Regional Fried Chicken Chains We Wish Were Everywhere

From wings to sandwiches, delicious crispy fried chicken has been a Southern staple since before World War II when it was considered to be fine dining reserved for only the most worthy of occasions. Like the quintessential American Thanksgiving feast or Christmas ham, some of our ancestors thought of what's become our modern-day quick lunch as a cuisine worthy of the most selective cutlery and china.

As the fried delicacy transitioned from a once-a-week commodity to a daily lunch presence, chicken enthusiasts and Southern chefs spent the ensuing decades revolutionizing the dish and producing some of the wonderful variations we have today. Whether you're craving a fried chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A or one of those classic KFC bowls that always seem to have some diners jumping for joy, know that you have the deep South to thank for fashioning the meal into what it is now.

With the revolutionization of fried chicken soon came many of the regional chains we know and love today. From Texas' up-and-coming restaurant, The Cookshack, to the exciting chicken and pickleball mashup of Chicken N Pickle, there are plenty of regional fried chicken favorites that — to our dismay — have not yet reached all the corners of this country. Here are just a few of our favorites that we hope one day will open in a town near you.

The Cookshack

If you're a local of Houston, San Antonio, or Fort Worth, then you've likely tried or at least heard whispers of a delicious chicken sandwich chain that has been around since the '90s: The Cookshack. It has gained increasing recognition, however, and for good reason. As the trendy fried chicken joint has become a crowd favorite of Texan foodies, many from all regions of the U.S. have declared this place to be serving up the best fried chicken and waffles in all of Houston. With heat levels that range from Not Hot to the chain's infamous AMF seasoning — the abbreviation stands for Adios, My Friend — patrons with high and low spice tolerances alike can enjoy a delicious meal in harmony with one another.

If you think that you're on the higher end of that scale, believe us when we say that the AMF seasoning holds true to its name. Whether you order your chicken on a taco, in a salad, or between slices of bread, we recommend that you steer clear of the AMF — unless of course, you're a fan of ending your meals with a trip to the hospital. That may be overstating it, but be sure that you don't underestimate the power of The Cookshack's heat.

The Crack Shack

Those of us who are not located in Nevada, Texas, Utah, and SoCal are missing out on the cockiest fried chicken chain ever to grace the country. The Crack Shack is a chicken sandwich joint that's serving some of the tastiest-looking concoctions we've ever seen.

As the chain explains on TikTok, the "crack" in Crack Shack simply refers to the act of cracking an egg, as they are part of some of the chain's menu items. Sandwiches include a Double Clucker ground chicken burger featuring two patties, bacon, avocado, and lots and lots of cheese, as well as its tasty Katsu Lookin' sandwich with a panko-breaded chicken cutlet, umami aioli, namasu pickles, and a crunchy slaw. In short, the Crack Shack is an elevated version of your run-of-the-mill Chick-fil-A or Raising Cane's. And if you're not feeling a sandwich, you can always order a good ol' bucket of fried chicken tossed in your choice of sauce, like Honey Butter, Toro, Fire, or Sweet Heat.

Whether you're craving a sandwich, chicken wings, or perhaps a sweet treat, The Crack Shack is a trendy chain that you must stop at if you're traveling to one of its few locations. And don't worry about typing its address into your GPS — just drive and drive until you see the signature giant rooster that guards the restaurant's front doors. You literally cannot miss it.

Bonchon Korean Fried Chicken

With locations in 25 states, only half of the U.S. is fortunate enough to partake in the delight of having a Bonchon right at their fingertips. Conceived in Busan, South Korea by Jinduk Seo, the mission of Bonchon is to "share the joy of Korean comfort food around the world" — and that's exactly what happens when you bite into its mouth-watering Korean take on fried chicken.

From wings to drumsticks, to strips, to boneless wings, patrons of Bonchon can order a variety of fried chicken joint classics with either a soy garlic or spicy sauce. In the unlikely event that you're not down for a bucket of fried chicken, you can also order delicious Korean appetizers like a helping of bulgogi fries, shrimp shumai, or takoyaki. And while fried chicken is certainly what the restaurant is known for, its menu also contains a dazzling array of other main course dishes. From a plate of chicken katsu to japchae, to steaming bibimbap, those who darken the doors of Bonchon will be sure not to leave hungry.

