First, an Asian approach inspired by a legendary Albany Park Chinese restaurant. The other is a more traditional Southern fried bird, but with an optional sauce you can add to give it a richer, spicier kick.
The method has been around for decades. Fried chicken wings - their meat pushed up to one side - doused in a sauce that is simultaneously hot and sweet. At Landbirds, a spartan new wing joint in Logan Square, the fresh, never frozen birds are fried to perfection.
"We use Chinese cooking methods to create the sauce, and Korean flavors in terms of the sweetness in creating it," said Eddie Lee, who owns Landbirds.
Lee grew up near Great Sea Chinese in Albany Park, where they're known for their wings. The inspiration is obvious.
"We take the whole wing and go through the process of Frenching, which is making some cuts and breaks on the bones and sliding the meat down to the other end. Making it a lot easier for people to grab one end of the bone and eat the meat on the other end," he said.
Once fried, they're tossed in one of Lee's homemade sauces, the ingredients for which he's reluctant to share.
"You definitely get some of the peppers and the sweetness from the sugar. Other than that I think I'm giving away too much," Lee said.
About a mile-and-a-half away in Bucktown, Luella's Gospel Bird is also making fried chicken. But this spinoff from Luella's Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square is more narrowly focused.
"We do have the classic buttermilk fried chicken. Then we have a fried chicken we call 'The Gospel.' That fried chicken we serve with a creole sauce. Then we serve with a little benne seeds as well," Chef Darnell Reed said. "We brine the chicken in a saltwater brine. After we brine, it we buttermilk marinate it, which a lot of people consider brining as well. Then after the buttermilk marinade, we flour and fry it."
Frying in rendered beef fat certainly helps boost the flavor profile. At the table, you can drizzle on some honey if you like. Unless you get the Gospel, with its buttery-rich creole sauce, inspired by a New Orleans barbecue sauce.
"For years, in the kitchen, we've been eating the fried chicken with the sauce that comes with the shrimp and grits. I thought that would be a great idea to serve as a concept. Something different than your Nashville hot," Reed said.
EXTRA COURSE: Landbirds' Spam musubi fried rice
2532 N. California Ave
LUELLA'S GOSPEL BIRD
2009 N. Damen Ave.