Food

10 Styles of Fried Chicken Around DC—And Where You Can Get Them

Bonchon fries their birds to crispy perfection. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Breaded or battered, pounded thin or plumped up in a brine, there’s one dish we crave across a global range of cuisines: fried chicken. Here’s how different regions make the stuff—and where to sample it.

Asian

Maketto’s double-fried chicken, which gets its crunch from sweet-potato flour and is strewn with green peppercorns, cilantro, chilies, and garlic. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Korea

What it is: “The other KFC” is characterized by a flour-and-cornstarch coating and a double dip in the deep fryer, which results in shatteringly crisp skin often glazed with soy or hot chili sauce.

Where to dig in: Bonchon (multiple area locations). Many knockoffs exist, but the South Korea-based chain fries it best.

Japan

What it is: Kara-age, a style of batter-free frying, works beautifully with morsels of poultry marinated in soy, garlic, and ginger. Traditional potato-starch coating adds crunch but not heaviness.

Where to dig in: Order chicken thighs with ponzu dipping sauce at Izakaya Seki (1117 V St., NW; 202-588-5841).

Thailand

What it is: Gai tod, a popular street snack, varies in preparation but often gets its crispness from rice flour and a side of fried shallots or lemongrass.

Where to dig in: Johnny Monis’s rendition—tossed in palm sugar and fish sauce—makes an appearance every few weeks at Little Serow (1511 17th St., NW; no phone).

Taiwan

What it is: A salt-and-pepper crust is one of this street-cart staple’s signatures, often delivered with chilies and herbs.

Where to dig in: The version at Maketto (1351 H St., NE; 202-838-9972) blends mouth-tingling Chinese five-spice, pickled peppers, and sweet-spicy caramel. Unorthodox, but one of the best of its kind in Washington.

European

Go all out at Rus Uz with their dumplings, chicken Kiev, and salmon plate. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Russia

What it is: The only thing better than plain fried chicken: a crispy Kiev-style breast stuffed with garlic butter and dill.

Where to dig in: Chicken Kiev at Rus Uz (1000 N. Randolph St., Arlington; 571-312-4086) is about as indulgent as it gets—especially if you precede it with dumplings.

Germany

What it is: Veal schnitzel may be the classic, but we’re partial to tenderized chicken cut-lets dipped in egg wash and bread crumbs, pan-fried, then spritzed with lemon.

Where to dig in: Head to Old Europe (2434 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-7600), which has been around nearly 70 years.

Italy

What it is: Chicken Milanese—breasts pounded thin and crusted with Parmesan, lemon, and herbs.

Where to dig in: We love the version with arugula-prosciutto salad at Ris (2275 L St., NW; 202-730-2500).

American

Astro Doughnuts crispy fried chicken. Photograph by Elissa Miolene.

Nashville

What it is: Nashville “hot” chicken runs true to its name: Mouth-searing pieces are often soaked in a cayenne-buttermilk bath, dredged in spiced flour, deep- or skillet-fried, then sometimes glazed in a mix of lard and even more cayenne. A nest of white bread and pickles soaks up the fiery juices.

Where to dig in: Reserve 2216 (2216 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-549-2889), where the dish is gussied up with a cornmeal waffle.

Buffalo

What it is: There’s a whole freezer-to-fryer industry when it comes to Buffalo wings, but America’s most common deep-fried bar snack is best made fresh with plenty of butter, vinegar, and cayenne in the sauce.

Where to dig in: Clyde’s (multiple area locations) keeps it classic with a tangy heap of hot wings, celery, and thick house-made blue-cheese dressing.

Philadelphia

What it is: Chicken and biscuits. Chicken and waffles. Why not chicken and doughnuts? The combination caught on at Philly’s Federal Doughnuts and has since migrated across the country.

Where to dig in: Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken (1308 G St., NW, 202-809-5565; 7511 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 703-356-0800) fries up tasty rounds alongside buttermilk-soaked fried chicken—or you can combine the two in creations such as a fried chicken BLT on a savory doughnut.

This article appears in our September 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.