Nebraska may be best known for its steak, but there’s another classic dish that most of us grew up eating: fried chicken. Particularly for those of us who grew up on farms where chickens were part of the farm family, fried chicken was a special treat that was always cooked fresh (as in, the chicken was alive and clucking around the yard mere hours earlier) and usually served after church on Sundays. If you walked into Grandma’s house and heard that oil popping, you knew you were in for a treat. Today we can enjoy this treat even if we don’t raise chickens. These are some of the best places in Nebraska to enjoy a nice, juicy, crispy fried chicken meal.
(As usual, we try to stay away from chain restaurants and focus on locally-owned businesses. The restaurants below are listed in no particular order.)
1. Big Mama's Kitchen, Omaha
Big Mama's has gained some big national media attention. This unassuming and hard to find eatery is actually tucked inside the cafeteria of a disused school building - how's that for quirky? But the food speaks for itself. Big Mama's was featured on a number of food shows, and I don't know anyone who has eaten this rib-sticking soul food and not loved every bite.
Find the original at 3223 N 45th St, or visit their satellite sandwich shop at 2416 Lake Street in Omaha.
2. Fuller's Family Restaurant, McCook
Why is Fuller's fried chicken so good? Because it's made the way Mom or Grandma used to make it. Fried to a crispy golden perfection, this chicken is definitely the star of the show, especially when paired with the mouthwatering mashed potatoes. And of course, don't forget to check out their enormous collection of cookie jars while you're there.
218 W B St, McCook, NE 69001
3. Rose's Breezy Hill Cafe, Falls City
Recently under new ownership, Breezy Hill is still dishing up some impressive home cooking. The fried chicken buffet is a chance to stuff yourself with some of the best fried chicken you've had in a long time.
70375 652 Ave, Falls City, Nebraska
4. Bubba's Anytime Cafe, Strang
This little cafe continues to pull in business even from outside of Strang (which is good, considering that Strang only has 29 residents). Customers say the chicken is locally raised and so fresh you can almost hear it clucking. (Side note: drop in Wednesdays for the insane wings night: wings are just dumped right onto your table with no plates or anything - just a big roll of paper towels.)
313 Main St, Strang, NE 68444
5. Ken and Dale's Restaurant, Alliance
We're fudging a tiny bit here since Ken & Dale's serves broasted chicken and not fried, but we think you'll forgive the slight difference. The restaurant has been around for more than 30 years and has developed quite the loyal following. We definitely recommend a chicken dinner with handmade mashed potatoes, but honestly, everything is delicious here.
123 East 3rd. St, Alliance, NE
6. Chances R, York
I've honestly never heard a single negative thing about Chances R - it seems to be one of those venerable neighborhood spots that everyone loves. They've been operating under several names and owners since way back in 1932, so they've had time to perfect the food. The perfect pan-fried chicken is the crown jewel of this menu. (The prime rib buffet is another excellent reason to stop in.)
124 West 5th Street, York, NE
7. Lee's Chicken, Lincoln
The oldest operating restaurant in Lincoln is definitely doing something right - and that something is incredible fried chicken. Get your chicken by the piece or by the bucket, but don't forget to order a side of their famous onion rings to go along with it.
1940 West Van Dorn Street, Lincoln, NE
8. Emporium Coffehouse and Cafe, Scottsbluff
This place never fails to surprise with its sophisticated menu items in an unpretentious atmosphere. The buttermilk fried chicken sandwich is your go-to chicken dish here. It's served with Tabasco mayo and topped with coleslaw, all on a brioche bun. It's delightful.
1818 1st Avenue, Scottsbluff, NE 69361
9. Alpine Inn, Omaha
I have never come across a chicken place as divisive as the Alpine Inn. Sure, the quirky custom of throwing your leftovers outside for the wildlife to eat is controversial at best, but let's just focus on the chicken. For those who have eaten there and enjoyed it, they place the Alpine Inn's chicken among the very best they've ever had. Those who didn't like it (who seem to be the minority) say it's probably the greasiest they've ever tried. You'll just have to visit and form your own opinion.
10405 Calhoun Rd, Omaha, NE 68112
10. American Legion Club, St. Paul
Open to the public and serving dinner every evening but Monday, the American Legion Club is a poorly-kept secret among fried chicken lovers. If you've lived in Nebraska forever, you probably already know that the American Legion and GI Forum can have the absolute best food - and that holds true in St. Paul. Their fried chicken is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, just the way it should be.
804 Howard Avenue, St. Paul, NE 68873
11. Merrick's Ranch House, North Platte
This unassuming places does the basic American basics right. Leave your fussiness at the door because this is good, down-home Nebraska food in a simple but comfortable atmosphere.
1220 E 4th St, North Platte, NE 69101
12. Tommy's Family Restaurant, Grand Island
Tommy's is the king of the broasted chicken - and since they're open 24 hours, you can satisfy that chicken craving any time of the day or night.
1325 S Locust St Grand Island, NE 68801
And finally, a place that we hope to see again soon: Arrowhead Foods, Whiteclay
This Native-owned grocery store was truly special. In the controversial town of Whiteclay, which is best known for its sales of alcohol to the dry reservation on the other side of the SD border, this store was a bright spot. The fried chicken was perfection, and people traveled for miles just to taste it. Tragically, a faulty chicken fryer caused the building to burn down in July of 2016. We haven't heard whether the owner plans to rebuild, but we sincerely hope he does.
This list is definitely not exhaustive – there are so many other restaurants in Nebraska serving homestyle fried chicken that tastes like home. If you don’t see your favorite here, don’t fret; just add it in the comments so other readers can find and enjoy it, too.