Fried chicken is the working-class hero of food. Old fashioned and messy with a soul that cuts right to the bone, fried chicken is a food that requires elbows on the table, a willingness to get greasy and a shameless enthusiasm for shunning oppressive utensils.
With deep-south roots, the iconic fried bird has migrated north into burgeoning food scenes across all regions. But here on Long Island, fried chicken is a long-established staple and the island’s purveyors of this deceptively simple food say the scene is finally catching up with the warming, comfort-food truth: fried chicken, in all it’s dredged glory, is a quintessential dish of pure Americana.
In this issue of Long Island Weekly, we journey into the heart of the American spirit—and there, unsurprisingly, we find fried chicken.
221 Old Country Rd., Carle Place; 516-742-0940
Any search for a little soul-food flair on Long Island must begin with a stop at the incomparable LL Dent on Old Country Road in Carle Place. Listening to chef Leisa Dent proudly tout her culinary techniques while sitting down for a meal in this cozy eatery is worth the price of admission alone—add the southern flavors and what you have is one of the island’s best dining experiences from soup to nuts. LL Dent’s fried chicken is built on a solid foundation of tradition, with the chef’s own style shining through in a crisp smack of sage, rosemary and thyme. This proprietary blend of seasonings provides depth, with the chef’s honey, jalapeño and habanero concoction—dubbed “Sweet Jesus Sauce”—kicking in a shot of sweet-spicy vigor. Sauce aside, LL Dent offers perhaps the most authentic fried chicken experience on the island, with the bird’s unadulterated juiciness leaving eaters licking fingers, chops and everything else.
225 W. Main St., Riverhead 631-727-2781
501 Station Rd., Bellport 631-286-2755
Spicy’s calls itself a barbecue restaurant, but honestly, the main draw to this converted diner (the Riverhead location) is the mountain of fried chicken resting comfortably on the counter. Rather than cut its chicken into manageable pieces, Spicy’s splits its birds in two and deep fries entire halves—forcing the eater to let their animal instincts take over as they tear into crunchy skin and steaming hot meat. The chicken’s breading consists of a spicy dusting of seasoning and its served with a side of Spicy’s phenomenal, game changing, house made mustard-based barbecue sauce. Also, the wings are so seductive, consider ordering a batch as a side dish to your half of fried chicken.
476 Maple Ave., Westbury 516-334-2220
“Don’t cook tonight, call Chicken Delight” is the tag line of this once-nationwide powerhouse in the world of fried chicken franchises. Chicken Delight numbers have dwindled, but luckily one stronghold remains on Westbury’s Maple Avenue. The insanely crispy and surprisingly grease-free chicken at Delight is not only a local favorite, but also lures outsiders who remember those colorful buckets of chicken and crave a taste of simpler times on the island. The secret to Chicken Delight’s grease-free zone is an initial high-frying temperature that seals the chicken and prevents oil absorption. Then, the fryer is turned down and the chicken is allowed to finish at a mellow temperature.
145 Levittown Pkwy., Hicksville 516-939-2244
There are countless eateries lining busy Old Country Road, but Chicken Sensation gives eaters cause to veer off and shoot down Levittown Parkway in Hicksville. The massive menu is packed with chicken, ribs, seafood, sandwiches and Italian specialties—but the place is called Chicken Sensation for a reason. The chicken is plump, piping hot out of the fryer and exceptionally juicy—but it is not over seasoned, allowing the flavor of the chicken itself to win new customers and keep the regulars coming back for more. With only a walk-up counter and no tables, Chicken Sensation is an impeccable take-out option and the staff’s demeanor is just as inviting as the flavors.
519 Fulton Ave., Hempstead 516-483-0936
Forget about those childhood fears your parents fed you about traveling into this section of Hempstead. The neighborhood, while not the greatest in terms of comfort and approachability, boasts character and one of the top fried chicken joints on Long Island. Simply put, Wings ‘n Things serves tasty chicken deep fried in fat with a saltiness that brings you one step closer to addiction with each bite. Each crispy bite sings an artery-clogging tune and that’s OK—there is no pretense at Wings ‘n Things, only top-flight chicken that far exceeds the trappings of national fast food options.