Fried chicken has been on our minds lately: It's a homey dish suited for family gatherings where platters of crispy, aromatic bird can be passed around a lively table — along with mashed potatoes, gravy, greens and other Southern and Midwestern sides. Whether you like yours with a thick, spicy crust or kept simple to let the juicy meat beneath shine as the star, there are plenty of great options for fried chicken in and around the city. From kitschy kitchens to trendy new stops, here are the ten best plates of fried chicken in metro Denver, listed in alphabetical order.
403 Wilcox Street, Castle Rock
The pan-fried chicken served at Castle Cafe is a damn fine version of the classic, skillet-cooked masterpieces that have kept country folk and city slickers with country-fried tastes fat and happy for generations. Castle Cafe serves its bird on the bone, deconstructed into breasts, legs and thighs, on huge platters alongside good mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and bread (but not cornbread). The crust is crackly and peppery, soaked with grease (in just the right amount) and absolutely delicious in that way that only something done right can be.
16251 East Colfax Avenue, Aurora
If you think Denver has no soul, you haven't been to CoraFaye's, where daily specials like pig-ear sandwiches and neck bones with gravy keep regulars coming back. Fried chicken's on the menu every day, with or without a crimson-colored waffle. The flaky coating is applied lightly, making the tender flesh the star of the plate. CoraFaye's moved from its original home on Colorado Boulevard over to a new location on far East Colfax Avenue, but the chicken is still as finger-licking good as ever.
2779 South Parker Road, Aurora
Aurora is home to a growing range of Korean eateries, including Funny Plus, which specializes in shareable platters of drinking food. A pile of thick-battered bird is the perfect choice to accompany Korean lager or sneaky-strong soju. The regular style tickles the tongue with flecks of spice in the crust, but go for the spicy — if you're not Chicken Little.
Grind Kitchen + Watering Hole
300 Fillmore Street
Chef/owner Preston Phillips draws inspiration from his Alabama roots to add a dash of Dixie to a smart board of good-time bar fare balanced with more sophisticated offerings suitable for Grind's Cherry Creek North setting. The fried chicken is a standout in the subterranean spot; Phillips modeled his recipe after the gas-station bird he remembers from the Deep South, but his is brined and then soaked in buttermilk before being encrusted in a crunchy jacket tinted a rusty hue from generous seasonings. Housemade pickles and a squeeze bottle of buttery wing sauce add just the right heat and tang to the dish.
Lou's Food Bar
1851 West 38th Avenue
Frank Bonanno was the first to bring Nashville hot chicken to Denver, serving up a messy but mouthwatering version at his Sunnyside eatery that relies on flame-red chile oil for its heat. But if mild's your thing, fear not: The kitchen serves up the bird naked, medium or hot. And on Tuesday nights, twenty bucks will land you a half-chicken, two sides, a cookie bar and a Bud or Bud Light — just in case you need to quench the fire.
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The Post Brewing Co.
105 West Emma Street, Lafayette
Jamey Fader, culinary director of Big Red F, admits to getting "geeky on chicken," traveling around the country and coming home with a spreadsheet of variables — brines, flours, etc. — for testing recipes, until he and chef-partner Brett Smith and Big Red F founder Dave Query hit upon the winning combination for the place they opened in 2014 in a former VFW post. The result: chicken that's consistently moist, with a shell that gets its addictiveness from buttermilk, gluten-free seasoned flour, and a resting period that allows the coating to lose moisture so it fries up extra-crisp. Big Red F also runs a year-old Longmont outpost called the Post Chicken and Beer (it recently changed its name from Goodbird Chicken) with the same great recipes, and an upcoming station at 2200 South Broadway in Denver is scheduled for a January opening.
523 East 17th Avenue, 303-830-1001
7355 Ralston Road, Arvada, 303-830-0096
Steuben's specializes in the best food from nearly every region of America, so of course fried chicken is on the menu. And not just any fried chicken: Steuben's gives the same attention to its lightly coated fowl as it does to dead-on gravy fries, green-chile cheeseburgers and lobster rolls. An order of the peppery bird comes with mashed potatoes, a biscuit and gravy — because that's just the way it's done, at both the original Steuben's uptown and the newer Arvada eatery.
Wishbone Family Restaurant
9701 Federal Boulevard, Westminster
If old-fashioned fried chicken is your thing, look no further than the Wishbone; even its "new" location has been around since 1994, and the original Wishbone (at 1630 Federal Boulevard, now long gone) started serving fried chicken in 1963. Simplicity is the key to this family restaurant's recipe. The batter is lightly seasoned and equally lightly applied, so that only a thin, crispy coating stands between your tastebuds and the juicy, flavorful chicken beneath. It's the closest you'll come to homemade without calling up Grandma to have her get a batch started.
White Fence Farm
6263 West Jewell Avenue, Lakewood
Talk about farm to table: This west Denver classic puts your table right on the farm, with views of Henny Penny strutting around the grounds outside — and then served perfectly fried on your plate. Like Casa Bonita, the Farm has become a rite of passage for natives and newcomers alike; the chicken here will always have a place in our hearts and bellies. But since you can't keep ’em down on the farm, White Fence's famous chicken has gone fast-casual, with locations in Green Valley Ranch and Westminster, and at a brand-new Capitol Hill branch, too.
Welton Street Cafe
2736 Welton Street
With so many changes in Five Points, people may think the sky is falling, but the Welton Street Cafe still has your back — and your wings, thighs and breasts, too. This is a homestyle fry, so make sure you have time to sit back with a newspaper or good company while you wait for the cafe's light and crispy chicken served single file atop slices of white bread. This soul-food standby offers all the classic sides, too, so you won't be getting out of here without loosening your belt a notch or two.