Fried chicken stands as a stark rebuke to America’s favorite lean protein, millions, yea billions, of grilled breasts.
Every culture that consumes chicken has conspired to find a method of frying that amplifies the flavor and enhances the textural contrast between meat and skin. In fact, frying is probably the best way to preserve the moisture content of the breast, though for fried-chicken aficionados, dark meat — succulent drumsticks and thighs, not to mention the wicked crust-to-meat ratio of the wings — is the way to go. The best part: eating it cold on the day after.
It’s never gone out of fashion, but fried chicken is having a moment at Long Island restaurants. Here are some of our favorites.
Navy Beach (16 Navy Rd., Montauk): If you’ve ever enjoyed a bucket of KFC on the beach, you’ve experienced a glimmer of the pleasures of fried chicken at Navy Beach. Seated at a picnic table on the Montauk restaurant’s expansive private sands, with views of Fort Pond Bay and Gardiner’s Island, you can eschew the cutlery and dig into three pieces of crispy buttermilk fried chicken drizzled with spicy honey and served with Cheddar cornbread and slaw, $29. More info: 631-668-6868, navybeach.com
American Beech (300 Main St., Greenport): This eatery's crisp, juicy buttermilk fried chicken is spurred by spiced honey, blue-cheese-laced greens, and pickled onion and tomato. More info: 631-477-5939, americanbeech.com
Cafe Bethel (52 W. Merrick Rd., Freeport): Pollo con tajadas, crispy pieces of fried chicken slathered in a marinade of mayo and mustard, bathed in flour and fried to order, is served with green plantains and cabbage at this Central American eatery. More info: 516-608-8868
Jackson's (6005 Jericho Tpke., Commack): At Jackson’s, a rollicking, family-friendly gastropub, there’s a whole section of the menu devoted to “the farm bird,” which you can have roasted, grilled, pecan-crusted or fried. (The menu also advises you that it will take 20 minutes; birds are not cooked in advance.) Pearl’s Southern fried chicken, four pieces to an order, comes with a Cheddar biscuit, coleslaw and hand-cut fries covered with cheese and gravy, $20. More info: 631-462-0822, jacksonscommack.com
Spicy’s BBQ (Multiple locations): Both locations of Spicy’s BBQ hold charm, with the double arches like a cockscomb in Bellport (501 Station Rd.) and the nostalgia of the former diner space in Riverhead (225 W. Main St.). Billed as a barbecue joint, Spicy’s offers fried chicken that steals the stage. Grab an order of 10 for less than $8 or 50 for $38. They’re the kind of wings that make you covet the crispy bits. In the event you can save some for later, it’s as good cold. (Pictured: A 10-piece fried chicken). More info: spicysbbq.com
The Orient and The Orient Odyssey
The Chinese are masters of frying, so it’s no surprise that they do chicken particularly proud. At The Orient in Bethpage (623 Hicksville Rd.) and its year-old sibling, Orient Odyssey in Jericho (515 N. Broadway), the chickens are hung up in the cooler to dry them out, then cut up — right through the bones — into manageable pieces. Because there’s no breading or batter, the skin fries up into a shattering veil, and the bird is showered with slivers of golden garlic before being brought to the table. Half a golden fried crispy chicken is $13.95 at The Orient and $14.95 at Orient Odyssey. More info: 516-822-1010 (The Orient) and 516-719-0021 (Orient Odyssey)
Salamander’s on Front
Salamander’s on Front (38 Front St., Greenport): Three years ago, Claudia Helinski moved her off-the-beaten-path shop to spacious new premises in a prime spot with a full bar and seating on two levels. At Salamander’s on Front Street, however, the fried chicken remains the same. All Helinski will reveal about the recipe is that it involves a seasoned brine and a pressure cooker. The result is chicken that really tastes like chicken, veiled with a crisp but not overbearing crust. Two pieces, plus fries, cornbread and thick-shredded purple slaw, is $14. For takeout (24 pieces plus cornbread for $49), call ahead — up to a week ahead for holiday weekends. More info: 631-477-3711, salamandersonfront.com
Vauxhall (26 Clinton Ave., Huntington): The yardbird chicken and waffle sandwich (pictured) at Vauxhall is a competitive alternative to the comely burgers at this hipster haven. That’s because the (boneless) buttermilk fried chicken served on a waffle-as-sandwich is made with cornmeal studded with bacon. And it’s served with some highly addictive fries for a mere $12. More info: 631-425-0222, vauxhallhuntington.com
Wings ‘n Things
Wings ‘n Things (Multiple locations): Wings ‘n Things has been serving fried chicken enthusiasts in Hempstead (519 Fulton Ave.) since 1988. Earlier this year, a second location opened up in Elmont (1717 Dutch Broadway). The setup is fast food (the Hempstead location, said owner Paul Madonna, used to be a Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits) but Wings ‘n Things birds don’t taste like they come from a chain. Prices are beyond reasonable: three pieces with fries and cornbread or a biscuit for $5.99, and there are combo meals, family value meals and what can only be described as bulk discounts: 50 to 100 pieces for $1.29 a piece. To cater to the local clientele, sides include rice, beans and tortilla. More info: 516-483-0936 (Hempstead) and 516-341-7075 (Elmont).
Swingbellys BBQ (909 W. Beech St., Long Beach): Tuesday is fried chicken night at Swingbellys BBQ in Long Beach, where $16 buys you four pieces of juicy, crunchy chicken drizzled with honey and served with mac-and-cheese, smokehouse beans or collards and a BLT salad. Always on the menu is a nice hunk of boneless fried chicken sandwiched between two cornbread waffles with Sriracha ranch dressing and lettuce, $12. Weekend brunch features fried chicken with a biscuit and sausage gravy, $15. (Pictured: Fried chicken with sides of collards, fries, waffles and mac and cheese). More info: 516-431-3464, swingbellysbbq.com
The Rolling Spring Roll
The Rolling Spring Roll (228 W. Jericho Tpke., Syosset): Chicken wings are an exciting surprise at the new sibling to the Farmingdale location of The Rolling Spring Roll. Super crispy, light and thick, this chicken sings with garlic and seduces with crispy rice-flour batter. Don’t underestimate the marinade, says owner Joe Bui, who uses a fish sauce that adds an umami element to the dish. More info: 516-677-9090, therollingspringroll.com
LL Dent (221 Old Country Rd., Carle Place): It’s the 10th anniversary of LL Dent, a family-run spot cooking up fine Southern fare. Mother Lillian and daughter and chef Leisa Dent, the culinary school graduate who used to be the personal chef for Eddie Murphy, run the show here. Though Dent’s favorite dishes range from slab bacon and grits, fried catfish and pulled pork to collards and sweet potato pie, she’s got a crispy fried chicken quarter on the menu for $16.95 with a choice of two sides, from grits to mac-and-cheese, coleslaw to candied yams. (Pictured: Fried chicken with a biscuit and collards.) More info: 516-742-0940, lldent.com
Koreana (478 Plainview Rd., Hicksville): In addition to a full menu of authentic Korean dishes, Koreana, the restaurant adjacent to Hicksville’s Asian supermarket H & Y, also makes takeout friendly Korean-style fried chicken, batter-less, breading-less, relying on its own crisp skin for crunch. (Koreana no longer hosts a franchise of cult Korean chicken chain BonChon.) Big, meaty legs are $14.73 for seven, $20.25 for 10. Wings and breast portions are $14.73 for 10, $20.25 for 15. Everything comes coated in either soy-garlic or spicy sauce and with a side of snowy-white pickled radish. More info: 516-932-4690.