Chicken—and mainly fried chicken—is a staple comfort food. So much so that we ascribe supernatural, wholly ineffable labels to it, like “soul food.” It warms the cockles, keeps your mind off the heat and transports you through time and space via memory. Mom’s homemade fried chicken always tastes the best, but in case your mom isn’t available, Southern hospitality is alive and well in Sacramento. These establishments take all sorts of approaches to frying up that famous flightless fowl. Fried chicken is a tradition as old as ancient Egypt and Africa. That’s a lot of time to perfect the art of frying. Here are five of the best in Sacramento.
The Porch
1815 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 444-2423
www.theporchrestaurantandbar.com

An undisputed champion of the Sacto food scene, this Southern themed eatery has that poultry fried up and available in multiple ways. Get it as a Po’ Boy sammy, a salad, or just get the whole dang bird fried up. Down home sides like gouda grits, Cajun fried okra and hand-cut fries let you know The Porch is doing it right. The drink menu is meant for pairing, so grab that mint julep, and get to eatin.’

The Empress Tavern
1013 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 476-3356
empresstavern.com

Located smack dab under the Crest Theater, the Empress is making waves with its eclectic food and drink menu. The Empress Hot Fried Chicken dares you to push the buck. This place only has one dish, but it comes in a variety of shades: medium hot, hot and extra hot. There is no mild, so check your moderation at the door. This spot takes an old recipe and makes it kick.

Related: Best Places For Chicken and Waffles

Chicken n Waffles
2961 Advantage Way
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 285-9039
www.facebook.com/Chicken-N-Waffles

If you’re looking for an excuse to visit your crazy uncle in the Natomas suburbs, do not forget to hit up Chicken n Waffles. Meant as a faux diner, this place is modernized and clean, with a friendly staff. Have breakfast any time of day (7 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and no one will think anything of it. No dirty looks, just fried chicken . . . and waffles (there’s other stuff, too – no worries).

South
2005 11th St.
Sacramento, CA 95818
(916) 382-9722
weheartfriedchicken.com

A downtown joint does what it says, and says what it does. This re-invented Southern cuisine restaurant has chicken front and center. They spice their batter with the tradition and spice of the region, and owners N’Gina and Ian Kavookjian bring what they describe as 200 years of family traditions to your table. We should be so lucky. It’s soul food taken to the next level. Know how it started, know where it’s done right.

Tori’s Place
1525 Grand Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95838
(916) 646-6038

This Del Paso place is so cool, it doesn’t even have a website. But Tori’s is on the lips (and tongues) of any Sacramento fried chicken loving connoisseur. The menu is hugely Southern, with every fixing imaginable, and price changes scribbled in black pen. These guys function on one idea: Good chicken. It’s a down home-style kitchen, where all you need to bring is your appetite.

Related: Best Southern-Style Bars in Sacramento

Christopher Millard is a freelance writer and cultural critic whose music reviews can be found on Examiner.com. He also works as a publicist for Valence Communications Group and is a contributor to the health and wellness magazine, Hybrid. Chris currently resides in Sacramento, California.