Maya Angelou said it. "The best comfort food will always be greens, cornbread, and fried chicken." David Chang said it. "I love chicken. I love chicken products: fried chicken." Nora Ephron said it. "Everyone loves fried chicken. Don't ever make it. Buy it from a place that makes good fried chicken." Lucky for Miss Ephron, Mr. Chang, and Maya, there are plenty of places in Atlanta that make good fried chicken.
A brief history lesson: The words 'fried chicken' were first recorded in America in the 1830s. By the time of the Civil War, recipes for fried chicken were found far and wide. Using Scottish frying techniques and West African seasonings, the dish became popular by the enslaved. The enslaved were generally not allowed to raise expensive meats but, sometimes, they were allowed to raise chickens. They'd fry them on special occasions. After the abolition of slavery, the dish became quite popular in African American communities of the South and then became a beloved dish across the country.
Rightly so. Fried chicken was loved and love must be shared. Atlantans love spreading the love. That said, here are a few places to dig into a plate of chicken. Crunchy or crispy, spicy or salty, it matters not. It's plain good and has been good in the city for a good long while. Here's the best fried chicken in Atlanta.
Best Fried Chicken Atlanta
BUSY BEE CAFE
The Busy Bee was established in 1947. Just recently, the James Beard Foundation named it one of America's classic restaurants. Opened by Lucy Jackson, Busy Bee was, and still is, known for its soul food, particularly its fried chicken. Jackson's chicken was so beloved, and still is, that the restaurant became a frequent stop for the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. ate Miss Jackson's chicken. So did Hosea Williams, Andrew Young, and others. Barack Obama made a visit. The restaurant is now owned by Tracy Gates. The chicken is marinated for 12 hours and is hand breaded.
History has been cooking at Paschal's since 1947. It was, at that time, a hot lunch place. The owners decided to focus on making the best fried chicken possible. It was to be the star of their menu. It became a star as stars ate there. Aretha Franklin ate there. So did the likes of Dizzy Gilllespie, Martin Luther King, and Muhammad Ali. Their 1947 Old Fashion Fried Chicken offers bone-in chicken breast, with leafy greens, ripe tomato, and sliced red onion on sliced toasted kaiser bread.
GUS'S WORLD FAMOUS FRIED CHICKEN
If you say you serve world famous fried chicken you need to make sure you make good fried chicken. Gus's does. It's good. It's really good. It was over 60 years ago in Mason, Tennessee that Napoleon 'Na" Vanderbilt created a fried chicken dish that transcended the racial divide of the city at that time. Black or white--it made no matter--everyone sat down to eat the fried chicken because it was heavenly.
It still is. The Atlanta location is in the Mall at Peachtree Center. The chicken is fried in peanut oil. You can eat them with delights like macaroni and cheese, fried okra, fried pickles, potato salad, and more.
MARY MAC'S TEA ROOM
Arguably the most legendary restaurant in Atlanta, Mary Mac's is a Southern food institution. Be prepared to wait for a seat (it's first-come first-serve). Be prepared to also be wowed with a quintessential Southern meal. Google Mary Mac's fried chicken and up pops a slew of copycat recipes. That gives you some idea as to its popularity.
A hotel restaurant sounds boring, I know. There's a restaurant at the Hyatt Regency downtown that serves good fried chicken. Come hungry. The dish is so big it comes in its own skillet. Brined for 24 hours, it comes with a breast, leg, and thigh.
In Atlanta's beloved Ponce City Market is the equally beloved Hop's Chicken. From James Beard Award-winning chef Linton Hopkins, chicken comes with a variety of sauces (your choice): honey mustard, buttermilk ranch, and frim fram. If you decide to order the fried chicken family meal just for yourself, it's okay. No one will judge you. If they do, it'll be favorable, guaranteed.
HATTIE B'S HOT CHICKEN
In Atlanta's hip Little Five Points neighborhood, Hattie B's is bustling. It comes by way of Nashville, Tennessee and if there's one thing Nashville, Tennessee knows about it's hot chicken. The spice levels are as follows: Southern, Mild, Medium, Hot!, Damn Hot!!, and Shut the Cluck Up!!! You've been warned.
CHICKEN AND BEER
You'll be flying high after eating the fried chicken at Chicken and Beer at the airport. Wait. What? There's good eating at the airport? It can't be good, you insist. You'd be wrong. In Concourse D is where it's happening. It's owned by Jackmont Hospitality and Ludacris. Yes, the rapper Ludacris. It offers, amongst other fare, fried chicken plates and Luda's Chicken and Waffles. The maple butter biscuits are divine. One of his songs is "My Chick Bad." Strongly disagree. The chicken's good.
There are plenty of other restaurants (Punko, Scoville Hot Chicken, Mukja Korean Fried Chicken) but you get the idea. Atlantans like fried chicken. More than that-- they like good fried chicken. Get yourself some and eat it while reading some Angelou. Just be careful you don't get grease stains on the pages.