10 Fried and True Chicken Dishes in Vancouver

Wings. Karaage. Chicken and waffles. No matter how you like it, these 10 restaurants are serving up fried chicken that's finger-licking good

Fry-fry chicky-chick!

The fine folk of Portlandia had it right: want to make something better? Put a bird on it! Preferably a battered and fried one, because, damn!—there’s nothing so wonderful as fried chicken. Everyone has their favourite, whether it’s chicken and waffles or a killer bowl of wings, so we decided to take on the challenge of nailing down the 10 most delicious fried chicken dishes in town. As ever, stretchy pants are recommended. And a whole heap of napkins too. Things are about to get finger-licking good.

Click through for the 10 tastiest fried chicken dishes in town…

Fried chicken wings at Pidgin, 350 Carrall Street

It’s gotten to the point that I barely need to put an order in now when I head to Pidgin for their happy hour, because why wouldn’t I want a sizzling hot bowl of these beauties? They rise above the humble wing thanks to being brined for 24 hours in buttermilk with Asian spices and then dredged with potato starchso yes, all y’all gluten-dodging types can feast too. Then they’re deep-fried and finished with a gochujang based-BBQ sauce, deliciously comforting in a hot-sweet-spicy way with a hit of peppery heat, and then the sweet soft crunch of the potato starch which gets all puffed up and popcorn-y in the fryer. Add to that, the chicken you’re eating is ethically raised from the good folks at Two Rivers. Oh! And swear to God, while I was there, one of Pidgin’s neighbours came by and loudly announced at the door, ‘I NEED WINGS!’. Buddy, I feel you.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Zabu soy original at Zabu Chicken, 1735 Robson Street

Just as sure as the sun follows rain, so too will a trip to Fantacity Karaoke to rock my best Taylor Swift be followed by stuffing my face at Zabu in their dark room on Robson, accompanied by blasts of K-Pop from the many screens on the walls. Oh man, how I love the Korean fried chicken at Zabu! It’s pretty much as good as fried chicken gets: triple-fried and then hand-brushed with a sweet honey-soy garlic-y glaze. I go for the soy original, one of the city’s best deals, just $19.99 for a whole chicken butchered down into pieces and served with a side of tangy dressed coleslaw and tongue-tinglingly sour pickled radishes. It’s absolutely worth the queue, so give into your late night cravings and embrace the sticky finger-sucking joy of Zabu.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Chicken in a bucket at Score on Davie, 1262 Davie Street

As a rule, if your food is arriving in a bucket, you’re about to dine on deep-fried bad decisions. Not so at Score, that most deceptive of Vancouver spots which, for all intents and purposes looks like a run-of-the-mill sports bar, but actually operates a well-executed dining program with almost everything on the menu made in-house from sustainable, ethically farmed produce. Their chicken in a bucket is 100 per cent gluten- and dairy-free. The batter is incredibly crisp and light, the plump meat juicy with a whisper of heat and spice thanks to being marinated in a Mango Fire hot sauce. Sides include a punchily-hot jalapeño cheddar cornbread, a mountain of crisp fries, a crunchy slaw dressed in a Jack Daniels and grainy Dijon reduction, and an absurdly wonderful mac and cheesebuttery and more comforting than your favourite blankie after a tough day, made with a triple-cheese and beer cream sauce. Add to that a tangy ‘cabin’ sauce, rich with a suggestion of smoke and sweetness and you have the makings of a superb (albeit, bucket-based) feast.

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Crispy fried chicken at Burdock & Co., 2702 Main Street

Burdock & Co’s is possibly the only fried chicken in town you can eat and easily contemplate a walk afterwards (rather than some one-on-one time face down on your couch). Of course chef Andrea Carlson, that accomplished acrobat of of delicate flavour balance, would create a chicken dish which sings with bright tart pickles yet still packs a satisfying heft of crunch and heat. Sliced Two Rivers chicken is brined for two hours then double-dipped in buttermilk and flour and fresh-fried to order. It comes with a scoop of buttery mash, and if you’re sharing, my advice is to bag one of the end pieces with extra crisp bits. Soooooo good!

