A South Side staple since 1950, Harold's Chicken Shack is known for light-handed central management of its (currently) 62 unsystematically numbered franchises, which allows for many variations from one Harold's to the next. By all standards, the Wicker Park outpost is holding its own, and post-club grease seekers welcome the departure from the neighborhood's standard tacos, deep-fried Twinkies and dogs.
The cubicle-size interior is frill-free but super clean, with checkered tile and a clear view of the kitchen. Impressively tender fried chicken (by the breast, gizzard, giblet, thigh or your favorite combination), specified light or dark, is smothered with fries and vinegary hot or mild sauce that you'll be glad to sop up with the slices of white bread tucked underneath. Other specialties include fried catfish and perch, and sides like pizza puffs and bags of bite-size fried okra or jalapenos eliminate the possibility of leaving hungry. A full meal will likely run you $8 or less.
All dishes are fresh and fried to order, so it's well worth it to be patient for the unavoidable 10- to 15-minute wait. Call about 20 minutes ahead if you'd rather skip the crowds.
Reviewed By: Julia Steinberger