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Although it is a signature dish of the Deep South, fried chicken is known everywhere in the U.S. It is a culturally fluid dish, at home in a rugged truck stop, a folksy town cafe, a demure ladies’ lunch room, and just about every type of casual eatery. By nature, it is not fancy – eating it by hand is de rigueur; and its sleeves-up nature makes it an especially popular food for picnics and large gatherings of family, friends, and community.
Some of the most surprisingly excellent fried chicken is found in gas stations of the South, especially in and around Charlottesville, Virginia, where otherwise ordinary convenience stores vie with each other to make the best. North Carolina is particularly well-endowed with excellent fried chicken, in Charlotte as well as at a legendary shack named Keaton’s down in Statesville.
Two of the nation’s hotbeds of great fried chicken include Indianapolis, where iron-skillet cooking has been perfected and Kansas City and south along Highway 69 (a.k.a. “Chicken Dinner Road”). In both places, it is customary for fried chicken to be part of a large ritual dinner that includes sweet rolls, chicken soup, mashed potatoes, etc.
Available in varying degrees of hot-pepper ferocity, Nashville chicken has gained popularity throughout the country in recent years. Vaguely similar to it, but more about kaleidoscopic spice than four-alarm heat, the fried chicken of Western Kentucky is a genre unto itself.
Most people barely think of wings as fried chicken, but as a food group unto themselves. First popularized in Buffalo, New York, they now are available in an incalculable number of flavors and styles (even boneless and occasionally baked rather than fried). The traditional presentation consists of hot sauce, blue cheese dressing, celery, and carrot sticks.
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