Like many Denver residents, I pack plenty of picnic baskets in the summer—most often to take along to outdoor evening concerts. Because I'm typically in a rush after work, I frequently resort to take-out dishes (read: fried chicken) from local markets. As a result, I've learned about the local chicken market and how—and where—to satisfy that craving:
1. King Soopers : For years, friends have told me that the grocer has some of the best fried chicken in town. I was skeptical, but now I understand the praise. At King Soopers, fresh pieces of chicken are hand-breaded using a seasoning from Chester's , a national chain of chicken restaurants. The chicken, served warm, was the juiciest I had all summer. My advice: Opt for the regular chicken and stay away from the spicy. It's too salty.
2. Tony's Market:  The downtown store, located a couple blocks from my office, means Tony's has become my go-to favorite for reliable, last-minute chicken-centric meals. The breading is thick but not overly so, there's just the right amount of crunch, and even the white breast meat retains its tenderness.
3. Whole Foods : The fried chicken at the Cherry Creek location can be fresh and delightfully peppery one night (and when it is, it tops my list of favorites), and merely adequate the next. To increase your chances of getting a crave-worthy batch, ask the server at the deli counter when the chicken was prepared—or, even better, buy a single drumstick to sample.
King Soopers, multiple locations; Tony's Market, 950 Broadway, 720-880-4501; Whole Foods Cherry Creek, 2375 E. First Ave., 720-941-4100
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