Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans claims to have America’s best fried chicken. That’s an ambitious claim… but we agree.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Check out the second Willie Mae’s location if you happen to be in Los Angeles.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Willie Mae’s Scotch House opened in 1957.
The restaurant is named after its original owner, Willie Mae Seaton. It’s called a scotch house since Seaton secured a liquor license but not a beer license.
No. Willie Mae Seaton passed away on September 18, 2015 at age 99. Kerry Seaton-Stewart, Seaton’s grand-great-granddaughter, now runs the restaurant.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House is located in New Orleans’ 6th ward.
The original Willie Mae’s Scotch House is located in New Orleans. The restaurant expanded to Los Angeles in 2022.
Willie Mae’s Scotch House received a James Beard award in 2005.
Yes. Bourdain ate at Willie Mae’s Scotch House while filming the fourth season of No Reservations.
Yes. Phil ate at Willie Mae’s Scotch House while filming the first season of Somebody Feed Phil?
This is clearly a trick question since fried chicken is obviously the best food to order at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.
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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. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers their unique taste of the world.
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.
We self-funded our lunches at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.
Original Publication Date: April 10, 2014
Republish Date: June 22, 2021