The countdown to Best of Phoenix is on. Mark your calendar: This year's issue will be on newsstands September 26. What better way to warm up than by asking some local "experts" to list their own personal bests? And who better to begin with than writer and dietitian Sharon Salomon? After all, how many of us can say we have a fried chicken dish named in our honor?
What do I know about fried chicken? I'm just a girl from Brooklyn who grew up eating what my Brooklyn-born mother called "Southern fried chicken." I can assure you that the closest my mother ever got to the South was a trip to the southern tip of Manhattan. She prepared her fried chicken by dredging it in seasoned matzoh meal and deep-frying it in corn oil. My culinary knowledge tells me that's not even close to "Southern." Nonetheless, my mother's fried chicken was gloriously crunchy and tasty even though it lacked a Southern pedigree.
There are probably as many "authentic" fried chicken recipes as there are leaves on a kudzu plant. As with art, I know what I like. I like a somewhat thicker, very crunchy coating that really sticks to the chicken. I prefer skin-on bone-in chicken and I have a particular fondness for wings.
Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles My favorite place for golden fried goodness is Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles. The best part about going there is that I can have as many wings as I want. Just wings. All the time. Heavenly. The crust is perfect. I love going to Lo-Lo's on Sundays, right after church lets out. Beautiful women all dressed in their Sunday finest, licking the tasty flavor off their fingers.
Noca Restaurant Noca serves fried chicken only on the last Sunday of the month. Expect a totally different vibe and style, but it certainly is no less delectable. The service is more refined and the presentation more upscale. The chicken is juicy and the crust is tasty. Eliot Wexler, Noca's owner, worked on this recipe for well over a year before he perfected it and it is perfect.
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FnB Neck and neck with Noca is FnB -- although, alas, they do not have a regular fried chicken night (yet) like Noca nor is their fried chicken available all the time (yet), like at Lo-Lo's. The crust on Charleen Badman's chicken is extra special. Crunchy, very peppery, and just plain good. I once asked Badman to gather up all the crunchy bits that had fallen off the hundreds of pieces of chicken she had prepared. They were just going to end up in the garbage and they were way too precious to throw away. That crunchy pile of debris made a delightful snack. Once -- and so far only once -- Badman offered a lunchtime fried chicken sandwich dubbed "The Sharon." Should she ever offer it again (hint), stop whatever you're doing and get down there. It's that special.
(Editor's note: It did happen and we tried it and Sharon is right.)
Kentucky Fried Chicken and Louisiana Fried Chicken My foodie friends might crucify me for this, but my next two favorites are just the good ol' fast-food fried chicken outlets: Kentucky Fried Chicken and Louisiana Fried Chicken. Maybe not as sophisticated as the others, possibly a little bit saltier and greasier, but no less tasty. Perhaps because Kentucky Fried was my first commercially prepared fried chicken, it's still the one I think of when I feel the need to respond to a craving that has to be satisfied quickly. And I've been smitten with Louisiana since I first tried it.