CHARLOTTE, NC (Kathleen Purvis/Charlotte Observer) - Yes, the South has great fried chicken. But I'm going to let you in on a secret: So do a lot of other places.
People all over the world have chickens, hot oil and a talent for bringing them together. To really appreciate fried chicken, I wanted to widen my view, with a world tour of fried chicken here in Charlotte.
Along the way, I discovered some truly righteous versions, including one of the best breakfast platters in the city, hands down. Yes, that's fried chicken for breakfast. The world has it pretty good.
China Wing (Korean): In a former fast-food restaurant on Arrowood Road, owner Min Ae Choi and her family offer an eclectic lineup of American and Chinese food. But it's the Korean menu that draws me. Choi explains that there are two versions of Korean fried chicken – double-fried, like Bonchon, and lightly fried, like hers. Her wings are fried crisp, coated in a honey glaze and tossed with a hot chile sauce. The combination of crisp skin and sweet/hot sauce is messy, but it's the real finger-licking good. 808 E. Arrowood Road, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. $8 for six and $12 for 10.
Bonchon (Korean): Fried chicken is a Korean obsession. The Bonchon chain does a double-fried version, so the crust is thick and just this side of chewy. At lunch, you can get a combo with two long wings (the flat with the wing tip attached as a handle) and four legs. You can pick soy garlic or hot or a combination. Soy garlic is the way to go – it has a little sweetness that's true to the Korean style. 1600 E. Woodlawn Road, 11 a.m.- 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Six-piece combo with one side is $8.95 for lunch. Different combinations available at dinner.
Mama Gee's Carry-Out (West African but mostly Ghanian): You can order fried drumsticks by the piece ($1.50 each), but for the full experience, get Waakye (say it "wah-chee"): Ghanian red rice and field peas, topped with a tangle of spaghetti, a pool of dark red, spicy-hot tomato stew, starchy sweet plantains, a whole boiled egg on a pile of fluffy gari (sort of a cassava couscous), a dab of shito (dark, hot chile paste) and a fried chicken leg on top. The chicken gets coated with the sauce so quickly that issues like crispiness become moot. But eaten all together, it's a powerful combination. 509 Beattie's Ford Road; noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. $10 for the Waakye with chicken.
Punta Cana (Dominican): Chicharron de Pollo is a great discovery. Chef Winston Reyes cuts a thigh/leg quarter into short, bone-in sections, each about the size of a baby's fist with a flap of skin attached, marinates them in garlic, soy sauce, oregano and a little white wine, then fries them to order. The skin gets bubbly-crisp, like a pork rind, while the meat is seasoned, salty and moist, with lots of crags and bits to discover around the bones. Get it as a platter with two sides (sweet fried plantains and yellow rice is a good play). 5230 South Blvd., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Monday. $10.95 for the platter.
Lempira (Honduran): The closest I found to Southern-style fried chicken, with well-salted meat and a crunchy crust. You get two big pieces, white and dark, along with yellow rice, a big pile of tossed salad with red pickled onions and a spicy version of ranch dressing, avocado, tortillas and flavorful/vinegary refried beans. Several locations (5906 South Blvd., 7631 Sharon Lakes Road, 4439 Central Ave., 140 Eastway Drive). $8.50 for fried chicken plate.