Anyone who has sat down to a platter of perfectly fried poultry in a homestyle restaurant that carries on the sacred traditions of Southern and Midwestern chicken cookery knows the true meaning of bliss. While the seasonings may remain a closely guarded secret, the key to good fried chicken is careful, slow tending, usually accomplished in an old cast-iron skillet, not a deep fryer. But the side dishes are every bit as important — the gravy must have its own velvety quality, the beans or potatoes or corn must be freshly made. And, of course, the waitresses must have sass. One of the great fried chicken spots in America is Stroud’s (1015 E. 85th St.; 816-333-2132), on the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri. If you’re traveling through DFW, plan a stop at Stroud’s new location in Fort Worth at 5555 Bridge St.; (817) 654-0600.

Here are a few other winners in the fried chicken sweepstakes:

Atlanta: South City Kitchen, 1144 Crescent Ave.; (404) 873-7358; or Chopstix, 4279 Roswell Rd.; (404) 255-4868

Indianapolis: Dodd’s Town House, 5694 N. Meridian St.; (317) 257-1872

Memphis: Buntyn, 4972 Park Ave.; (901) 458-8776

Olpe, Kansas: Chicken House, Highway 99; (620) 475-3386

Pensacola: Hopkins Boarding House, 900 N. Spring St.; (850) 438-3979