Food trends may come and go, but fried chicken is forever. There’s just something universally appealing about biting into a crackly, well-seasoned, perfectly golden drumstick.
Portland is known for its fried chicken and jojos, but fried chicken appears in many creative ways throughout the region, drawing from various cultures and styles. Here’s where to find some of the region’s best fried chicken all over the Portland area.
Classic Southern Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is synonymous with the South, but even Southern-style fried chicken isn’t a monolith. In fact, regional variations abound in the Portland region. Big’s Chicken, with locations in Beaverton and Northeast Portland, serves Alabama-style chicken that’s applewood-smoked first, then fried and drizzled with the signature Alabama-style white sauce spiked with Fresno chiles.
Head to Beaverton, Tualatin, Clackamas or Northeast Portland for a taste of fiery Nashville hot chicken at Dave’s Hot Chicken. For a spicy bird that doesn’t reach Nashville hot chicken levels on the Scoville scale, try Ezell’s Famous Chicken. This Oprah-approved choice at Washington Square Mall in Tigard churns out fried chicken marinated in Creole spices and dipped into a cayenne-dusted batter.
Chicken and waffles are a class unto themselves, and for fans, there’s nothing better than that sweet-and-savory combo. On weekends BAES Fried Chicken in Southeast Portland and downtown makes the specialty with fried chicken tenders and serves it with honey butter and maple syrup. Po’Shines, a Black-owned restaurant in Northeast that also functions as a workforce-training program, has chicken and waffles on its breakfast menu. This version uses a cornmeal waffle base and comes topped with three fried chicken wings. Screen Door, with multiple locations in Portland, is also famous for its fried chicken and waffles.
Old-school Northeast Portland corner store Alberta Market is the place to pick up wings to go fresh from the fryer. In Southeast Portland, there’s Reel M Inn for a classic dive-bar version or Jojo PDX, a wildly popular food truck with a brand-new brick-and-mortar location across the river. On the west side, Cider Mill & Fryer Tuck Chicken has long been the go-to for fried chicken sold by the piece, in snack boxes or as family meals. This Southwest stalwart is also one of the few places to offer fried livers, gizzards and hearts for all of you giblet lovers.
Asian Flavors Sauce It Up
If a restaurant calls itself an izakaya (a Japanese bar with small snacks), it’s a pretty good bet they will serve karaage — Japanese fried chicken nuggets. In Beaverton, head to Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya for a taste. Afuri, with locations in Beaverton and inner Southeast Portland, is a standout for ramen, but snacks like karaage served with yuzu kosho (citrus chili paste) egg salad also shine. In Northwest Portland, Takibi, a restaurant attached to Japanese sporting-goods brand Snow Peak, also makes karaage, marinated in a fermented sauce.
Bonchon is a chain straight from South Korea, and Oregon’s one location resides in Happy Valley. These are the real-deal, rice-flour-battered, twice-fried wings for a superior crunch. Get a half-and-half order of soy garlic and spicy — and don’t forget the side of pickled radish. A similar Korean chain, ChimcKing, has locations in Beaverton and Northeast Portland.
Taste of Sichuan in Beaverton serves family-style Chinese fare kissed with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, including the Chong Qing hot chicken, a dish utilizing bite-size pieces of deep-fried chicken stir-fried in spicy bean paste and smothered with dried chiles. Don’t worry — it’s way less lethal than it sounds.
Hat Yai, with two Portland locations on the Eastside, is the place for Thai fried chicken coated in fried shallots. Order a set meal, which is served with flaky roti and a side of curry for dipping. For irresistibly tangy, Cambodian-style lime-pepper wings, visit Sunshine Noodles in Northwest Portland.
If you want to try a South Asian spin on fried chicken, look no further than DesiPDX, a North Mississippi Avenue food cart that employs Indian seasonings and local ingredients to create delicacies like chai-brined fried chicken, available by the pound.
Latin American Flavors Bring the Sizzle
Latin America might not be the first region you think of when it comes to fried chicken, but that just means you’ve never been to Merendero Estela, an outer-Southeast Portland food cart that serves Honduran fare. The menu is short and sweet, so don’t skip over the pollo con tajadas, fried chicken served atop a heap of fried plantain slices and garnished with pickled red onions. Boriken, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Beaverton, features appetizers like chicharrones de pollo. Pro tip: Don’t skip the house-made hot sauces and mayo-ketchup.
Argentines have their own spin on schnitzels, known as milanesas. When the pounded, breaded and fried cutlet is chicken, though, it’s called a suprema. You can find these crispy delights meant to be eaten with a knife and fork at Alecocina, a Portland Mercado cart, served with french fries or salad.
Crunchy Gluten-Free and Vegan “Chicken”
No meat? No gluten? No problem. Dietary restrictions aren’t enough to prevent anyone from enjoying fried chicken in Portland. FOMO Chicken, a food cart in Southeast Portland, is known for Korean fried chicken, though they also make a gluten-free version of Southern fried chicken. As an added bonus, DesiPDX’s entire menu is gluten-free: Organic drumsticks get brined and steamed in tea, then deep fried and finished with a tea glaze and a sprinkle of cardamom salt. The fried chicken at Hat Yai and Sunshine Noodles also fit the bill if you’re avoiding gluten.
If you’re strictly vegan, you’re still in luck, thanks to Dirty Lettuce, a Northeast Portland takeout window offering a fried-chicken plate with chunky pieces of seitan coated in craggy, golden crust that resembles the real deal, and Black Water, a punk dive bar that makes “wingz” from soy protein molded around a sugar-cane “bone,” served Buffalo-style with celery and bleu “cheeze.”