What America Tastes Like

Fried Chicken Seen Anew – Willie Mae’s Scotch House New Orleans

This place made me stop, stare, and completely re-evaluate fried chicken. It’s different from buttermilky Georgia fried chicken, it’s different from straight-shooting midwest fried chicken. It’s light-years from the only two good fried chicken places in the Pacific Northwest, yet also different from the rest of the South.

The batter is filled with potent flavor and a vague heat that builds pleasantly. Chicken stock reduced down to a paste for savoriness plus a cajun dry-rub? Maybe. But the texture of that crunch… this texture is simply unavailable elsewhere. This skin has a craggly, twisty surface, like dark waves of umami-lava frothed upward and fried into place. It looks like bubbly volcanic rock when you break it open, and every nook and cranny packs a wallop of satisfying piquant savor. How do they do that?

Green beans – Normally I have trouble caring about vegetables. In any meal, they’re the tambourine player of the band to me. Sure, maybe that tambourine guy adds something, but I sure as hell didn’t come to the show to hear him play.

These green beans are good enough I’ll wait for their solo. I’m big on salt, and they push the limit of salt’s flavor-enhancing qualities – but without salt becoming a flavor itself. They are pushed to the limit in every way, with vinegar, garlic, and red pepper. The result is a hit-making vegetable. How do they do that?

The cornbread is top-notch.

The lemonade is fresh squeezed.

The bread pudding is funky in left-field unexpected taste, blessedly free of raisins, and rum-boozy.

I’m pretty sure there is root beer in the yams.

But that chicken… how do they do that? I can only embrace the awe and wonder. And clean my plate.

2401 St Ann St
New Orleans, Louisiana


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