Fried chicken is our national bird, a gastronomic symbol that many regions take pride in calling their own. Southerners are apt to claim that the stove-top technique, which renders the skin—often battered—crunchy and the meat moist, was perfected below the Mason-Dixon Line, while Iowans insist their ancestors were responsible for the dish. Texans credit inventive chuck wagon cooks. The rest of the world has since chimed in, adapting fried chicken to their own cuisines. Now these global versions are part of our local culture.
Furaibo | Gardena
This Tarzan-themed franchise, known throughout Japan, offers tebasaki-style fried chicken, made with a subtle salty-sweet marinade. Fans of more crunchiness prefer the crumb-coated tenders of the Sasami Fry. Sizes vary: The Tarzan is half a bird, the Chita a whole leg, and the Jayne a breast. You can also order a plate of wings. » 1741 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena, 310-329-9441. Also at 2068 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., 310-444-1432.
KyoChon | Koreatown
“We’re not serving fast food,” warns the menu at this smart Korean cafe. The chicken isn’t fried until an order is placed and takes about 25 minutes to cook. Whether you get the super-spicy (read tear-inducing) version or the soy-marinated crispy style, the meat is full of flavor and the side of pickled white radish cubes refreshing. » 3833 W. 6th St., Koreatown, 213-739-9292. Also at 2515 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, 310-320-9299.
The Local Place | Torrance
Named for the Euro-Asian fusion that Hawaiians call “local food,” this ultramodern spot, next to the old King’s Hawaiian Bakery (and owned by the same family), serves crispy nuggets of Island-style sweet-salty chicken and plantation-style bone-in pieces as well. Both dishes are accompanied by potato-macaroni salad and a scoop of rice. » 18605 S. Western Ave., Torrance, 310-523-3233.
Max’s of Manila | Glendale
The specialty at this log-cabin-inspired restaurant, a U.S. outpost of a Filipino chain, is a mildly seasoned bird fried whole to keep the juices locked in. A spicy version is available, too, and both come with a garlicky palm vinegar dip. You won’t find better chicharrón de pollo (deep-fried chicken skin) anywhere. » 313 W. Broadway, Glendale, 818-637-7751.
Pollo Campero | L.A.
In Fried Chicken, food historian John T. Edge tells of Guatemalan expats who routinely filled suitcases with this chain’s achiote-pepper-crusted specialty when returning to the United States after visits home. They no longer have to—the restaurant and its jaunty Stetson-wearing rooster made their L.A. debut five years ago and seem almost as familiar as the Colonel. The chicken comes with biscuits and slaw, or fried plantains, and the salsa bar offers a generous selection. » 1605 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A., 213-251-8594.
Photograph by Jessica Boone