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Although we felt totally safe walking through the shabby, gentrifying neighborhood, 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.
Once we arrived at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, we knew we were indeed crazy. Crazy smart.
Our Walk to Willie Mae’s
The walk through the Tremé neighborhood was a good appetizer for the meal. We were struck by the buildings, especially the ones needing TLC, as well as the many jazz references along the way.
Before we knew it, we arrived at our lunch destination – Willie Mae’s Scotch House.
Situated in an unadorned corner building, the restaurant blends right into the neighborhood. Apparently, there’s often a line curled around the corner, but we were able to walk right in for our Monday lunch.
We’ve heard that the two small dining rooms are often crowded with tourists lured by the accolades bestowed by the likes of the James Beard Foundation, the Food Network and the Travel Channel. But not when we were there.
Maybe Monday is for a good day for locals. It was definitely a good day for us.
The Food At Willie Mae’s
We got into the restaurant’s groove as we smelled the titillating aromas drifting our way from the nearby kitchen. Then we cut to the chase and ordered what the menu describes as America’s Best Fried Chicken.
The lunch plate was only $10 at the time of our meal, with an extra charge for all white meat. But why pay extra when you would be missing out on the juiciest parts of the chicken?
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 was a revelation – crispy and slightly salty on the outside while utterly moist and juicy on the inside. We were hooked from our first bites and still smitten as we covertly licked our fingers after the final bites. We rarely use the word “succulent” since it’s such a cliché of an adjective, but we have to here because the fried chicken was downright succulent.
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, the 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, yes, red beans and rice. This side was substantial in both size and flavor.
We felt compelled to try a couple of extras after our trek.
The cornbread muffins were perfectly flaky as good cornbread should be.
The fried okra was a fun choice. We popped a couple before we ran out of room. They were almost as tasty a few hours later on the plane.
Though we ran out of room for the fried okra, we somehow found room for dessert. 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, and the pie had just enough tartness to satisfy our discerning taste buds.
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 and is making good use of the family recipes.
We don’t know how she makes such succulent (we said it again!) chicken on a grand scale. We saw the fryers working their magic in the kitchen, but 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. 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.
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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.