Evan Kleiman’s top fried chicken spots in SoCal: Pikunico, Honey’s Kettle, Golden Bird, and more

By Evan Kleiman

Whether crispy or crunchy, hot with chile or sweet with honey, fried chicken is found all over the world. And luckily we have a world of choices right here in Southern California. A listing of all the fried chicken options available to us would literally fill a book, but here are a few to start your journey. Just follow the crumbs. Some of these places don’t have a web ordering system, so just call to place your order or stop by.

Classic fried chicken: crunchy outside, tender and juicy inside, all around comfort

Alta Adams - West Adams
-Classic Southern fried chicken is seen through the lens of Chef Keith Corbin.

Friends and Family - East Hollywood
-Theirs is sleeper picnic version that you can eat when you get home or even the next day cold from the refrigerator.  It’s totally satisfying.

Honey’s Kettle - Culver City and extensive delivery from satellite kitchens
-Try the reliable all-around classic version. Listen to my interview with owner Vincent Williams.

Watts Coffee House - Watts
-This rich center of culture and community serves up classic comfort.

Pann’s Coffee Shop - Inglewood
-This offers straight-ahead diner fried chicken that’s always satisfying.  

Golden Bird - South LA
-It’s the last remnant of my mom’s favorite super crunch.

Pioneer Chicken Drive-Thru - Bell Gardens 
-There are only two left of the famed chain that started on Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park, which made it my childhood favorite. The best one to try is the Bell Gardens location. I think the batter must have a touch of vanilla that gives it a funnel cake vibe.

Hot Chicken: all the characteristics of the classic genre, plus endorphin-inducing HEAT

Hotville Chicken - Crenshaw
-Kim Price — of the famed Nashville fried chicken family — starts her empire here in LA.

Howlin’ Rays - Chinatown
-The first extreme heat Nashville hot chicken to arrive in Los Angeles with a famous two hour line pre-pandemic. Their mild is terrific as well as is the sandwich.

Japanese fried chicken: often boneless dark meat using rice flour, which lends a light crisp texture

Tokyo Fried Chicken - Monterey Park
-You can get super crisp chicken with fragile skin, and the best all-around spread of classic sides with a Japanese inflection imaginable.

Super crisp chicken is served with lots of classic sides at Tokyo Fried Chicken. Photo by Jennifer Chong. 

Pikunico - downtown LA 
-Gluten-free rice flour makes the boneless chicken super crisp, with wonderful sides to choose. This weekend, Chef Kuniko is doing a collaboration with Chef Jihee Kim of Perilla LA. 

The boneless chicken super crisp at Pikunico, with a selection of Perilla LA banchan. Courtesy of Pikinico/Perilla LA Collaboration.

Tenkatori - Gardena and Costa Mesa
-A karaage specialist lands in America.

Korean fried chicken: wings and bone-in or boneless drumsticks with pre and post fry marinades, usually soy-garlic or sweet-hot

The Prince - Koreatown
-The OG KFC (Korean Fried Chicken): unbattered whole chicken parts are deep fried until the skin is shatteringly crisp and the meat is tender. It’s served bossam style with rice sheets and pickled daikon, and comes with soy jalapeno and sweet chile sauces for dipping.

Papa’s Chicken - Koreatown
-This is a perfect example of what people expect when you say “Korean fried chicken.” Their “spicy hot” is really spicy hot, but you can get the soy-honey instead.

Gol Tong (director’s cut) - Koreatown
-Former LA karaoke entrepreneur turned South Korean film producer/director Kil Chae Jeong is the sole employee here. You can get the boneless thighs crunchy fried, soy garlic, or chili. Or get the famed combo, the Director’s Cut. He’s known for exuberant and odd garnishes like fruit or avocado or cubed cheese. Somehow it all works.

Chicken and sides from Gol Tong. Photo by Wonho Frank Lee, courtesy of Eater LA. 

Two Wings: One is Southeast Asian-inspired, and the other is Chinese-inspired

Bone Kettle - Pasadena
-These Southeast Asian wings are citrus-brined and served with charred lime, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), and Thai chili.

Yang’s Kitchen - Alhambra
-They are finally re-opening this week. So go enjoy their Chinese salt and pepper wings for lunch. 

Sandwiches: saucey, crunchy, messy

Son of a Gun
-They do both classic mild and Nashville hot sandwiches.

Night market/Song/Sahm
-Their fried chicken sandwich is garnished with spicy papaya slaw, house made ranch and jalapeno.

-Try the fried chicken Shawarma sandwich served with spicy tahini and charmoula. 

-Mei Lin, formerly of Nightshade, brings Szechuan flavor and numbing heat to her tenders.

And if you just want to stay home and make your own fried chicken, please make a skillet fried version like Jonathan Gold’s Barefoot Chicken.