The Best Chicken in Manila That You Haven't Tried Yet
There are restaurants that are so associated with their bestsellers that they become synonymous with their specialties. Think pizza, you think Kermit (we can all argue about that in our best pizza list). Think Filipino-style spaghetti, you think Jollibee. Think fried chicken, you think, well, Jollibee again. And Max's. And Savory. By now, you have your chicken go-tos, which we enumerated in Manila's Essential Fried Chicken Restaurants, but there is still so much chicken to be eaten in the Metro.
You've nailed the basics, but any true chicken lover knows how to peck around for the less obvious options because the search for the best never ends. We've done just that: taken a deep dive into the deep-fried miracle that is the perfect fried chicken.
Tom Sawyer's Old Fashioned Fried Chicken
Thirty years ago, in pre-McDonald's Philippines, Tom Sawyer was an ultra-popular fast-food chain in Metro Manila. Chef Eli Aurelio used old recipes from 19th-century Mississippi and cooked his chickens to craggy, homespun perfection, naming his work after Mark Twain's poultry-loving hero. The perfectly fried batter is just the right amount of salty, and, more important, it seeps right down to the chicken meat (yes, even the breast).
Congressional Tower Center, Congressional Avenue, Bahay Toro, Project 8, Quezon City; Tiendesitas, Pasig
Every self-respecting Bicolano knows that the good chicken is only as far the nearest Bigg's outlet. Of course, in Bicol, there's a Bigg's around every corner, which makes chicken cravings NBD. Last November, however, the regional favorite finally blessed Manila with its gustatory menu of spaghetti, tenderloin tips, and yes, fried chicken. Where do we even begin? The blond flakes that break apart to reveal moist, succulent meat? The amplified crunch from the perfect frying? The chicken itself? Juicy, salty, with hints of tanginess from the flawless brining? You don't even need gravy, really.
Main Building, SM City Fairview, Novaliches, Quezon City
Tipple & Slaw
They call it K.F.C.—Katipunan Fried Chicken. Tipple & Slaw chef Francis Lim has a way with chicken, creating several iterations of list-topping golden-fried goodness in all of his restaurants through the years. His newest, the K.F.C., however, is earning raves for its spot-on sweetish and salty flair. The secret is in the brine: a leisurely 24-hour soak in a mixture with black tea, which tenderizes it more than flavors it. The K.F.C. comes with chunky mashed potatoes and, for a little something extra, chicken rice.
The Pop-Up, Katipunan, Quezon City
Seven years ago, Kettle opened to Instagram acclaim. Its Angus roast beef hash and pork and potato strips filled everyone's feed and, more important, they tasted amazing, too. Kettle has mellowed through the years, but one thing remains, its fried chicken continues to hold a standard that's nothing short of amazing: two boneless pieces, each the size of a brick, drowned for 24 hours in a buttermilk marinade to coax tenderness and flavor. They're then dipped in batter and lathered in spices before bathing further in golden oil till they become golden fried themselves. They're slightly greasy, but the easy solution is to mop everything up with the cornbread.
Kettle's sister restaurant, Fireside, has stellar fried chicken, too.
Level 5, East Wing, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong; SM Aura Premier, Taguig
When you have "burgers" in your storefront, everything that's not a burger on the menu takes a backseat. 8Cuts' Heavyweight Fried Chicken, however, tries to pull you away from the sandwiches and into a new experience of crispy fried glory. The incredible crunch it makes when you slice (okay, bite) into it is deceiving because the batter's actually pretty thin, giving way to the perfectly tasty meat.
Mimi & Bros.
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This underrated restaurant maxes out everything they can do with fried chicken. It has chicken fingers, glazed chicken wings, and chicken in quarter, half, and whole portions. There's fried chicken in the salad, in the pizza, in a sandwich. This place is all about dunking poultry in oil until it becomes a crackling, flavorful masterpiece. In one iteration, its gilded coating is even dressed in luxurious truffle butter and honey.
Crossroads, 32nd Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Like Japan, Korea has its own fried chicken culture and in Manila, you'll see it exemplified in Big Mama, with its delectable pieces ideal for enjoying with your hands. Get it plain, get it glazed. It doesn't matter. You'll be coming back either way.
Azotea De Bel-Air Condominium Building, 5768 Polaris Street, Makati; 179 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque; Renaissance Plaza Compound, Pasig
Nono's homestyle fried chicken is Baba Benedicto's homage to her father (who also inspired chocolate cake favorite Nono's Chocolate Oblivion). Boneless because nothing should get in the way of your enjoying, each luscious bite opens with a deafeningly loud crunch. More impressive is how this chicken flaunts a faultless formula of seasoning and technique. There's no brine involved.
Often an overlooked food court staple, Kipp's has been working the fryers since 1981. With a promise to create a chicken so flavorful that sauce becomes superfluous, Kipps has larger-than-average chicken pieces that are blanketed by a thick batter. It's no issue, the batter is so flavorful, you'll want more of it.
SM Megamall, Mandaluyong; SM Southmall, Parañaque