My love for fried chicken extends back to childhood, when my ultimate reward was a two-piece fried chicken meal at Pioneer Chicken or even just a crackling leg from Woolworth at Kahala Mall. Years later, even while going through phases of very healthy eating, I succumbed to the vice of fried chicken. Nothing quite replicates the pleasure of biting into a perfectly crisp, juicy and slightly peppery leg, thigh, breast or wing fresh out of the fryer. So when I had to pick a dish for Nonstop’s Our Top 5 series, I didn’t even ponder.
But I lived away from Hawaii for two decades, so although I do have some longtime, go-to spots, I solicited recommendations from other fried chicken lovers on our team (Grant Shindo, Ed Morita and Melissa Chang), then drove around the island on my quest. My criteria was straightforward. Fried chicken must be juicy and tender, but not overly greasy. It has to be flavorful, yet not gamey or salty. And for me, it’s all about the skin. It’s gotta be crisp, but not over-cooked, with a roasted flavor that has me throwing out any health concerns and devouring every bit of the crunchy goodness.
Here are my five favorites:
No. 5: Ray's Cafe
This Kalihi eatery is probably as close as Honolulu gets to having a greasy spoon, and that in of itself has appeal. A few friends—hardcore fried chicken lovers—swear by this place, and I agree that it's worth heading out to North King and circling the block for street parking to dig into Ray's fresh-out-of-the-fryer chicken. The skin crackles at first bite, and the flavor comes from the chicken itself rather than spices or marination. It's a stripped-down delight that's easy to overindulge in. Here's the $5.95 "mini," more than plenty as you can see.
2033 N. King St.