“Well, we’ll see about that!” loudly harrumphs an endless of stream of out-of-town customers, eager to challenge the claim that Willie Mae’s makes “the world’s best fried chicken.” They’re usually much quieter when they depart—invariably cowed into silence by the spicy, armor-plated crust surrounding strikingly moist meat. Not a chicken lover? You can also dig into pork chops, veal, or catfish at this iconic (if out-of-the-way) neighborhood institution in Treme, a five-minute taxi ride out of the French Quarter. Willie Mae herself is no longer at the helm, but her granddaughter has taken over and seems to guard its reputation as tightly as she does the family chicken recipe.
Book a table at a New Orleans classic
New Orleans’ iconic restaurants are one of the main draws for visitors to the Big Easy. Galatoire’s, a classy counterpart to Bourbon’s low-brow pleasures since 1905, is a good place to start your adventures in eating. Here, it’s all about consistency, from the old-world decor to the classic Creole dishes. Go for lunch on Friday—and dress the part (that means jackets for gents). Around the corner, Antoine’s has been run by the same family for 173 years and the establishment is known for its top-notch service. Waiters apprentice for up to a decade to make sure they can handle the rigors of 5-star service and its not uncommon for regulars to request a specific waiter when making a reservation. In Mid City, Willie Mae’s is an institution of a different kind. The low-frills eatery is only open for lunch and the only menu item you really have to concern yourself with is the fried chicken (the secret is in the coca-cola brine). It’s well worth the wait.
The Best Fried Chicken in the South at Willie Mae's Scotch House
Willie Mae Seaton opened this local institution in the 1960s, and now it’s run by her great-granddaughter. The fried chicken is made with a wet batter, which gives it a unique crust. At lunchtime, expect a line down the street. This appeared in the August/September 2015 issue. As told to Jill K. Robinson.