Food & Drink

Curious SC asked where to find the best fried chicken in SC, and oh boy, you answered

Editor’s Note: These were the results as of 3:45 p.m., Monday, Feb. 11.

We wanted to try to settle the debate over who has the best fried chicken in South Carolina, and thanks to y’all we might have an answer.

Fried chicken is a Southern delicacy that when you get it right, you’ll be praised for the rest of your life.

Get it wrong? You’ll never be allowed near the skillet again.

Your favorite does depend on where you live. But there were a few outliers as far as fried chicken is concerned.

Even though we let readers pick whatever fried chicken chain they loved, most voted for a large number of local spots. Despite critics raving about Martha Lou’s Kitchen’s fried chicken last year, the Charleston restaurant was only mentioned by a couple of readers on our Facebook pages.

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Instead, what we found from folks in the Lowcountry — Bluffton, Hilton Head, Beaufort and Charleston — to the Midlands, two fried chicken spots from the state’s Midlands topped the list.

The winner? Midlands’ chicken spots

The winner for the best chicken dinner goes to Bernie’s Fried Chicken and burger joint Zesto’s Burgers. According to y’all, even though Zesto’s is known more so for their delicious burgers and ice cream, they also have some of the best chicken tenders and wings in the state.

One respondent said Zesto’s has “good people” and that’s what keeps hungry folks coming back.

Looking at the restaurant’s history, another possible reason for its high rating is inventor L.A.M. Phelan. In the 1950s, when KFC started to surface around America, Phelan developed what’s known as the “broasting” method for making the restaurant’s chicken wings and tenders.

A few might cry Zesto’s isn’t really a “fried chicken” spot due to it being “broasted,” but that didn’t seem to make a difference. The numbers don’t lie on how much people in S.C. love the vintage burger joint, though Columbia’s Bernie’s was one true fried chicken joint who beat it.

According to the votes we tallied from Facebook comments and Google Form respondents, 24.7 percent of S.C. fried chicken fans loved Bernie’s and 21.9 percent favor Zesto’s.

Not only did y’all rave about Zesto’s in the survey and Facebook comments, but the restaurant also received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. This certificate is only earned based on years of great reviews on the site and is usually only rewarded to 10 percent of businesses, according to TripAdvisor.

For Bernie’s, one reader wrote, offers chicken that’s “juicy and crispy” and it also has “the perfect amount of seasoning.”

Honorable Mentions

Of course, there were a number of mentions of a few chain grocery stores, fast food restaurants and even gas stations.

Publix made the listt. A number of Facebook commenters and one survey respondent named the Southern grocery store chain as a great option — with a few other mentions of Popeye’s.

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Facebook screenshot from Beaufort Gazette page

Priscilla Bone called Super Chic’s, now known as Andrews Food Pantry chicken, as being “Slap yo momma good!”

Two other popular options were Bill & Fran’s Restaurant in Newberry and Maryland Fried Chicken in Beaufort.

Fans of Bill & Fran’s also raved about the sides such as hash browns, sweet potato fries, homemade slaw and potato salad.

While Maryland Fried chicken isn’t a South Carolina-born fried chicken joint — sorry Bojangles — a number of Beaufort locals raved about its Beaufort location.

Not surprising, many die-hard Southerners said the best fried chicken comes right out of their own kitchen.

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The State Facebook screenshot

Thanks to everyone who put in the votes. If you have any other questions about South Carolina’s cuisine from its barbecue, seafood to fried chicken, feel free to email

Briana Saunders answers questions about culture, food, and the environment as the Curious S.C. Reporter for McClatchy’s newspapers. She moved to the Lowcountry after studying Journalism at the University of Missouri, where she led a team reporting the arts and culture of Columbia, Mo. at VOX Magazine.