Where To Go When You Want A Really Good Roast Chicken

At these 11 restaurants, the chicken isn’t just the safe order when your S.O.’s parents are paying.
Where To Go When You Want A Really Good Roast Chicken image

photo credit: Francesco Tonelli

When you ask someone who ordered the roast chicken how their food is, the most common response goes something like, “You know, it’s chicken.” Even when it isn’t overcooked and dry as is very often the case, it’s usually as banal as Paul Rudd performances and wedding hashtags. But that’s not the bird’s fault. Chicken has the potential to be fantastic - you just need to know where to look. At the 11 places on this guide, chicken isn’t just a token offering for boring eaters - it’s something you’ll still be thinking about the next day, week, or year. These are the best roast chicken dishes in New York City.

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Ordering chicken at St Anselm sounds like the equivalent of going to Bora Bora and spending all your time at the hotel pool. After all, this Williamsburg steakhouse serves the best $28 steak in the city, and the poultry section of the menu only has one option. But that one dish needs to be on your table. The BoBo chicken is brined in sweet tea, and once you crack the skin, the juices seep out like they overstayed their welcome. Just know that it’s served as a whole bird (feet and head included), which might turn off anyone who thinks the timeline of meat begins when it’s unpackaged.

Chicken is a humble bird, and while it can get dolled up with truffles and hold its own in high-society, it’s often best when it’s not tampered with too much. That’s why even though we really like the chicken at Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe, we prefer the rotisserie chicken from Daily Provisions - that restaurant group’s counter-service spot in Gramercy. The juicy bird arrives on your plate with nothing but a little cup of jus, and while it doesn’t need anything else, you should add a side of mashed potatoes if you dine-in, or crispy brussels sprouts if you opt for takeout.

If more places had to name themselves after the quality of their chicken, there’d probably be an uptick in the number of quality birds in this city. After all, nobody would be excited to go to “Overpriced Chicken” in Flatiron or “Chicken So Dry You’ll Want To Add Ketchup” in Chelsea. But Super Pollo wouldn’t have to change a thing. This Ecuadorian spot in Ridgewood does indeed serve “Super Chicken” and at $14.50 for a perfectly cooked whole roasted bird, it’s about one-eighth the cost of “Overpriced Chicken” in Flatiron.

Along with Julia Child and The Colonel, there aren’t many people in the world of chicken who we’d like to meet as much as Mama Juanita, whose name is all over the Pio Pio menu. Her namesake chicken, which is the focus at all eight locations, is better than almost any rotisserie-style bird in the city. For $10, you get a half chicken with juicy meat and a side of spicy Peruvian green sauce. In case you want to go down the very wise path of chasing chicken with more chicken, you should get the empanadas de pollo, which are stuffed with a shredded version of Mama Juanita’s chicken.

Pheasant is the kind of small neighborhood spot where you’ll want to order “the regular” after your boss asks you to join a 6pm conference call. And your “regular” at this Williamsburg spot should be the chicken. It’s marinated in labneh and mayo (the chicken’s equivalent of a deep tissue massage), and then served with a slightly tart yogurt-based sauce.

The first thing you’ll hear about LaLou is that it’s a natural wine bar, but the food is what makes this casual spot in Prospect Heights useful for everyone. The roast chicken, which has crispy skin and meat that has probably been coated in butter, is served in a deep pool of juices and herbs that become one with the meat. Dip the chicken in the garlic aioli that comes on the side, and you’ll be very happy here whether or not you care about how many sulfites are in your glass.

The chicken at Cookshop is tender, and the skin is covered in salsa verde with lots of herbs. So serving it in a bowl of natural jus is like giving a golden gun to someone who’s already unbeatable in 007. This American spot in Chelsea tends to be a great fallback option because it works for pretty much any situation, but the chicken makes it a place you should seek out.

It shouldn’t be difficult to find someone interested in sharing the whole roast chicken for two with you at The Nomad. Just remind them that between the really tender meat and crispy skin, there’s a layer of foie gras and black truffles. It’s the richest chicken we can think of, and it’s also one of the very best.

The menu at Chirping Chicken is very long, but it’s easier to navigate than a Midwestern interstate. That’s because you’re at this counter-service spot for the chicken. The charcoal broiled bird, which is consistent across all six locations, tastes like it’s been slow-smoked, and it’s the reason this place should be top of mind when you’re looking for an inexpensive but delicious dinner. Get the $11 special that includes a quarter chicken, warm pita, and a side of very good fries.

If you’re only going to focus on two things, then you can’t do much better than chicken and natural wine. That’s why we’re such big fans of The Fly, a casual Bed-Stuy spot where orange wines from Slovenia and chilled red wines from Mexico are served alongside some phenomenal rotisserie chicken - and that’s pretty much it. Get the $32 whole chicken, which has skin so crispy you’ll want to eat pieces of it like potato chips, and juicy meat that you should dip into a side of sour cream-based white sauce.

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