Don’t let fried chicken in Portland fly under your radar. For a city that was once known to “put a bird on it,” or where you might ask your server the exact origin of your farm-to-table chicken (both scenarios lampooned on the satirical “Portlandia”), Portland is ready to spread its wings and embrace itself as a fried chicken destination.
The city has long been home to the wildly popular Screen Door on East Burnside Street, where brunch lovers wait hours to try chicken and waffles. If you want to skip the line at Screen Door, there’s no lack of fried chicken restaurants waiting to be your new favorite. (Screen Door even has a second, larger location these days.) From Thai-style wings served with sticky rice to succulent Southern-fried drumsticks in a basket with Jojo potatoes, diners won’t ever feel cooped up with all the choice chicken spots in Portland.
Find Fried Chicken in Portland
LoRell’s Chicken Shack
Nestled in the Rose City Food Park pod on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, LoRell’s Chicken Shack serves up Chicago-styled fried chicken you won’t find anywhere else in town. Those from the Windy City will instantly recognize the fried chicken drizzled with mild sauce — a blend of BBQ sauce, ketchup, hot sauce and spices — and sprinkled with zesty lemon pepper. The perfectly seasoned fried whole wings basket comes with fries atop a slice of white bread to sop up all of the flavors for your own DIY sandwich. I love gnawing on a wing, but if you’re in the mood for chicken breast, don’t sleep on LoRell’s mouthwatering chicken tenders. Influenced by the Chicago establishment, Harold’s Chicken Shack, LoRell’s brings a little bit of the Midwest to the PNW.
Drawing inspiration from the vibrant street food of Southern Thailand — like the fried chicken stalls — and humble curry and roti shops found near the Malaysian border, Hat Yai offers a chicken, curry and roti set packed with sublimely balanced flavors. Topped with fried shallots, the crispy fried chicken makes so much sense alongside the fragrant sticky rice and rich tomato-based curry. You can’t go wrong by tearing off a piece of chicken and wrapping it in a fluffy piece of roti bread before dipping it into the curry for the perfect bite. Wash it all down with a creamy and refreshing coconut mango horchata (which can be made with rum, too!). Do yourself a favor and experience these vibrant flavors at either of their two locations in Central Eastside and Northeast Portland.
Korean fried chicken (the other KFC) has long been popular in Asian American enclaves across the country, and Portland is lucky to harbor some great sources. Twozone, a popular chain in South Korea, has landed stateside with its wings and drumsticks at locations in Northwest Portland and North Williams. Their mouthwatering chicken is double-fried for maximum crispy crunchiness — then coated in a selection of sauces like honey butter or bulgogi (the sweetly smoky go-to sauce for Korean BBQ). My favorite is the classic soy garlic glaze with its subtle honeyed flavors. If you want a deep-fried snack with your chicken, get a Korean corn dog dipped in crunchy panko batter.
Every bite into a Jojo fried chicken sandwich is a little bit of chicken heaven. With a tangy mix of coleslaw and pickles layered with the creamy Jojo sauce and juicy Southern-fried chicken breast on a butter bun — this is a sandwich worth traveling for. Sides like the classic loaded Jojos and fried Brussels sprouts are share-worthy. Named after hearty potato wedges and known for their wacky social media presence, Jojo gained popularity as a food truck (still operating in Southeast Portland). Now, with a brick-and-mortar location in the swankier Pearl District, diners can wash down their chicken with a drink from the full bar and treat themselves to dessert from the pastry case. Fried chicken lovers can bring vegan friends along since Jojo has a vegan menu with fried tofu sandwiches at both locations.
Reel M Inn
Some people might describe the nautical-themed Reel M Inn as a dive bar, but I know it as a Southeast Portland institution. The secret to enjoying fried chicken at Reel M Inn is to bring your appetite and your patience, since the crew behind the beloved bar is working with one tiny deep fryer to bring you some of the best fried chicken in town. Depending on when you get your order in, it could take up to two hours for your chicken basket. The half-bird meal — with breast, thigh, leg, wing and four Jojos — is worth the wait and more than enough for two to share. Each succulent Southern-fried piece comes piping hot (just out of their tiny but mighty fryer) and juicy without being oily. You’ll have the choice of a couple of sauces for chicken dipping. The house ranch is a classic, and the sweet chili sauce is an unexpected delight. Grab a beer, play a round of pool, put a few dollars in the jukebox, and before you know it, you’ll be chowing down.
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