Where to Celebrate National Fried Chicken Day in Honolulu
These are our six favorite ways to celebrate the holiday on July 6.
We’re celebrating National Fried Chicken Day tomorrow with—what else?—our favorite fried chicken picks, including this one from Fête in Chinatown.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox
Two days after our national Independence Day holiday on July Fourth is another important anniversary for all Americans to gather and celebrate something else we hold dearest to our hearts (and arteries): delicious golden fried chicken.
Yes, National Fried Chicken Day is a real thing and, yes, you better believe we’re going to celebrate properly. We may not be able to take off work but, thankfully, there are plenty of Hawai‘i restaurants serving incredible fried chicken to help us celebrate.
Below are a few of our favorites. Keep in mind that we’ve restricted this list to just the traditional fried chicken pieces of breasts and legs. Chicken wings are a specialty of their own caliber, from spicy Buffalo wings to crispy oven-baked drumettes, and therefore will be saved for another time (maybe July 29, which happens to be National Chicken Wing Day).
1. Breaded Fried Chicken, Ray’s Café
Photos: James Charisma
Ray’s Café in Kalihi is known for huge portions of incredible dishes. In addition to its big breakfasts, prime rib, lamb chops and crab legs, don’t miss this hole-in-the-wall diner’s breaded fried chicken. With big breasts of tender, white chicken under a crunchy outer shell—plus two scoops rice and mac or tossed salad—it’s a value at $7.50.
$7.50, 2033 N King St., (808) 481-2771
2. Chicken & Waffles, Pancakes & Waffles
This classic soul food entrée is in full form at Pancakes & Waffles in Dillingham’s City Square Shopping Center, where every order comes with three gigantic pieces of fried white-meat chicken served piping hot on a giant waffle. The fried chicken can also come as a plate lunch or à la carte, but when you’ve got the opportunity for waffles, don’t pass it up. Sauce options include brown gravy, white gravy or honey butter; savvy diners will ask for both the honey butter and gravy in little cups on the side to score both flavors.
$12.45, 1284 Kalani St., D100, (808) 847-7770, and 98-1277 Ka‘ahumanu St., Suite 103, ‘Aiea, (808) 200-7556, pancakesandwaffleshawaii.com
3. Spicy (Garlic) Chicken, Side Street Inn
As a Side Street Inn house specialty, the spicy garlic chicken (just called “spicy chicken” at the original Hopaka Street location) may not actually be that spicy, but what it lacks in heat, this dish makes up for in a rich garlicky and sweet Korean chicken-style dressing. The sauce is strong without being overpowering and it doesn’t soften the batter on the chicken to mush. Sweet, slightly tangy, boneless—and perfect for sharing during pau hana beers and pūpū.
$14.50, 1225 Hopaka St., (808) 591-0253, and 614 Kapahulu Ave., #100, (808) 739-3939, sidestreetinn.com
4. Garlic Chicken, Itchy Butt
Chickens come in basically two sizes at Itchy Butt on Ke‘eaumoku Street: half and full. A half order is half a chicken cut up into eight pieces with your choice of marinade, including Korean, garlic, shoyu or green onion. As for the restaurant’s creative title, the story goes that when this mom-and-pop business started, the owners asked the youngest member of the family, little Sylvia (who was 3 years old at the time), to pick a name. She said Itchy Butt. “And my parents rolled with it,” says brother Chris, working the counter. Chris adds that the garlic chicken is one of the eatery’s top sellers. Slightly sweet, sticky and smelling strongly of garlic, the fried chicken comes in a big takeout dish with three deep-fried sticks of mozzarella cheese, mayo corn and crunchy daikon. There’s no seating here, but you can order takeout for potlucks or picnics. (The plate also comes with a can of soda.)
$12.99 for half, $22.92 for whole, 1229 Keʻeaumoku St., (808) 942-4845
5. Twice-Fried Ludovico Chicken, Fête
At $29, Fête’s twice-fried chicken is easily the priciest dish on this list, but it’s also some of the best chicken you’ll find anywhere. Only available for dinner, this is a full meal, with two deep-fried half breasts and two legs on a bed of creamy Charleston grits with a spicy tomato jam and side of collard greens. Locally raised on J. Ludovico Farms near the North Shore, the chicken quality and flavor is outstanding, juicy when you bite into the crispy fried skin. This dish was so good, it warranted a full feature on eater.com’s “Deconstructed” YouTube series. See for yourself here.
$29, 2 N Hotel St., (808) 369-1390, fetehawaii.com
Writer’s Choice: Popeyes’ Meal For Two
I know what you’re thinking: How can a Mainland fast food franchise make this list next to the likes of Hawai‘i mainstays like Side Street Inn and Ray’s Café?
Because this fried chicken is just that good.
Usually when you go for fast food, it’s because you’re specifically hungry for a McDonald’s burger or Taco Bell tacos—not because you’re looking for the fanciest cheeseburger or the most authentic Mexican cuisine. And that’s OK. But Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is different from other fast-food chains in this way because its fried chicken isn’t some commercialized interpretation. It’s actually just amazing fried chicken, as good as what you’d get in most other restaurants.
Order the “meal for two.” You won’t see it on the menu but it’s the best deal in the house for two reasonably hungry people (or one beast): five pieces of fried chicken, two sides and two biscuits for just $10.99. Add a drink for a buck.
$10.99, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, various locations, popeyeshawaii.com
READ MORE STORIES BY JAMES CHARISMA