Deep-fried chicken wings at Phnom Penh, 244 East Georgia Street

For me, it’s all about the dipping sauce here, a tangy acid hit of lemon and pepper which cuts straight through any greasiness from the uber-garlic-y wings served up at this family-style Vietnamese restaurant, whose fried wings have achieved cult status in the city. Crunchy with a thin batter, sweet and salty these are the perfect start to any night out in Chinatown. My only regret is that they close pretty early (9 or 10 p.m.) as I bet they’d make the perfect end to any night out too!

(See also: Vancouver’s Best Takeout Mash-ups, featuring Phnom Penh wings)

Credit: Nikki Bayley

Fried chicken at LA Chicken, 11780 Thorpe Road, Richmond

Frankly, you’d have better customer service at 3 a.m. from a bored 20-something serving at an all-night gas station, but we are not at LA Chicken for the service or ambience. No, we are here for the best damn straight-up fried chicken in the city. When I was a little kid, I can vividly recall the first time I was allowed KFC: I’d never tasted anything like it, and sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car, my fingers and face greasy with chicken and salt and spices, I remember thinking that this was the best thing I’d ever eaten! Crisp with a kiss of heat, crunchy and yet oh-so-moist and juicy, I had a positively Proustian ‘a la recherche du ‘fried chicken’ perdu’ moment here. It reminded of the best, most perfect KFC you could ever havea taste I’ve remembered and yearned to have again for decades. So, yeah, it’s in an unlovely part of the city and god help you if you should dare ask to get a cup to drink your pop out of (that’s gonna be a flat-out no), but make the drive out there, it’s worth it.

(See also 10 Tastiest Treats to Eat in Vancouver, featuring LA Chicken)

Karaage at Kingyo Izakaya, 871 Denman Street

West End Izakaya champions Kingyo know how to rock the city’s most bad-ass karaage. These plump soy-sake-soaked pieces of chicken thigh are seasoned with garlic, ginger and seven-spice chili before being tossed in potato starch for puffy crispness. They arrive sizzling hot from the fryer accompanied by a trio of different salts: Himalayan crystal salt, salt from Utah and hakata salt from Ehime, Japan. Squish with lemon if you wish, or do as I do and indulge in a wanton orgy of salt-dipped chicken.

Credit: Joe Fortes

Chicken and Waffles at Joe Fortes, 777 Thurlow Street

Chicken & Waffles is now available for daily lunch! That’s right, it may be gloomy Monday in your heart and on your iCal, but in your mouth it can be a Happy Happy Brunch-Day every day! Whoever first discovered that nothing fits a waffle like a fat ol’ slab of deep-fried chicken truly has my gratitude and respect. I like to think of them stopping by to try Joe Fortes’ version and swooning like the rest of us over their just-right seasoned crispy chicken and fluffy lighter-than-air buttermilk waffles, all suitably slathered in a plate-lickingly wonderful maple brown butter with chili glaze and topped with sage chip sprinkles. And now we don’t have to wait till the weekend to say amen to that.

Credit: Tacofino

Crispy chicken taco at Tacofino, 2327 East Hastings Street and 15 West Cordova Street

Because fried chicken needs to gets its ass into a taco. STAT! This delicious dish from Tacofino gets messy, so have a couple of napkins handy when you dive in. A crisp salty puff of chicken skin and then a satisfying chomp of juicy meat with a bright kick of epazote chimichurri. I loved the tangy cool crunch of pickled slaw and satisfyingly chewy tortilla too.

While I was wolfing it down, my neighbour at the bar looked quizzically over:
“Is that the crispy chicken?”
Mouth full, I mumbled, “Yes”
“Oh, that’s goooood!” he nods and promptly orders one.
This guy is a smart guy. Be like this guy. Go eat a crispy chicken taco today.

Credit: Ramen Gojiro

Karaage Ramen at Ramen Gojiro, 501 Dunsmuir Street

I’m including this as a nod to all the Instagramers out there who worship these piled-high bowls of spicy ramen with ropes of thick noodles topped with crisp chicken karaage at new ramen kids on the block, Ramen Gojiro. Authentically big in Japan, this is the Menya Kouji Group’s first Canadian venture and the queues suggest that the kids dig it. However, maybe I’m not eating it fast enough, maybe I just don’t get it, but broth-soaked soggy fried chicken seems to be missing the point on both sides. Fans tell me that it’s the bomb, and who am I to doubt em? So, have at it, you lovers of wet chicken! Go to it, you crazy damp bird diggers! Me, I’ll have my karaage on the side and keep it crispy.