My love of fried chicken has been well documented on this site. My love of travel is alluded to frequently here, and honestly, traveling for food is pretty much the norm for me.
Which leads me to my trip to New Orleans the second week of May. Partially to visit my lovely friend Jenn, partially to eat a lot.
Mostly to eat a lot.
Jenn came to pick me up from the airport and took me straight to Willie Mae’s Scotch House, where I’d read a number of articles proclaiming it the best fried chicken in the country.
Wutttttt? Of course I had to go and see what was what. Because of the early hour – I landed around 10, we got there about 11, 11:30 – there was absolutely no wait. Which is great, because I hate waiting, and it was much more humid than I’d expected it to be – and waiting is done entirely outside the restaurant, since there’s no foyer or really a hostess stand area.
We quickly placed our orders; when asked what kind of bread we wanted, Jenn responded cornbread. I declined any, as I knew I’d have trouble eating all that I ordered, plus I don’t love cornbread that much. I did try a small bite of hers as she graciously offered, and it was tasty. But I saved room for the main event…
Jenn’s fried catfish came quickly, overflowing the plate – look how HUGE that piece is! – fried expertly. Auspicious – the crust was a little too peppery for me, but it was well-seasoned and pretty tasty. Just way too much for one portion!
You get your choice of sides, and Jenn chose red beans and rice. I’m not sure you can completely understand scale here; she took a few bites to sample it but most of it went home with us because this is just a large plate with red beans and then a scoop of rice on top.
For my side, I chose butterbeans and rice after our very friendly, nice server told me that was her favorite side. Creamy – to the point where the beans had been practically creamed – lots of onion, and a bit of chile pepper to give it a little kick – I pretty much scraped the plate. I thoroughly enjoyed this and wonder why I don’t see this on more menus; it was a very hearty and delicious accompaniment to my fried chicken. Very tasty.
This picture is after I ate a bunch of the sweet potato fries already. I’m not sure what possessed me to add these on – I don’t care for sweet potatoes that much – but these were kind of sad. Not crisp, not particularly well-seasoned nor flavorful, they were just… okay. Oh well.
And the main event…
THE FRIED CHICKEN.
I asked for all dark meat, and our server said no problem – though what showed up was a thigh, a drumstick, and a wing. No big deal – I just didn’t want a breast. And I definitely wanted a thigh.
Crisp exterior. Lightly battered, with the thinnest crust ever, and a juicy, moist interior.
Very, very good fried chicken indeed. The best in America? Well, this is going to be tricky. It’s very, very good fried chicken. Extremely tasty. But this is not, personally, fried chicken that I’d want on a very regular basis. Were I to live in the same city, it would certainly be in the rotation, but out of every 5 times I had fried chicken, I’d want this one maybe once. Why? This is a different style of fried chicken; I like mine simply floured and fried. You may wonder at the difference, but there is a distinct difference to fried chicken that’s been battered. I enjoyed my pieces greatly – and happily ate the thigh and drumstick (I kind of forced Jenn to eat the wing), considering it excellent fried chicken.
Just not my daily, go-to fried chicken.
That’s still Bobwhite. I go there more often than I care to admit… and it’s my “daily” fried chicken, without a doubt.
I will admit, however, that considering the secret recipe for Willie Mae’s… I started pondering what’s in the batter and I have plans/ideas for attempting to recreate it at home one day very soon. Not because I crave it, but just to see if I can.
Willie Mae, I tip my hat to you, good lady; you make excellent fried chicken.