Much to our dismay, though, half of us might have to travel fairly far and wide to try the fried chicken chain. If you can, you'll see why everyone has been thanking Mr. Seo for sharing his take on some deliciously comforting Korean classics.

Fry the Coop

You may have heard of the Luther burger, but did you know that the same sort of donut-for-bun concept exists at the Illinois-based chicken sandwich chain known as Fry the Coop? At any one of its eight Illinois locations, you can order a salty yet sweet Donut Fried Chicken Sandwich, which comes with a good-sized chicken breast topped with pickles and FTC's signature coop sauce. That's all wedged between two flattened glazed donuts for a unique take on the classic sandwich.

Fry the Coop is also well known for its dazzling plate of chicken and waffles that features giant tenders, its classic Spicy Honey Butter, and heaps of maple syrup. It's all served atop a fluffy housemade waffle infused with pearl sugar to make the meal even sweeter. Similar to its other quirky chicken chain counterparts, diners at Fry the Coop can choose from a scale of heat levels to infuse into their chicken breast or tenders. Beginning with Country and Mild, and ending with Crazy and Insanity — with ominous subheaders of "Call 911" and "R.I.P." — you can choose the amount of pain you'll endure as you enjoy your meal.

Whatever your spice threshold may be, many can agree that fried chicken tastes much better between donuts or atop a fluffy waffle. If you're a fan of salty-sweet crossovers, you'd better hope and pray that Fry the Coop expands its franchise outside the suburbs of Chicago.


Residing in over 300 locations mostly in the American South, many might claim that Bojangles' is the epitome of the Southern fried chicken fast food experience. With a litany of regional sides to back this claim up — we're talking Cajun pinto beans, a Southern biscuits and gravy combo, and a warm bucket of dirty rice — those who are lucky enough to visit one of the Bojangles' current locations in 17 states can experience the delicious flavors of these fixin's from the South.

With options like a chicken dinner served on a bun, in a bucket, or between two biscuits, those who dine at Bojangles' can certainly bask in the delight of good chicken. While many of its other chicken chain counterparts rely on trendy marketing gimmicks and quirky toppings to keep their business afloat, Bojangles' isn't much more than your basic Southern fast food. But these simple yet tasty meals are precisely why it stands out so brilliantly amidst the competition.

Don't get us wrong, as we still think that taking a trip to the newest Instagram-worthy fried chicken sandwich joint is always a good time. But sometimes all you really need is fried chicken, plain and simple. No games, no fluff — just good Southern food.


If you're in Houston, you're in luck — not just because H-Town is home to some of the best food in the country, but also because Houstonians have the privilege of living near all 11 locations of the deeply historic Frenchy's Chicken.

Brought to you by Percy "Frenchy" Creuzot Jr. beginning in 1969, Frenchy's brings you not only crispy fried chicken but a vast array of Louisiana classics. From boudin balls with a sweet chili sauce to a shrimp lover's platter that comes with a side of dirty rice, Frenchy's will satisfy all your Creole cravings, and not just ones that involve chicken — though you can find plenty of that on the menu, too.

Whether you're only hungry enough for a two-piece chicken meal or you're ready to tackle a four-piece feast, a Frenchy's chicken dinner consists of light or dark meat chicken, your choice of side (fries, collard greens, dirty rice, red beans, mashed potatoes, you name it) along with a slice of bread and pepper on the side.

However you may choose to tackle your Frenchy's dining experience, it is simply unfair that only those in Houston can currently visit the delicious soul food comfort spot. We are optimistic, though, that someday the franchise will find itself a bit further from home. Perhaps it will branch out within Texas or — if we're really lucky — will pop up throughout the country.

Chicken N Pickle

While pickles are a welcome addition to just about any chicken sandwich, the pickle in Chicken N Pickle doesn't refer to a fermented cucumber, but rather what many have deemed the fastest-growing sport in the nation. Yes, that's right. At one of its locations, you can take your pickleball games to this trendy new restaurant where you can also enjoy delicious sandwiches and snacks between matches.

From pickleball courts to a green space that's filled with all sorts of games — like cornhole, giant Battleship, and shuffleboard — the restaurant specializing in everyone's favorite giant ping pong-mini tennis sport is all about having a good time with some good food.

