Located on the corner in the Central District sits a local Seattle legend: Ezell’s Chicken; The shop is humble, it contradicts the rise of chic cafes and flashy fusion restaurants that are recently springing up around Capitol Hill and surrounding neighborhoods.
Freshly fried chicken made by Ezell’s.
Although modest from the outside, a regular passerby of Ezell’s would notice a long line wrapping around the building at peak lunch and dinner hours, the patient customers drooling from the overwhelming smell of juicy fried chicken and fresh biscuits.
Ezell’s chicken has been a Seattle hotspot for over 30 years, and now boasts thirteen locations spanning from Spokane to Rainier Valley. The shop across from Garfield High School in the Central District was the first location, and was opened in 1984 when a family moved from Texas to Seattle to start their business.
In the 30 years following the opening, the business has gained a loyal following in Seattle and has created a reputation for being the fastest and most delicious fried chicken in the area. The business has even gained national traction as it became known as “Oprah’s favorite fried chicken” when it catered Oprah Winfrey’s birthday in Chicago in 1990.
If it’s your first time to Ezell’s the menu can be a bit overwhelming. Even for something as seemingly simple as fried chicken, there are plenty of options. You can choose the chicken tenders, which can be either spicy or regular, or the “famous chicken” which is regular fried chicken with the bone. It can be ordered as white meat, dark meat, or mixed.
If you’re ordering for the whole study group or just want to take home some leftovers for your dorm-room fridge, there’s also a plethora of side dishes offered on their own or as a combo with the chicken. The side dishes are classically southern, including creamy slaw, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, baked beans and more.
If you’re looking for a truly authentic southern experience, Ezell’s also offers some specialties that are made for the bolder eaters. The specialties include fried okra, fresh gizzards and chicken livers.
My go-to order from Ezell’s is a small chicken tender meal with an extra roll. Chicken tender combos come with either three tenders, half a pound of tenders, or a pound of chicken. The chicken tenders also come with a roll and a dipping sauce.
The chicken tenders are phenomenal. They are deep fried in vegetable oil and taste fresh every time. The chicken is perfectly crispy, it is juicy on the inside, and the employees keep the chicken at the perfect temperature even when there is a long wait.
If you like hot food, the spicy option for chicken tenders is the crown jewel of fried chicken at Ezell’s. The spicy chicken is marinated for 24 hours using a New Orleans-style seasoning and a dash of cayenne pepper. I found myself a little disappointed that it wasn’t as spicy as I would have liked, but the layer of extra spice definitely added more flavor. I would also recommend pairing the spicy chicken tenders with a honey mustard dipping sauce for an ideal flavor bomb.
I mentioned earlier that I add an extra roll to my order at Ezell’s. This is because the rolls are the best thing on the menu. They are so doughy and taste remarkably fresh, I’ve even tried convincing my mom to drive down to Seattle before Thanksgiving just so we can use these rolls as a delicious accessory to our turkey dinner. I have a hard time limiting myself to two rolls during my Ezell’s runs but I figure that this is the better option for my health, even though the rolls are so moist you don’t even have to add butter.
The service at Ezell’s is remarkably fast, which is perfect when you just want to quickly grab your chicken and go. Even with a line of dozens of people, the staff manage to get your food to you as quickly as possible.
Cold fried chicken is the absolute worst, and Ezell’s makes it warm enough that the food stays delicious until you get home. The Central District location has no seating and the area is narrow, so during a lunch or dinner rush it can feel a little hectic and constricting. However, the somewhat uncomfortable wait is completely worth it for one of the best fried chicken meals in Seattle.
Most options on the Ezell’s menu are under ten dollars. The Central District location is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
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