if you’ve ever seen the lines at some Babe’s locations, especially the one in Roanoke, you know that a lot of people go there for dinner, anyway. The chicken comes family-style, so bring family, friends or just a whopping appetite. 104 N. Oak St., Roanoke, 817-491-2900, http://www.babeschicken.com; eight other North Texas locations, including 120 S. Main St., Burleson, 817-447-3400, and 230 N. Center St., Arlington, 817-801-0300
Buttons: Soul-food Keith Hicks was a Fort Worth pioneer when it came to chicken and waffles, which now seem as common on breakfast menus as eggs Benedict and pancakes. But you can also skip the waffle and get two pieces of Hicks’ fried chicken with two sides at lunch for just $9, and three “chicken wangs” with Jamaican jerk seasoning at dinner for $10. Or just dive in to the Sunday buffet for $21. 4701 West Fwy, Fort Worth, 817-735-4900, https://buttonsrestaurants.com
Chef Point Cafe: On the menu, it’s called “Better Than Sex Fried Chicken” ($20) and while we’re not sure we’d go that far, it is some of the best fried chicken we’ve ever had — crunchy, mildly spicy coating (“with secret sauces and spices,” says the menu) with a succulent interior. Comes with fries or roasted potatoes — and a suggested wine pairing. 5901 Watauga Road, Watauga, 817-656-0080, http://chefpointcafe.org
Chicago’s Chicken Coop: Around the time Gus’s (see below) opened in Fort Worth to much fanfare, this chicken joint also opened, more quietly, on restaurant-heavy South Cooper Street in Arlington. You can get your chicken “Chicago-style” (drizzled with a sweet, mild sauce or Louisiana hot sauce) other “Texas-style” (with peppery seasoning). Eats Beat columnist Bud Kennedy says the crust is lighter than at Gus’s — or at Babe’s. 1308 S. Cooper St., Arlington, 817-200-6159; also 3636 Frankford Road No. 320, Dallas, 972-820-8200; www.thechickencoopusa.com
Chop House Burgers: Not to be confused with the Chop House Burger (note the singular) chain, this Pantego spot is known for its ambitious and sometimes wacky burger menu — and then there’s the “Bootleg Bacon Fried Back Door” chicken, which yes, you get at the back door. Enough people know that “secret” that the chicken frequently sells out. 2230 W. Park Row Drive A, Pantego, 817-459-3700, http://www.chophouseburgers.com
Gus’s Fried Chicken: Memphis-based chain, known for its spicy but not Nashville-hot chicken, added a Magnolia Avenue location late last year in Fort Worth. It’s proved popular, with good lunchtime crowds. “No two legs or two thighs look the same, and I have a hunch that many diners are reduced to squabbling about whose breasts are bigger,” Anna Caplan wrote in her Star-Telegram review. 1067 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-927-4693, gusfriedchicken.com
Little Red Wasp: A couple of years ago, downtown fine-dining spot Grace’s more casual sibling Little Red Wasp added “Nashville hot” chicken to its dinner menu. It remains one of the best places in Fort Worth to get Nashville hot — and it also offers other variations, including “Grandma’s” and “Brothers Barbequed Chicken.” Each plate comes with leg and thigh plus sides (which vary depending on the style) for $18. 808 Main Street, Fort Worth, 817-877-3111, littleredwasp.com
Lucile’s: Southern fried chicken is a relatively recent addition to Lucile’s menu — we’re not sure it was even available last National Fried Chicken Day — but man, they do it right. First off, you’re not going to go away hungry: you get a breast, wing, leg and thigh, along with mashed potatoes with perfectly peppery gravy and corn on the cob with a nice little smoky char on it. But back to the chicken: the crust is mildly seasoned and gloriously crunchy — we were scraping up crumbs of it when everything was done — the chicken juicy and with some buttery hint to it. The whole thing is $14.95 at lunch ($16.95 at dinner), and it feels like a steal at that price. 4700 Camp Bowie Blvd, Fort Worth, (817) 738-4761, http://www.lucilesstatesidebistro.com
Mash’d: When a place calls itself a moonshine bar, it doesn’t necessarily raise high hopes about its food — but Mash’d has consistently done well with the non-drink side of its menu during our visits. At Mash’d, chicken is brined overnight in a solution of salt, sugar, lemon and fresh herbs, then double-dredged in heavily seasoned flour before being fried and served with jalapeño-berry marmalade. It’s become one of the most popular things on the menu. The moonshine drinks? Those are pretty good, too. 2948 Crockett St, Fort Worth, 817-882-6723; also 401 Preston Road No. 1, Frisco, 214-618-9440; http://mashd.com
Max’s Wine Dive: The restaurant’s slogan is “Fried chicken and champagne ... why the hell not?” When the chicken is as large and good as it comes at Max’s, why not indeed? Especially on National Fried Chicken Day, when both DFW locations will be offering fried chicken for $10 (regular $18) all day long. And that includes mashed potatoes, collard greens, Texas toast and chipotle honey butter. 2421 W Seventh St. No. 109, Fort Worth. 817-870-1100, http://www.maxswinedive.com/fort-worth-west-7th-st; 10 a.m.-10 p.m., 3600 McKinney Ave. Nhio. 100, Dallas, 214-559-3483, http://www.maxswinedive.com/dallas-mckinney-ave
