Restaurant: Willie Mae’s Scotch House
Last visited: May 25, 2012
Location: New Orleans, LA (French Quarter)
Address: 2401 Saint Ann Street
Transit: N. Miro at Dumaine
Where I stayed: Le Richelieu Hotel (Taxi recommended)
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Ambiance: 5 (for what it is)
- Since 1862
- World famous fried chicken
- Award winning
- James Beard Award winner
- Named “America’s Best Fried Chicken”
- Featured on Food Network
- Featured on Bon Appetite
- Featured on Travel Channel
- Local/tourist favourite
- Limited menu
- Limited seating
- Budget friendly/cheap eats
- Eat In/Take Out
- Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
- Closed Saturday & Sunday
**Recommendations: Fried Chicken
You really set the standard high when you call it “America’s Best Fried Chicken”. Actually you really set the bar high when you call anything “the best”. I mean honestly, “America’s Best Fried Chicken”? Have you really tried every single fried chicken in America to say that it’s “the best”? I doubt it.
Hearing or saying “the best” anything annoys me because it’s so argumentative and tastes are so personal. I try not to use it myself, and if I do, I like to give a frame of reference (“best I’ve had to date”) or give context (“out of ___, ___, and ___”) for comparisons sake. On the other hand, it doesn’t really matter if it really is “the best” as long as I enjoyed it and feel confident enough to recommend it. So in regards to Willie Mae’s Scotch House, I did find the fried chicken excellent, but the whole experience is what makes it a Follow Me Foodie must try.
It’s fried chicken. Almost everyone in the South makes their own version at home and there are a million recipes for it. From the right chicken, brine, batter and cooking times, it really becomes a prized dish that many chefs want to master. There are your high end gourmet fried chickens from Ad Hoc or Blue Ribbon, and then your fast food cheap eats fried chicken… and this is the latter. I can appreciate both on different levels, but when it comes down to it, I see it as fast food (thanks to KFC), so I’m going to appreciate Willie Mae’s “Best Fried Chicken” as just that.
It was about a 10-15 minute drive away from the “downtown” of New Orleans, Louisiana, but was it worth the ride? Yes! The whole experience was what made it worth the trip and not necessarily for the food alone. I mean where else am I going to find a place like this? As a foodie and tourist from Vancouver, it was pretty much exactly what I imagined and wanted out of a Southern fried chicken experience. It felt authentic and felt like “the real deal”.
Of course when I got inside it was full of tourists. However since this “foodie attraction” requires more of an effort to visit, unlike NOLA foodie attractions Central Grocery and Café Du Monde, this one also has a significant local following. New Orleans is a food and drinking city above anything else (except maybe music), so if you’re not coming to eat, then you’re missing out on experiencing the city.
The honours, numerous awards, including the premier James Beard Foundation Award, and the Food Network have really put Willie Mae’s Scotch House on the national map. Those two accolades more or less represent the “food elitists” and “food commoners”, so to have both agree on the same level is a big deal.
I probably hear 90% of people rave about this place. However there are 10% of people who say it’s overrated and that there are better in the city. Do I trust them? A bit yes, and that’s partially because I’m a tourist and I’ve only tried this one fried chicken in New Orleans. Fried chicken isn’t a menu item I go seeking for, but I do enjoy it and order it especially when I’m visiting Southern parts of the States. I’ve had other fantastic fried chickens before and this was amazing, but I would be curious to try more of them in Louisiana and I still challenge the “America’s Best Fried Chicken” claim.
On the table:
- Served with your choice of one side and three (3) pieces of chicken (additional charge for white meat) $10
- Again, this is a “fast food” fried chicken, not a gourmet fried chicken, but it’s also not a commercial chicken from a fast food chain.
- It has a home made quality and it’s fresh chicken and fresh from the fryer.
- For $10 (+ $.75 for the cornbread) for all of the above, I found it a deal and my happiness exceeded the $10.
- It wasn’t relying on “bang for you buck” satisfaction.
- Amazing at first bite? Yes! Amazing after a few bites? Yes! Amazing thinking about it the next day? Yes, but maybe not YES!
- It was a very greasy fried chicken, but I didn’t taste the oil and it was exactly what I would expect a “real” Southern fried chicken to taste like.
- It was crispy and crunchy and you could hear the crunch when you bit down into it. The layer of batter was a distinct crunch.
- It was likely a buttermilk and flour batter and it was a pretty thick batter.
- It was fried slightly darker than golden brown without being burnt.
- The batter was well seasoned with salt and spices and it was unexpectedly spicy from likely cayenne pepper and maybe even a squirt of chili oil for that colour.
- It was a bit spicy, but not hot. There was some heat and it would be bearable for the masses.
- The batter broke like a chip, and the oils/chicken juice would burst out in each bite.
- The batter adhered to the skin, but big chunks would also detach itself and those pieces were incredibly enjoyable and crunchy.
- The skin wasn’t chewy or thick and it was quite translucent and well fried as you can see. The thigh and leg were both fried well.
- The meat was succulent, moist and juicy, but the chicken quality itself wasn’t the highest quality chicken. For $10, I didn’t expect it though.
- It was really about the flavour of the batter and the chicken together than the chicken alone, and the batter was probably holding more weight.
- The chicken was likely brined in buttermilk overnight too so it was very tender and almost soft and melting, but not mushy or grainy in texture.
- I would be curious to compare it with Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis.
- Although this was excellent, I’ve also enjoyed Bon Chon (maybe on even a higher level), Peel’s Fried Chicken (not as good as this one), and Blue Ribbon (also excellent, but on a gourmet level of fried chickens).
- Personally I love that honey fried chicken batter, but this one doesn’t have honey and doesn’t have a sweet and salty contrast.
- All of the above have more sauces and flavour in the batter, whereas this one is more traditional with just the added spicy kick.
- It was definitely still a memorable chicken that had me licking my fingers.
- Served with gravy and rice ($5.50 a la carte)
- I found the beans quite overcooked and mushy, but I’m not sure if that’s just what they’re like in the South.
- They were either over steamed or over boiled and I couldn’t see or taste much seasonings or any herbs.
- They were very simple and quite bland and almost had that canned bean texture without being slimy.
- The gravy and rice was also very simple and a bit under seasoned.
- The rice had onions and a buttery roux based gravy on top, but I couldn’t taste much meatiness in the gravy.
- The sides just seemed very bland and not particularly enjoyable for me.
- My cornbread was a bit burnt, but I looked at others and they didn’t seem burnt. I think I just had a “bad one”, so I give it the benefit of the doubt.
- It had a crispy top which I loved, but it wasn’t hot from the oven.
- They were baked and not skillet fried which I tend to like more.
- It was on the dry side, but not dry.
- It wasn’t that sweet or oily and if it wasn’t over baked it would probably be good, but in my case it was okay.
- I think they should have served it with butter over margarine and for me a really good cornbread doesn’t need to have either, but this one I didn’t mind the margarine help.