The Fried Chicken Tour

Aug 13, 2019

I am about to make a statement that may ruffle some feathers in a town East of us … but I can say with certainty that Memphis has the best fried chicken in the state of Tennessee.

Credit Jennifer Chandler

This past month, I had the honor of writing a food feature with a talented group of interns at The Commercial Appeal.  Due to time constraints (and a bit of fear of what it would do to our waist lines), we narrowed our fried chicken tour to six establishments.

We started at Jack Pirtle’s Chicken, the 62-year old Memphis-based chain that began with a partnership with Colonel Sanders himself.  The chicken is crispy and mildly seasoned - what owner Tawanda Pirtle calls “the working man’s chicken.”

Then we decided to try the fried chicken at two of Memphis’ top soul food restaurants. 

At Alcenia’s, BJ Chester-Tamayo served us a flavorful, mahogany-hued fried chicken that she had fried to perfection in her grandmother’s cast iron skillet.

The next stop was The Four Way where we enjoyed crispy, made-to-order fried chicken that was prepared just like Ms. Cleaves did when the restaurant opened in the 1940s.

We also checked out new-comer to the Memphis fried chicken game  - Joe’s on Highland where we enjoyed crispy and juicy fried chicken that is flavored with 16 spices. (KFC only uses 11.)

The tour ended with a taste of spicy chicken from both Gus’s and Uncle Lou’s. Both spicy, but prepared in totally different ways.

The verdict. Each fried chicken spot we visited made their own unique signature version of this Southern classic. Each was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, but each had it’s own one-of-a-kind flavor. You can’t go wrong with a visit to any of them!

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Bon Appetit!