Paris Coffee Shop: The historic diner was on Magnolia Avenue way before Magnolia was cool, but if you want to celebrate National Fried Chicken Day here, you’re going to have to wait a day: One of the Friday specials is southern fried chicken and cream gravy. 704 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth, 817-335-2041, http://www.pariscoffeeshop.net
Reata: A couple of years ago, Reata added fried chicken and grits — inspired by founder Al Micallef’s favorite recipe — as a Monday-only item. But it was too popular for Mondays only, and now it’s a regular lunch item. It’s easy to see why it caught on: The pieces are huge, the crust crackly with a hint of seasoning, the interior juicy and the accompanying poblano and bacon grits — practically an entree in itself — is a creamy complement. 310 Houston Street, Fort Worth, 817-336-1009, http://www.reata.net
Rio’s Chicken and Fish: The one time we stopped in this half-hidden north Fort Worth joint — on North Tarrant Parkway in a development with a history of lots of restaurant turnover — business was slow, they didn’t have the legs we wanted, and we were told there’d be a 20-minute wait for what we did order. And it was all worth it — the crust had one of the most satisfying crunches we’ve had in a while, and there were hints of seasoning and some buttery chicken flavor to go with it. If you’re a fried-chicken fan, this place is worth putting up with some obstacles. 8333 Sohi Drive No. 100, Fort Worth, 817-893-5807; locations also in Carrollton and Pleasant Grove; https://www.eatrioschickenandfish.com
Roy Pope Grocery: Historic, old-school west Fort Worth grocery also has a busy deli, where you’ll see lots of white- and dark-meat fried chicken behind the glass. It might not be quite as hot as you’ll get at a restaurant, but the chicken turns over fast, keeping it warm enough (and fried chicken is one of those things that’s good at almost any temperature, anyway). The crust was more tender than at some other places on this list, but nicely seasoned. And the chicken, two sides and a soda from the cooler were barely more than $10. 2300 Merrick St, Fort Worth, 817-732-2863, http://roypopegrocery.com
Taste n See Chicken and Waffles: Last year, Phoenix-based Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles opened with a bang in Southlake, and it’s worth checking out for its wide-ranging menu, which has plenty of variations on chicken and waffles but also much more. But then there’s this more modest south Fort Worth spot, does chicken and waffles the old-fashioned, bone-in way (tenders are also available). In his Star-Telegram review, Malcolm Mayhew called the chicken pieces “large and meaty, each sheathed in a light batter with a good crunch and, even better, slightly spicy flavor. Underneath, dark and white meat trickled with juice.” The waffles are pretty good, too. 3329 Altamesa Blvd., Fort Worth, 682-708-7115, http://www.tastenseefw.com/
Better late than never award: Drew’s Place, aka Drew’s Restaurant in west Fort Worth, has a reputation for some of the best fried chicken in the city. Some places say it’s the best. But if you want to celebrate National Fried Chicken Day at Drew’s, you’ll have to do it late: The restaurant has a sign on the door saying that it’s closed for several days. 5701 Curzon Ave., Fort Worth, 817-735-4408, http://drewssoulfoodfw.com
Bbbop: One of the most popular dishes at this Oak Cliff “Seoul Kitchen” is “Not Your Mama’s Fried Chicken,” which can be lightly glazed with your choice of soy ginger or spicy chili. 828 W. Davis St., Dallas, 469-248-3702, http://www.bbbop.com
Chicken Scratch: Tim Byres’ funky west Dallas spot offers buttermilk fried chicken on or off the bone. The website calls it “Chicken made from scratch with a nostalgic flavor profile.” But there’s something about any kind of fried chicken that’s nostalgia-inducing for a lot of us. 2303 Pittman St., Dallas, 214-749-1112, http://cs-tf.com
Prohibition Chicken: New restaurant/cocktail bar takes aim at Babe’s with family-style dining, including “crispy fried,” “hot chili-fried” and “smoke-fried” (pecan smoked) chicken. Come with an appetite, and remain thirsty for the Prohibition-era-style cocktails that give the place half of its name. 201 W. Church St., Lewisville, 214-222-3302, www.prohibitionchicken.com
Quincy’s Chicken Shack: This spinoff of the Twisted Root Burger Chain — Quincy is Twisted Root co-founder Quincy Hart — aims for a backyard picnic atmosphere. You can get a half-chicken fried or rotisserie, but let’s note that it’s not National Rotisserie Chicken Day we’re talking about here. Recently opened in Coppell in a location that’s a short skip from much of Northeast Tarrant County; coming soon to Mansfield. 505 Houston St, Coppell, 469-251-9080, http://quincyschickenshack.com.
Sissy’s Southern Kitchen and Bar: This Knox-Henderson comfort-food spot, founded by “Next Food Network Star” alum Lisa Garza-Selcer, has a 2-piece chicken dinner for $12, but bring friends and spring for the $25 10-piece mixed bucket, where the buttermilk-soaked chicken comes in a pail. Expect to wait during peak hours. 2929 N Henderson Ave., Dallas, 214-827-9900, http://sissyssouthernkitchen.com
Stampede 66: The acclaimed restaurant is pushing Dallas celebrity chef Stephan Pyles’ honey fried chicken ($16 lunch/$24 dinner), based on his grandmother’s recipe [and] is served with buttermilk biscuits and gun barrel gravy. 1717 McKinney Ave, Suite 100, Dallas, 214-550-6966, https://stampede66restaurant.com