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Fried chicken done right!

Just in time for the 4th

Southern Kitchen’s fried chicken wing dinner. Photo credit: Dutch Randall

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If like me, your mom made the best fried chicken in town, then you've become a bit of a snob when it comes to eating this American staple in a restaurant. I spent the last month on a fried chicken pilgrimage to see who, if anyone, could match the culinary frying skills to which I've grown accustomed. Fortunately, the South Sound is flush with plenty of chefs that know their way around a chicken.

At Southern Kitchen in Tacoma, they put the "home" in homestyle cooking. Not only will the staff make you feel at home, the menu will as well. The fried chicken is offered in three different entrees. If you are really hungry, there is a half chicken option with four pieces seasoned in-house and served hot and crispy. More reasonably sized plates are the two-piece or four wings with your choice of two of any of the 10 side options. The crunch is the best part of the chicken here, so I always go for the four wings where I can get maximum texture and flavor for my buck. Add a side of corn and rice with gravy, and you may just forget that you aren't at home. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 1716 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.627.4282,

In true diner fashion, the Martin Way Diner in Olympia is best known for its breakfast dishes, however, at just under $11, the chicken dinner may be the biggest secret in town. Three large pieces are fried to perfection and served with a roll, veggies, and your choice of a baked potato or mashed potatoes with gravy. And if that is not enough, all dinners are served with your choice of soup or salad. This is true Americana on a plate. 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily, 2423 Fourth Ave., Olympia, 360.705.1438,

On the Eastside of Tacoma, Uncle Thurms is well known for the soul food that keeps the masses coming back. Too often, chicken is forgotten on a menu with ribs, catfish and pulled pork. Here, your chicken can join the crowd, either in the Soul Food Medley, which literally has everything on the menu, or my favorite dish that combines ribs and chicken for just $16. Add some rice and beans with cornbread and collard greens and you are sure to be licking every last bit off your fingers. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 3709 S. G St., Tacoma, 253.475.1881, Facebook

Fried chicken shouldn't be limited to a plate with assorted sides, and at Pacific Southern in Tacoma, they created a mashup that has everything you could ask for in your fried chicken. Hidden on the lunch menu is the fried chicken biscuit that boasts two boneless thighs seasoned and fried, placed atop half a biscuit, then smothered in sausage gravy, and topped with the other biscuit half. Served with more fries than the average person could possibly handle, this is fried chicken taken to a whole new level of comfort. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, 3832 S. Pine St., Tacoma, 253.474.9898,

King Solomon's Reef also has a unique take on their fried chicken. In addition to a fried chicken meal complete with mashed potatoes, gravy and a biscuit, a lighter version is available by way of a fried chicken Caesar salad. Yep, you read that correctly -- chicken is removed from the bone and tossed with fresh romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing. And just to keep the fried chicken dinner theme going, the croutons are made from biscuits. This is a surprisingly filling choice that won't leave you feeling like you've eaten the farm. 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., daily, 212 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia, 360.742.3199,

King Solomon’s Reef’s fried chicken caesar salad. Photo credit: Dutch Randall

The only downside I've found to fried chicken is having to work my way around the bone to enjoy every morsel. Ramblin Jacks in Olympia understands the struggle and serves up boneless buttermilk fried chicken alongside mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables. This is also one of the few spots where the chicken comes with white gravy instead of the house standard brown gravy that most places serve. This subtle difference goes a long way for anyone who is picky about their chicken. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily, 520 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, 360.754.8909,

The Harvester in Tacoma is another neighborhood staple that has a few hidden gems on the menu that aren't always as popular as they should be. Under new management, the all-new menu features scratch-made dishes that look as fresh as they taste. One addition I was happy to see on the menu is the chicken and wafflettes. Two generous portions of crisp, flakey boneless white meat chicken tops four mini Belgium waffles, all of which have been dusted with powdered sugar. The boneless fillets make it easy to douse the whole plate in maple syrup and start diving in to all of it just as it was intended. 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 29 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.1193

The Harvester’s chicken and wafflettes. Photo credit: Dutch Randall

If you are a fan of chicken and waffles, but are looking for something just a bit off the normal offerings, Crocketts Public House in Puyallup may have just what you're looking for. Four pieces of seasoned buttermilk fried chicken are partnered with a thick cinnamon waffle. In addition to maple syrup, Louisiana hot sauce comes standard and provides just the kick needed to set this dish apart from all the rest. If you are in need of a hand-held version, the fried chicken sandwich here should not be overlooked either. Served on a brioche roll with rooster sauce and jalapeno coleslaw, this offers another unique take on the traditional chicken. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11a.m. to midnight, Friday; 8 a.m. to midnight, Saturday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 118 E. Stewart Ave., Puyallup, 253.466.3075,

Fast food chains are not normally my go-to for fresh homemade meals, but Ezell's Chicken in Tacoma will convince you that not all fast food is created equal. Whether you prefer boneless or traditional fried chicken, it will be made to order with your choice of original or spicy, so you are guaranteed fresh, juicy chicken with a crispy crunch at every bite. Of all the sides offered, make certain you order some fresh baked rolls to go with your meal ... you can thank me later. 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday; 1902 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.572.4277

There are times where simple is best, and in Lakewood, KKO KKO Place does just that -- only chicken, just in a great many ways. The fried chicken here is lightly seasoned with Korean spices and then deep-fried. You get the full crunch of the skin with a subtle flavor and plenty of moist chicken left on the bone. The fried chicken is available in either wings or a four-piece offering, and comes as is; just a basket of pure delightful chicken. 4 p.m. to midnight, Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday-Saturday, 11113 Pacific Hwy. SW, Lakewood, 253.584.1865,

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