Feature

The 10 Best Places for Fried Chicken in SF

By Virginia Miller  |  June 19, 2014

Fried chicken in San Francisco knows no borders when it comes to price or ethnicity. There is homestyle fried bird at dive bars like Tupelo and upscale versions at 1300 on Fillmore, Blue Plate, Bartlett Hall and Boxing Room. And while Southern fried chicken is often the first thing that comes to mind, we've also got an incredible selection of Korean, Japanese (kara age) and other styles of Asian fried poultry — not to mention, some damn fine chicken wings. But today, for the sake of focus, we're sticking to traditional American, Southern-influenced fried chicken in San Francisco proper. Here are the best places to eat it. 

Firefly
For over 20 years, Firefly has been Noe Valley's cozy, upscale comfort-food gem, churning out still-excellent food to an always convivial crowd. Their beloved "fried chicken of your dreams" is served only on Tuesday nights: four pieces of tender fried chicken with ideal crunch and no grease, accompanied by vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, a hefty buttermilk biscuit and honey. 4288 24th St.; 415-821-7652

Brenda's French Soul Food
Just as Brenda's perfects crawfish beignets and shrimp 'n' grits, she also churns out a heartwarming fried chicken ($12.75 for two pieces at lunch, $15.75 for three pieces at dinner). Called BFC for "Best Fried Chicken," it's served with a flaky house biscuit, hot pepper jelly and collard greens. The skin offers just the right crunch with a hint of spice. 652 Polk St.; 415-345-8100

The Front Porch
As it has for years, fried chicken arrives in buckets (10 pieces, $29) — or on a four-piece platter with garlic mashers and gravy and ham-hock collards ($18) — at quirky Outer Mission charmer The Front Porch. The batter combines flour with cornmeal, thyme and lime zest for tender, layered flavor, using California's popular free-range, organic Mary's Chicken. 65A 29th St.; 415-695-7800

Soul Groove
Whether you're eating it from a pop-up stall or Soul Groove's brick-and-mortar cafe near Civic Center, the Chicken Fried Soul Sandwich ($8.50) rocks: maple-cinnamon-redolent waffles couch bacon-wrapped, buttermilk-fried chicken dripping with jalapeño coleslaw and maple BBQ sauce. But the fried chicken also comes in platter form ($14) featuring two pieces of dark-meat chicken with three waffles, bourbon maple syrup and their dreamy praline butter. Best of all, they deliver. 422 Larkin St.; 415-734-7598

Little Skillet
For years, Little Skillet has been churning out crowd-pleasing fried chicken and waffles in an alley off of Townsend Street from a walk-up window. Choose from two to eight pieces ($9.25-$24) with bottles of Tapatio or Crystal hot sauces for heat. Thankfully, a choice of waffle or a side (say "yes" to mac 'n' cheese) comes with. This past year welcomed the addition of spacious Victory Hall next door, where you can bring food over and order a cocktail or beer to go with. 360 Ritch St.; 415-777-2777

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Mason Pacific's buttermilk fried chicken [Photo Source Virginia Miller]

Brass Knuckle
Served from its popular food truck and a newish brick-and-mortar location in the Tenderloin, Brass Knuckle offers mouthwatering sandwiches named after rap and rock stars, like Notorious P.I.G. Their popular Fryin Maiden sandwich is a buttermilk fried chicken beauty slathered in apple-jalapeño slaw on an Acme torpedo bun. 749 Larkin St.; 415-374-7340

Frisco Fried
Bayview's Frisco Fried is a crowd favorite for real-deal soul-food fried chicken. With what tastes like whispers of garlic, cayenne and black pepper in the secret-recipe batter, the chicken is offered in all manner of individual pieces to full-on family dinners ($1.99-$39.99). Add on tasty sides like collard greens bright with vinegar or creamy mashed potatoes and gravy. 5176 Third St.; 415-822-1517

Auntie April's
Auntie April’s is full of character, from the Bayview-Hunter's Point regulars chowing down on peach cobbler and candied yams, to the constant flow of fried chicken and waffles, in original, cinnamon or buckwheat. This is juicy, authentic soul-food fried chicken and it's quite affordable too ($12 for six pieces). Save room for red-velvet waffles for dessert. 4618 Third St.; 415-643-4983

Mason Pacific
Sitting in window-lined Mason Pacific, Nob Hill’s bistro oversees passing cable cars and Bay views down the hill. From this only-in-SF perch, executive chef Sean McTiernan’s buttermilk fried chicken ($14) starter remains a regulars' favorite: its crispy tenderness melding with remoulade and green Tabasco sauces. 1358 Mason St.; 415-374-7185

Hard Knox Cafe
While we sometimes find the fried chicken (three-piece for $12 with choice of two sides and sweet corn muffins) inconsistent and greasy, generally it is heart-warming at SF longtimer Hard Knox Cafe, with two locations on opposite sides of the city: Dogpatch and Outer Richmond. Wash down salt- and pepper-laced fried chicken with a lemonade served in a Mason jar. Or order it in chicken and waffles for $11. 2526 Third St., 415-648-3770; 2448 Clement St., 415-752-3770