It’s the aroma that first snags you—that lush wave pulsing with hot fat, peppery spices and sizzling meat. It shoots through the olfactory nerves to the gustatory niches of the brain, yanking the tummy into full alert.
The sight is what does you in, though. When that mound of Southern fried chicken is before you, everything else falls away and life becomes a singular matter of satisfying your craving. The initial crunch, the release of grease on the tongue, the bloom of heat and spice on the palate and the burst of moistness as the teeth tear tender meat from bone, well, it’s nothing short of gastronomic heaven.
Thanks to South Carolina chefs and talented cooks who have mastered the art of fried chicken, this delectable drama plays out every day in restaurants and dining rooms across the state.
Ready to discover the best fried chicken ever? Here’s a sampling of South Carolina restaurants, dedicated chicken shacks and other operations famous for their Southern fried chicken finesse.
Annie O's, Hilton Head: Fried chicken and Nashville hot fried chicken draw the poultry loving crowds to Annie O's, where the chicken is fresh and all-natural.
Bernie’s, Columbia: Since 1979, Bernie’s has been serving its broasted version of juicy, non-greasy fried chicken and luring customers with the tagline: “Come try my chicken!”
Biddie Banquet, Orangeburg: Make no bones about it, this modest operation is a hotspot for fresh-from-the-fryer, fried chicken goodness.
Chicken Place, Johnston: Great things happen in the kitchen here, where the fried chicken poses a serious threat to Grandma’s recipe.
Drake’s Duck-in, Columbia: Serving the capital city’s hungry since 1907, Drake’s is a true institution. The fried chicken is legendary, too, fried up fresh to order and served piping hot.
Fayz at the Lake, Manning: Located on the shores of Lake Marion, this homey café serves up a hefty fried chicken dinner with four pieces of crusty perfection.
Joe's Grill featuring Jewel’s Deluxe, Darlington: Lightly battered, freshly fried chicken has long been the menu pinnacle at Jewel's. In 2023, the beloved Darlington cafe moved operations and joined forces with another local favorite, Joe's Grill - same great fried chicken, different setting.
Jimmy B’s, Marion: Ask anyone in Marion where to find the best fried chicken and they’ll point the way to this hidden hub of Southern comfort food.
Little Howie's, Aiken and Bamberg: Don’t let the humble appearance fool you. Little Howie’s draws fried chicken fans and keeps them coming back for more.
OJ’s Diner, Easley and Greenville: This pair of family-run diners has found much favor with its made-from-scratch dishes, including a time-honored recipe for fried chicken.
Pickled Cucumber, Conway: Fried chicken holds top position on the menu at this bustling meat-and-three—and customers like it that way.
Shrimp Boat, Rock Hill: Forget the name, this is the place where locals go for fried chicken. Marinated in a secret blend before it is battered and fried, the dish is so popular at both locations that their tagline is: “Ain’t no chicken like Shrimp Boat chicken!”
Steak House Cafeteria, Walhalla: Though T-bones were the signature dish when it opened in 1973, Steak House Cafeteria has made a name for itself as the home of the “Arabian Chicken,” its much-lauded recipe for fried chicken. If you get lost, just ask for the “Chicken House” and a local will direct you there.
Sunrise Drive-in, Florence: Florentines still swear by the fried chicken at this iconic restaurant, which operated as a drive-in eatery back in the day. This classic fried chicken is prepared when ordered, but it’s totally worth the wait.
Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken, Hartsville: For more than four decades, this last-man-standing of the once-burgeoning franchise has held firmly to its spot as the favorite fried chicken shack in the Pee Dee. The hint of honey and secret spices in the batter make this broasted chicken stand out from all the rest.
Zesto, Columbia: Tailgaters and hungry folk, in general, consider Zesto to be the fried chicken capital of the capital. Broasted and lightly seasoned, it’s always hot and ready whether you want a snack or a bucket.