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Willie Mae’s Scotch House – The Best Fried Chicken in America

Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans claims to have America’s best fried chicken. That’s an ambitious claim… but we agree.

Fried Chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House

We first visited Willie Mae’s Scotch House in 2014. We had high expectations as we wandered out of the French Quarter, through Louis Armstrong Park and into New Orleans storied Tremé neighborhood, on our way to the famous fried chicken restaurant.

Although we felt safe walking through the shabby, gentrifying neighborhood filled with corner shops and shotgun shacks, we weren’t sure about our decision to take a two-mile walk for lunch on our last day in New Orleans.

We reminded ourselves that this is what we do when we travel… We walk and eat and then walk and eat some more in an ongoing quest to find the best food in the world.

Update
We returned in 2021 for a repeat lunch at Willie Mae’s and the food and service were just as good as we remembered. This article features photos from both meals.

Lunch at Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Outside of Willie Mae's Scotch House
This nondescript white building is home to some of the best fried chicken in New Orleans if not the country.

Situated in an unadorned corner building with a green a white striped hooded awining, the restaurant blends seamlessly into the neighborhood with the exception of an inevitable line of eager diners that curls around the corner during lunch most days. Though we somehow missed the queue during our first visit, we got the full experience during our second visit.

Willie Mae's Scotch House Dining Room
Locals and travelers fill the tables at Willie Mae’s Scotch House six days a week.

Food travelers flock to Willie Mae’s based on accolades bestowed by the likes of the James Beard Foundation, the Food Network and the Travel Channel. The restaurant staff handles the crowds with aplomb and grace. In other words, don’t feel dismayed if you encounter a long queue when you arrive at Willie Maes.

Pro Tip
Arrive at Willie Mae’s Scotch House as early as possible to guarantee entry into New Orleans’ fried chicken motherland. The restaurant closed the line about 15 minutes before closing time during our most recent visit.

The Food At Willie Mae’s

Fried Chicken Red Beans and Corn Bread at Willie Mae's
The food at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is both substantial and satisfying.

While the menu at Willie Mae’s Scotch House features items like fried catfish and a seafood platter, we’re not sure who orders those dishes. To us, that’s like ordering chicken or steak at a seafood restaurant. We recommend ordering the mixed fried chicken platter which is what we ordered during both of our meals.

The platter was only $10 at the time of first meal and $15 seven years later. Sure, that’s a 50% increase but well worth it for what the menu calls ‘America’s Best Fried Chicken’ plus a side dish.

It takes serious nerve to describe your food as the best. That’s quite a superlative. However, in this case, the made-to-order fried chicken lived up to the illustrious description. We’ll take it one step further and say that eating this fried chicken is a must during any New Orleans itinerary.

Pro Tip
Grab a quick meal at the Willie Mae’s outpost at the Pythian Market if you don’t have time for a full meal.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken at Willie Maes Scotch House in New Orleans
We ate this plate of America’s Best Fried Chicken during our first visit to Willie Mae’s Scotch House.

Each bite of our fried chicken was a revelation – crispy and slightly salty on the outside while utterly moist and juicy on the inside – during our first lunch at Willie Maes. We were hooked from our first bites and still smitten as we covertly licked our fingers after the final bites.

And guess what? The chicken lived up to our memories seven years later. Actually, it exceeded our memories with a spicy zing that made our taste buds go ka-pow.

Discover more of the best fried chicken in America and beyond.

Sides

Fork in Red Beans and Rice at Willie Mae's
Unlike many New Orleans restaurant, Willie Maes serves Red Beans and Rice every day, not just Monday. We ate this bowl on a Tuesday.

During our first visit, Mindi went the classic route with sides of peas and macaroni and cheese. The sides were generously served right next to the chicken. Though not special, both sides provided a soft counterbalance to the chicken’s crunchiness. Plus, the peas reminded us of peas from our childhoods, which is not a bad memory.

Daryl smartly honored the New Orleans tradition of red beans on Monday by ordering a side of, you guessed it… red beans and rice. Made using the secret Willie Maes red beans and rice recipe, this side dish was substantial in both size and flavor.

We felt compelled to try a couple of extras after the two-mile trek. We surely burned off more than a few calories during the walk.

Cornbread

Corn Bread Willie Mae's Scotch House
The cornbread muffin isn’t included with the meal so make sure you order one. It completes the dining experience.

The cornbread muffins at Willie Mae’s are perfectly flaky as good cornbread should be. We recommend pairing the southern specialty with your Willie Maes fried chicken feast.

Each cornbread muffin cost less than a dollar during our second visit so ordering one or two is a no-brainer.

Fried Okra

Fried Okra at Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans Louisiana
Ordering Fried Okra is optional but fun when you dine at Willie Mae’s. We ordered these during our first meal.

Fried okra was a fun choice that we couldn’t skip during our first visit. We popped a couple before we ran out of room. They were almost as tasty a few hours later on the plane.

Yes, we took our fried okra leftovers on our flight to Philadelphia but they didn’t make it past the flight.

Dessert

Key Lime Pie at Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans Louisiana
Try to save room for dessert at Willie Mae’s. Consider it your sweet reward for braving the queue.

Though we ran out of room for the fried okra, we somehow found room for dessert during our first lunch at Willie Mae’s.

We were tempted to order the bread pudding, but we were drawn to the key lime pie which sounded relatively lighter. Sweet yet refreshing, the key lime pie was a delightful dessert to share after our savory meal.

We probably couldn’t have handled an overly sweet dessert after the mega meal. This slice of pie had just enough tartness to satisfy our discerning taste buds.

Disclosure
The Willie Mae’s menu no longer features Key Lime Pie. Current dessert options include Bread Pudding, Turtle Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake and White Chocolate Cheesecake.

The Tradition Continues

Open since 1957, Willie Mae’s Scotch House is now run by the founder’s great-granddaughter, Kerry Seaton. The younger Seaton clearly learned well from her great-grandmother (the original Willie Mae) and is making good use of the family recipes.

We don’t know how she makes such succulent chicken on a grand scale. Although we saw the fryers working their magic in the kitchen, it’s still a mystery to us.

The two-mile walk back to the French Quarter felt good after the carb-heavy lunch at Willie Mae’s, especially since we were on a bit of a high knowing that we had just eaten the best fried chicken in America in one of the country’s best food cities. We’re not just saying that because of the menu’s description. We’re saying that because it’s true.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House is located at 2401 St Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70119, United States.

Planning Checklist

Hungry for More Food in NOLA?

Check out our picks for the city’s best food, cheap eats, desserts, bars, coffee shops, drinks and po boys and then read about iconic New Orleans restaurants including Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s.

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About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosures

Sponsorship
We thank Visit New Orleans and its partners for their assistance to facilitate this and other articles.

Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Important Update
Some restaurants have revised their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Others may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check restaurant websites for updated information.

Bret

Monday 6th of July 2015

Did you guys also make it over to Dooky Chase's for some classic Creole cuisine? We're actually doing a cover story on Tremé for a travel magazine, and found the food there amazing!

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Tuesday 7th of July 2015

We spent time in Tremé on a Monday, so Dooky Chase's was closed. We'll definitely add it to our list for our next trip though. It sounds like our kind of restaurant!

Tim

Wednesday 15th of October 2014

Ok, that looks unbelievably unhealthy but soooo good. Cannot wait to get myself down there. I did have a road trip planned for Louisiana but had to postpone it. Sometime soon :)