Similar to Top Golf or Dave & Buster's, the purpose of dining at Chicken N Pickle isn't necessarily to eat the best meal you've ever had in your life, but more so for enjoying the vibes. While it does have some great-looking fried chicken options (who doesn't want chicken and waffles or an NKC hot chicken sandwich?) it's important to keep in mind that, if you're looking for an exquisite culinary experience, Chicken N Pickle may not be the exact place. But if you want some tasty food with a side of pickleball and lawn games, this chain is a go. Either way, the fried chicken-pickleball mashup is the duo we didn't know we needed until now — and we hope that Chicken N Pickle will continue to expand in the coming years.

Slim Chickens

Though you may think chicken is the star of the Slim Chickens show, its dazzling dessert menu is actually what catches our eye. With a vast array of "Slim's Sweets," you can choose from four milkshake flavors, a chocolate brownie, and — our personal favorite — a variety of desserts that are served in a jar. From chocolate brownie pudding to strawberry and Oreo cheesecake, you can expand your dessert palate as you try some of your favorite sweets packaged in a fun new form.

While a dessert menu consisting of sweet treats in a jar is noteworthy in itself, we would be remiss not to mention all the sandwiches, tenders, wings, and wraps offered at Slim Chickens as well. Serving goodies like a cayenne ranch chicken sandwich, tenders, and wings smothered in one of its 17 sauce choices, chicken and waffles, and a smokey cheddar wrap, Slim Chickens offers all your classic fried chicken necessities. This all comes along with some classic Southern sides, of course.

Though this beloved chain can be found in over 30 states, particularly in the southeastern region, as well as the U.K. and Kuwait, it's not everywhere just yet. We have our fingers tightly crossed that Slim Chickens will eventually make its way throughout the rest of the U.S. and far beyond.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken

When it comes to classic Tennessee-style Southern chicken, the generally accepted rule is this: Nashville is the home of the best spicy chicken, while Memphis takes the cake for the barbequed stuff. But even though practically everyone knows of the famous Nashville hot chicken, a not-so-secret contender for best Tennessee fried chicken can be found at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken.

Though the restaurant only technically opened under the name "Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken" in 1984, the fried chicken that makes Gus's so beloved actually dates back some 60 years. During its conception, the power of its signature hot & spicy fried chicken was enough to transcend serious conflict, bringing communities from all walks of life together through crispy, juicy chicken.

And what's better than fried chicken at Gus's? Well, a healthy serving of fried vegetables to go with it, such as fried green tomatoes, pickle spears, and classic Southern-style fried okra, of course. Take your pick of crunchy veggies alongside your classic spicy bird in over 30 branches of this restaurant that have popped up across the U.S. After just one visit to Gus's, we're sure you'll be saying thank you to Memphis for not keeping Gus's all to itself.


A more casual spinoff of the popular Momofuku founded by chef David Chang, Fuku is an Asian-inspired chicken sandwich chain that serves all of your favorite fried chicken specialties, as well as wings, nuggets, jumbo tenders, and more. With garnishings like sweet and spicy sauce, a gochugaru and garlic spice rub, and a sweet jalapeño fry seasoning, Fuku offers some unique twists and turns that you can't find at your run-of-the-mill chicken sandwich restaurant.

Fuku's sandwiches are the Asian fusion you didn't know you needed. You can find them not only at the Fuku restaurant, but also in various stadiums and arenas throughout Florida, California, New York, and D.C. Try the world-famous Fuku Knockout Sando at Madison Square Garden while you enjoy a concert — or at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Palm Springs while you take in a match of tennis.

Whether you choose to eat your Fuku casually at a restaurant or while listening to live music, you won't want to miss out on such an appetizing and unique menu. Unfortunately, those of us located outside of Fuku's reach will have to go another day without a Fuku chicken sandwich — for now.


Fried chicken and funnel cake? We are convinced that fast food doesn't get much better than this. While it's common to find such a combo within the confines of a fair or theme park, Zaxby's offers this dynamic duo without making you pay an outrageous entrance fee or wait in lines from sun up to sun down.

With locations in 19 U.S. states and territories, Zaxby's brings us many classic fried chicken favorites, plus some fun fried sides to go along with it all. Order a helping of fried white cheddar bites, fried pickles, or a basket of loaded fries with chicken, bacon, and ranch dressing. If you're feeling a bit more calorie-conscious, Zaxby's grilled chicken sandwich is a great alternative — though nothing can replace the delicious outer coating of crispy fried chicken, trust us.

Whatever your Zaxby's order may be, we hope you may one day be fortunate enough to live near one, at least while its summertime funnel cake is still on the menu.