You love fried chicken so much you can't even read about it without developing a pestering craving. So you've been warned: The following list of the tastiest, most outrageous, and utterly creative fried chicken in Miami might be difficult to read. It also might influence tonight's dinner plans.
In the Magic City, fried chicken goes beyond the realm of Southern fare. Find iterations with Haitian, Cuban, and Korean influences alongside more traditional offerings. Some spots serve bird on the bone; others do not. Some provide wings; others offer breasts. Regardless of origin, method, or style, this poultry begins and ends the same way, from butcher knife to dinner napkin. Here are the ten best fried-chicken joints in town.
1. Joe's Take Away
For those in the know, there's more than just seafood to be eaten at Joe's Take Away, the casual, to-go sibling of the South Beach seafood staple Joe's Stone Crab. Unlike its pricier counterpart, Joe's Take Away offers many inexpensive eats, including fried chicken. Speckled with black pepper, the half fried chicken has moist flesh that drips with juices and bursts into bits of brittle breading. Besides its succulence, it costs only $5.95. If a craving strikes in August and September when Joe's Take Away is closed, head to the restaurant and order the chicken basket. It's the same bird — with the addition of coleslaw and chips — for four extra bucks.
2. Pack Supermarket
For nearly two decades, some of the best fried chicken in Miami has been made and sold at a commissary and walk-up window in Little Haiti. For $2.25, snag a three-piece serving of drumsticks, the most cost-effective and flavorful part. The recipe is simple: skin-on bird and hot oil. The chicken's skin bubbles, crisps, and tightens into a crunchy shell that tastes like it's been triple-breaded. The secret is frying the chicken the way Haitians typically fry pork. Don't forget the $1 side of crisp plantains.
3. Bird & Bone
Richard Hales' restaurant at the Confidante, Bird & Bone, is the definitive place in town for a plate of Nashville hot chicken. Hales' version is far less aggressive than the one found at Southern institutions such as Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. He separates whole birds from their carcasses and then brines them in a simple salt solution that leaves every fiber, even those in the breast, as juicy as ripe mango flesh. The meat is seasoned with a blend of cayenne pepper, hot paprika, ground mustard, and garlic. The chicken is then placed on a bed of Zak the Baker bread, drizzled with Chinese hot mustard and local honey, and finished with slices of house-made pickles. While you enjoy the crunchy shell and moist and tender interior, the heat creeps up on you; it's a subtle tingle on the lips rather than a death-defying endeavor.
4. Sarsaparilla Club
Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth's Sarsaparilla Club, the Top Chef couple's restaurant inside the Shelborne South Beach, is known for American-inspired dim sum. If that's not already enough of a reason to dine, the restaurant offers a flavorful basket of fried chicken. Up North, the duo also runs Root & Bone, supplying New York with fried chicken, biscuits, and mac 'n' cheese. At Sarsaparilla Club, a taste of the couple's Southern roots is portrayed in its fried chicken, which is served in a metal basket containing three to four large pieces of green curry fried chicken with kaffir lime powder, coriander, and toasted coconut ($23).
5. Michelle Bernstein's Fried Chicken at Sweet Liberty
So what if it's just a summertime special? The fried chicken by James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein and husband/partner David Martinez is a highly anticipated annual occasion. Find all-you-can-eat fried-chicken dinners during the summer at Sweet Liberty. Birds are marinated overnight in buttermilk, fresh tarragon, Dijon mustard, celery seed, and black pepper and then fried to perfection upon order, making the dish crisp, tasty, and drool-worthy, which explains why it makes an appearance nearly every year. For $38, get unlimited chicken, salad, coleslaw, biscuits, and dessert.
6. Caporal Chicken
The juicy fried chicken thighs hold an unexpected secret. It's not about buttermilk, grandmothers, or the American South. Instead, the salty crust that crackles with each bite is a Cuban tale. Vincent Herryman's uncle skipped Miami when he fled the island in the days after the revolution. He went on to open a handful of beloved fried-chicken joints throughout Harlem and Washington Heights in New York City. A year ago, Vincent, who spent 15 years learning his uncle's secrets, pulled up his stakes and reopened Caporal Chicken in the heart of "La Saguesera." He peddles wallet-friendly ($1 per thigh, $2 per breast) buckets of chicken with meat that emits a smoky aroma. Accompaniments include a pile of sweet-potato fries ($2), fried yuca ($2), and a chocolate-chip-studded waffle slathered with maple- or strawberry-infused butter.
7. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
If you want homestyle fried chicken, thank John Kunkel, the mastermind and CEO behind one of Miami's most successful restaurant groups, 50 Eggs. Kunkel's grandmother Llewellyn is the mastermind behind Yardbird's classic fried chicken. At Yardbird, an order of "Llewellyn's fine fried chicken" ($26) brings half a free-range bird, which is brined and seasoned for 27 hours. The chicken is served alongside salted, spiced watermelon cubes with fresh mint. It's some good old Southern fried chicken, the kind that's rooted in history.
It is impossible to list Miami's best fried-chicken joints without mentioning Publix. The Southern supermarket chain is known for its selection of golden and crisp fried chicken, from boneless tenders and whole birds to combo meals with mac 'n' cheese and biscuits, plus hefty sandwiches stuffed with a few crunchy tenders. Though we don't normally praise large corporations, Publix's fried chicken is worth the exception.
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9. Spring Chicken
If you don't have time for a sit-down fried-chicken meal at Yardbird, try Spring Chicken, John Kunkel's fast-casual Southern joint. The menu borrows several of Yardbird's most popular dishes, including the famous "Llewellyn's fine fried chicken." The chicken — fresh meat with no steroids, hormones, or antibiotics — comes from birds raised on all-vegetarian, pesticide-free corn and soybean feed. Hearty fried-chicken sandwiches are plentiful here too, layered with house-made, flavor-packed toppings such as pepper jelly and traditional slaw.
10. Sakaya Kitchen
Call it the little shop that Korean fried chicken (and honey-orange-glazed ribs) built. Richard Hales' double-fried chicken wings have been a hit since he mustered the courage to open Sakaya Kitchen in a once-deserted midtown Miami mall. Sweet, crisp, and meaty, these fried wings come sprinkled with chopped scallions and minced garlic and could convert even the most devoted fried-chicken-wing purist.