You love fried chicken so much you can't even read about it without developing a pestering craving. So be warned: The following list of the tastiest, most outrageous, and most utterly creative fried chicken in Miami might be tough to get through. It might also influence tonight's dinner plans.
In the Magic City, fried chicken goes beyond 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 spots in town.
Bird & Bone4041 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Richard Hales' restaurant at the Confidante, Bird & Bone, is the definitive local spot for a plate of Nashville hot chicken. Hales' version is far less aggressive than those 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 housemade 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 experience. A whole bird costs $28 and is served with Florida honey, hot mustard, bread, and pickles.
Caporal Chicken14616 SW Eighth St., Miami
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 straight to New York City and opened a handful of beloved fried-chicken joints throughout Harlem and Washington Heights. 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.
Ember151 NE 41st St., Unit 117, Miami
At Brad Kilgore's new Design District restaurant, you'll see a plate of towering golden chicken on nearly every table. That's because at Ember, the chicken is impossibly moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside.
Kilgore describes the fried chicken dish he created with the restaurant's chef de cuisine, Nick Graves: "It's brined for 24 hours, then cold-smoked, double-battered, and fried." The chicken is served with either Kilgore's BKQ barbecue sauce or caviar butter ($26). Ask politely for both — you won't be disappointed.
Joe's Take Away11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach
For those in the know, there's more than just seafood to be had 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 fried half a chicken has moist flesh that drips with juices and bursts into bits of brittle breading. Besides its succulence, it costs only $5.95. Joe's Take Away is closed from May 19 to August 6 for season, but you can order the fried chicken for $6.95 at Joe's Stone Crab, which is open through August 4.
Pack Supermarket8235 NE Second Ave., Miami
305-757-4777For 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.
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.
Root & Bone5958 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami
Eater New York once dubbed the fried chicken at Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth's New York City restaurant the best in the city. Now, Miamians can devour that same bird at the South Miami location of their eatery. A "bucket of bird" is sweet tea-brined, fried to a golden hue, and dusted with pickled lemon. A whole chicken is $36 and a half costs $19.
Sakaya Kitchen3401 N. Miami Ave., #125, Miami
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.
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Sweet Liberty237 20th St., Miami Beach
mysweetliberty.comThe fried chicken by James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein and husband/partner David Martinez is a Miami institution. 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.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar1600 Lenox Ave., Miami Beach
runchickenrun.comIf you want homestyle fried chicken, thank John Kunkel, the 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. It's some good old Southern fried chicken, the kind that's rooted in history.