During a year when so much has gone haywire, our passion for foods that deliver comfort — cookies, pizza, ice cream — has soared. The grand dame of them all, maybe, is fried chicken. The losses we continue to suffer in 2020 are partially girded by the advent of a full-on wave of fried chicken in myriad forms, whether in layered onto sandwiches, piled into cardboard boxes with biscuits or rubbed with chili powder to replicate Nashville hot chicken, the prevailing trend of them all.
Unlike some fried foods, which grow rubbery under in the steam of a takeout container (looking at you, French fries), flour-dredged, deep-fried thighs or drumsticks hold their crisp integrity under all manner of conditions. Hot fried chicken is also almost equally delicious cold, pulled the next morning from the fridge and gnawed for breakfast while standing in the middle of the kitchen. (Nah, not speaking from experience …)
In other words, fried chicken mirrors our resilience and versatility. Fortunately for Long Islanders, chefs and restaurant operators agree: This year’s field of fried chicken has grown exponentially, with ghost kitchens leading the charge.
Here is our year in fried chicken narrated chronologically, from February until now. Everything listed here appeared in the last few months, and with one exception, does not include wings — because those alone could fill another few pages.
Carolyn’s Southern Cuisine
2564 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow, 516-396-0660, carolyns.kitchen
Chef-owner J. Carolyn Thomas reintroduced her fried chicken at a new location in East Meadow, the replacement for her shuttered Amityville restaurant. The zingy, flour-battered fried chicken comes three pieces to a box ($13) with two sides and cornbread, or over red-velvet waffles ($15) — but don’t miss the cornmeal-dusted fried okra, smoked turkey wings or creamy grits, either.
Crispy’s Wings & Fries
76 W. Main St., Patchogue, 631-605-8900, crispywings.com
Crispy’s was one of the first bona fide ghost kitchens here, boxing up dozens of wings from inside Local Burger Co. in Patchogue. Yet the fried-chicken sandwich ($5.99), essentially a breaded cutlet on toasted brioche bun with mayo and pickles, is ultra simple and satisfying. The dry rub on the Nashville hot-chicken version of same ($6.29) packs serious smolder.
93 E. Main St., East Islip, 631-581-3000, buttermilkschicken.com
As the name suggests, buttermilk figures largely in the fried chicken at this vibrant takeout spot that husband-and-wife Charlie and Jenn Mastropaolo opened the day after stay-at-home orders immediately boosted takeout. Charlie Mastropaolo’s experience with fried chicken (starting at $3.99 for two thighs and two drumsticks, plus a side) roots back to his first fried-chicken restaurant in Flushing, circa 1978. Jenn Mastropaolo’s fried-chicken sandwiches (starting at $5.99) start with cutlets brined in salt-and-pickle juice, immersed in buttermilk, rolled in flour and then fried in canola oil and placed on a toasted, buttered bun. There are at least six fried-chicken sandwiches, with varying combinations of sauces, dressings and cheeses.
Salted. On the Harbor
14 Woodbine Ave., Northport, 631-651-2600, saltedontheharbor.com
Among the morsels on the menu at the immediately buzzy restaurant is the Thick Chick ($18), a goliath of a sandwich built by chef Allison Fasano — a buttermilk-marinated, double-fried bonless chicken thigh on a toasted brioche bun with bread-and-butter pickles, a mess of slaw and slather of peach hot sauce.
The Portly Porker
206 Main St., Farmingdale, 516-586-8880, portlyporker.com
Launching a ghost kitchen was the brainchild of executive chef Thomas Fazio at That Meetball Place. The Portly Porker’s mascot is a globe-trotting pig who melds barbecue traditions and condiments from across the world, and the pièce de résistance is the whole "vagabond" fried chicken, which comes on a family-style platter for $22. Fazio marinates whole birds in buttermilk and sous-vides them whole before butchering; the parts are then dredged in pulverized, spice-laced cornflakes for a version that’s robust, with hints of cinnamon and a honey glaze.
The busy folk at Lessings jumped on the ghost kitchen train with a launch (briefly known as Mother Clucker) of an eatery with a "secret" location and no website focused almost entirely on fried-chicken sandwiches ($10 to $12) available around Babylon and Stony Brook via the usual delivery services. Each sandwich, conceived by executive chef William Muzio, is anchored by crispy buttermilk-fried chicken cutlets on brioche buns, including a mainstay with pickles and mayo, a Nashville-hot version, another with avocado aioli and pickled banana peppers, and yet another with bacon, white barbecue sauce and crispy onions on a pretzel bun. Delivery ranges are expanding across Long Island, with a new hub around Huntington due soon.
Food Court Korea
947 Willis Ave., Albertson, 516-996-2882, foodcourtkorea.com
Bibimbap, bulgogi and other Korean dishes are stock-in-trade here but happily, too, is Korean-style, double-fried chicken wings, possibly the lightest and crunchiest chicken on this list. Newbies can start with an 8-piece box for $11.95, but the more adventurous can up the ante with sweet-and-spicy yangnyeom marinated chicken (starting at $13.95 for eight pieces) which comes sheathed in a sticky gochujang-spiked glaze.
Blue Point Brewing Co.
225 W. Main St., Patchogue. bluepointbrewing.com
The brewery's restaurant opened way back in the alternate universe that was 2019, but new executive chef Paolo Fontana's Southern-style fried chicken ($16) is a hulking plate of buttermilk-doused, flour-rolled thighs, drumsticks and breast anointed with a honey glaze, delivered with a luxe honey biscuit.
Hot Chicken Mama
168 Montauk Hwy., Blue Point
The forces behind South Shore Dive in West Sayville, The Cortland in Bay Shore and Swallow East in Montauk (namely, Swallow East chef Steve Esposito) are coming together for a takeout spot devoted to Nashville-style hot chicken. Cage-, antibiotic- and hormone-free birds will be brined for a day before hitting the batter, then the fryer. Heat is added later in the form of a dramatic spice dusting in levels ranging from zero to "extra loud" (that one requires you to sign a waiver). Hot Chicken Mama is expected to open as soon as late December.