Summer Guide: Click Here for Fried Chicken

Despite one ominous sign of the fried-bird apocalypse, plenty of places still deliver the original recipe.

This past April, Kentucky Fried Chicken effectively declared war on itself by introducing a new product, Kentucky Grilled Chicken, to the world. As if that weren't shocking enough, KFC declared April 27 "UNFry Day," during which it offered customers a free piece of KGC, touting it as a far healthier option than its signature brand.Thankfully, as KFC works to disavow its original recipe, others have filled the void. One unique establishment is Endolyne Joe's (9261 45th Ave. S.W.) which, due largely to its location south of the Fauntleroy ferry dock in a tucked-away corner of West Seattle, is the best-kept secret in the Chow Foods empire. Joe's, as do other affiliates in the moderately-priced local chain, offers rotating regional fare alongside its American menu. This month, that region is Argentina, and atop the list of entrées is a dish called Pollo Napolitana.As Joe's affable bartender, Jake, observed while explaining the dish, it's akin to a "bone-in chicken parmesan," served with gnocchi and asparagus over a tangy bed of marinara sauce. The highlight, however, is the layer of prosciutto that's fried in with the skin. It makes what would already be a solid fried bird—and Joe's has a solid fried bird on its permanent menu—a truly special, inventive take on a classic.Nearly as inventive, and even less expected, is the fried chicken at Quick Pack Food Mart (2616 S. Jackson St.) on the corner of MLK and Jackson in the Central District. Most grocery-store deli-case fried chicken isn't very good, and most mini-mart fried chicken is even worse. But Quick Pack fries one of the top 10 birds in the city, due mainly to a homemade East African–influenced spice rub, the components of which the owners refuse to divulge.Also breaking the shelved-aisle mold are two supermarkets: Albertson's (several locations, including two in the greater White Center area) and Marketime (4416 Fremont Ave. N.). Standing in sharp contrast to KFC, Albertson's delis are all about fried chicken. The bird is consistently moist, piping hot, and served in large-enough quantities (500 pieces, anyone?) to accommodate church picnics.Meanwhile, in what may be the most laid-back little grocery store in Seattle history, Marketime's bird ranks somewhere between lackluster deli-case chicken and the maximum overdrive of Albertson's. But what'll really catch the hungriest of eyes is Marketime's jalapeno cheese-infused corn dog, which comes off as impressively subtle when the potential for the jalapeno to overwhelm all other flavors is palpable.And now for a word about the Ezell's bird (multiple locations, including Skyway and the Central District original across from Garfield High), utterly deserving of all the plaudits that have been showered upon it by Oprah Winfrey and company over the years. But you already know that. What you might not be familiar with are the jumbo thighs at Chicken Valley, located just to the north of the fish-throwers in Pike Place Market's main arcade. Jumbo fried chicken in a farmers market known for its fresh seafood and produce? Yeah, it's a little weird. But the jumbo thighs (we don't really want to know why they're so big) are more than a little good—and the proprietors clearly get something that most chicken-hawkers don't: The thigh is the finest, most underrated part of a chicken to devour. Plus, they're cheap—$1.50 apiece—and so big that even the most voracious muncher will be cooked after two.But back to KFC: If they were truly interested in courting health nuts without cannibalizing their brand, they'd whip up something along the lines of what SW pro bono photographer (and my betrothed) Li'l Scoop managed to create in her small kitchen. Inspired by a Cooking Light recipe, Scoop made what the cookbook calls "Cajun oven-fried chicken." Here, she substituted a mixture of low-fat buttermilk, salt-free Creole seasoning, and panko (Japanese bread crumbs) for the skin and the standard breading. The result was a sublime fried-chicken dish, only with 90 percent less fat than usual.Of course, as we were hosting a Filipino friend with a firm appreciation for his native cuisine, we ended up frying the skin in vegetable oil anyway, creating a pork rind–esque appetizer called chicharron. Colonel Sanders, eat your heart out.mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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