Willie Mae’s Scotch House has been on my “to-try” list on the last half dozen trips to New Orleans, but business concerns haven’t aligned with the ability to get there. I first read about it in Garden & Gun’s “100 Southern Foods You Absolutely, Positively Must Try Before You Die”, several years back and today, with a day off (for roaming), I knew where the first stop would be. A magazine told me that I had to try it, before I could die happy. Would they lie?
I had already checked on-line and had seen that they opened at 10:00 am. Violating one of Jo’s cardinal rules, I was planning that we start the day with lunch, skipping breakfast. She noticed, as we parked the car. Just off Orleans Avenue, Willie Mae’s is in a neighborhood which still shows the ravages of Katrina – in fact, one of the houses directly across the street is still boarded and tarped. We walked in and, since the sign that said “Please wait to be seated” was across the room, we took a seat at a table for two just inside the door.
According to the menu, the building was flooded, like the neighborhood around it, when the levees broke, but was rebuilt in 2007. The menu’s focus is the fried chicken, which the menu calls the “Best Fried Chicken in America”. (You know, when you throw it out there, on the menu, like that, it sets the bar pretty high). They also have a couple of other chicken dishes, along with fried pork chops and seafood, with an assortment of sides. For my side, I ordered red beans and rice and Jo ordered the green beans, which also came with rice and brown gravy.
On a side note – while we were eating I was reminded of how much things have changed in Louisiana since we used to head there for the weekend in college. Back then, on Friday, it was hard to find a restaurant serving anything other than red beans and rice (or fish) on Friday. For sake of today’s chicken chasing, I’m glad that has changed. I do really like good red beans and rice, though. We ended up with quite a table full of food.
How was it?
- The red beans and rice were tasty. Unfortunately, the green beans seemed to come out of a Sysco 10 gallon can. And maybe the brown gravy on the rice, too.
- We both chose the three piece chicken dinners. I thought that combining the orders slighted the buyer, as we only got one breast and had three wings, in our six pieces. I couldn’t believe that a 3 piece dinner wouldn’t include at least one breast. But in listening to an interview with Willie Mae’s grandson-in-law (her granddaughter is running the place these days), he said that a three piece order is typically a thigh, leg and wing, as the skin to chicken ratio is best on those cuts. (Still sounds like a budget plan to me).
- The chicken is seasoned well and wet battered, before being dropped into the fryer. The wet batter results in a crust that comes off the chicken in chunks, rather than in flakes.
- The chicken was over-fried. It wasn’t burnt, but it was very, very fried. It did, however, remain moist.
- The service was slow, almost begrudgingly so. We waited forever for our drinks. And my tea glass was empty for most of the meal, only being refilled when I asked for more, along with the check. And we never got any bread. The folks around us had bread, and it looked pretty good. But we never got any. So the service was not only slow, it was poor.
Bottom line – it wasn’t the “Best Fried Chicken in America”, at least on this day. I might go back. I sure wouldn’t stand in line for half an hour in the hot sun, like many reviewers on Yelp said they did. And I wouldn’t recommend it.