Like tacos, ramen and build-your-own-salads before it, fried chicken is having a fast-casual moment.
"Down south, fried chicken has been very popular and it is rapidly making its way up here," explained Justin Aronoff, owner of Deer Park fried chicken spot Ruby's Coop. "I have seen many [Nashville] hot chicken places open," he said. "So, I decided to do something different and open a classic fried chicken spot instead."
Nashville hot and southern fried aren't the only fried chicken preparations that are seeing increased popularity. Korean fried chicken spots, which use a double-fry technique for maximum crispiness before adding traditional marinades like soy garlic, are quickly gaining momentum.
"It's been a long time coming," said Mike Choi, owner of Mad for Chicken's Plainview location. "Japanese and Chinese restaurants have been around since forever, but people have become interested in the culture around the cuisines." Count K-pop and fried chicken in that growing fan base.
With so many new chicken restaurants and franchises, it's hard to decipher where to get your crispy, salty, affordable chicken fix. From oversized sandwiches to bite-sized poppers, wings, thighs, breasts and drumsticks — served Nashville hot to Korean crunchy — here is the latest slew of eateries serving America's favorite summer indulgence: fried chicken.
60 Terry Rd., Smithtown
“I planned my day around this place,” Heidi Goldmintz admitted on a Saturday afternoon while waiting for two orders of chicken tenders, one coated with a breading of Ruffles potato chips, the other with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
Chikn-Fixn has garnered attention since opening in January, mostly for its tenders, available in more than 20 varieties. Orders include four cutlet-size pieces served over fries, and cost $16 ($14.50 for plain). Restaurant manager David Murano said some of his team’s creations have been surprise bestsellers, including the tenders rolled in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Doritos and Cap’n Crunch. “We go through 40 boxes of that cereal a week,” he said. Other flavors, like Cinnamon Toast and Fruity Pebbles, for example, have proved to be less taste sensations than amusing novelties. “We make it fun, we grab you and you come back, maybe next time you try the Rice Krispies or the Frosted Flakes,” Murano said.
Pro-tip: There is more to Chikn-Fixn than tenders, including Spicy Cheeto fried pickles ($12), golf ball-sized jalapeño poppers ($11), and for dessert, fried treats ranging from Oreos ($6) to Twinkies ($7) to Devil Dogs ($8).
More info: 631-533-7600, chikn-fixn.com
1320 Stony Brook Rd., Stony Brook
Is it a Korean fried chicken place or a burger joint? A Philly cheesesteak spot or a boba tea house? Answer: all of the above.
Monster Chicken opened in Stony Brook late last year and the immaculate storefront has lots of seating, interesting artwork made out of license plates, and a waving cat statue — you know, the kind that you find in most Chinese restaurants. Like the menu, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge, but don’t let that stop you from passing through for some good grub.
The massive, juicy fried chicken sandwich, made from dark meat ($6.25) comes in spicy and non-spicy versions. It’s easily twice the size of the sesame bun it rests on — hence, the monster moniker. But if you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, there are Korean fried nuggets and popcorn chicken ($8), hand-breaded tenders ($5.99), spicy wings ($7.50), honey wings, and drumsticks ($5.50). For an extra $2.75, you can add fries and soda to any sandwich.
Pro tip: Don’t miss the milk teas ($5.95), bubble, jelly and boba teas ($6.95) which come in flavors like white peach and lychee.
More info: 631-675-1755, monsterchickenny.com
Mad for Chicken
East Meadow, Massapequa, Plainview and Rockville Centre
First-time customers to this growing franchise come in "expecting a fast food joint," said Choi, who opened Mad for Chicken's Plainview location with his wife, Inna, in March. Not so.
This is Korean fried chicken of the highest order, with smooth and glossy skin that shatters with the sweetness and fracture pattern of a candy apple. There are signature wings, drumsticks, and tenders glazed in the requisite Korean soy garlic marinade that can be upgraded to spicy. There are traditional crispy wings and tenders for those not into Korean-style, dressed with sauce of your choosing — buffalo, BBQ and mango habanero, for example. MFC’s chicken combos are the way to go. They start at $14.95 for three drumsticks and five wings to $39.95 for eight drums and 15 wings. Some combos include fries.
Pro-tip: For side dishes, top your fries with kimchi or check out a Korean specialty like japchae ($14), Korean glass noodles with red peppers, onions, scallions, bulgogi and sesame oil, or tteok bboki, braised rice and fish cakes with a spicy sauce. Add cheese for maximum pleasure.
More info: madforchicken.com
528 Commack Rd., Deer Park
Ruby’s Coop offers six fat sandwiches featuring fried chicken thighs in various guises: The Classic is topped with “coop” sauce and pickles; add slaw and you’ve got the Ruby’s Original. Top that chicken with bacon, American cheese and lettuce for the Baco-Mac. On the international side, there’s the Viet-Nashville, which takes its inspiration from the Vietnamese banh mi with pickled carrots and daikon, roasted peanuts and jalapeño mayo while the Koreatown features the flavors of soy, garlic, gochujang, pear kimchi and lettuce. The Bollywood thighs, inspired by the Indian “chaat” repertoire are rubbed with golden curry, and topped with butter-roasted pineapple, pickled chilies, yogurt and mint ($9.99 to $11.99). There are also chicken tenders, popcorn chicken, fried cheese curds, fried cauliflower “nuggs,” fried Brussels sprouts, fried onion rings and fries.
Pro-tip: For your next beach trip or picnic, order a family-style bucket of southern fried chicken thighs (starting at $34.99) which comes with sides, giving KFC and Popeyes some local competition.
More info: 631-667-2017, rubys-coop.com
19 N. Broadway, Hicksville
Brothers Aziz and Zafar Ahmad come from a chicken family. While Slappin Chick is the brothers’ first restaurant, they have long been friends to fowl, having worked in Kennedy Fried Chicken outlets that the family runs in the Bronx. “I went to California and had it at Howlin’ Rays,” said Zafar of the Nashville hot chicken that they now serve. Aziz, meanwhile, knew southern hot chicken only from Instagram, but that was enough to set the 20-year-old off on a six-month quest for a perfect chicken recipe.
Their 24-seat halal restaurant showcases the bird in tenders and sliders. Choose from one of just four plates, all of them some combination of tenders, sliders, fries and slaw. Ordering a tender plate ($15) nets you two whole-breast portions, along with fries and pickle chips, while a two-slider plate, which also comes with slaw ($16), portends buns struggling to contain the large meat. Tenders and sliders can also be purchased separately ($6.50-$8.50). Despite its Nashville by proxy provenance, the Ahmads offer six spice levels to satisfy chicken lovers regardless of heat tolerance: Country (no spice), mild (country plus salt), medium, hot, slappin and slappin+.
Pro-tip: Most patrons don't make it past the medium or hot spice level, according to the brothers, who don't even attempt slappin'-level spice themselves. This is a no-judgment zone, so spice comfortably.
More info: 718-569-5580, slappinchick.com
Erica Marcus and Scott Vogel contributed to this story.