I hung up my pesco-vegetarian sash to savor the taste of the one of the best fried chicken recipes in the U.S. I knew I would struggle with my pescetarian lifestyle when I moved back to Louisiana, but I didn’t know I would lose the battle so soon. While driving through the French Quarter in New Orleans, I thought about the wonderful aroma that embraced me the first time I stepped inside Willie Mae’s Scotch House. I realized that Willie Mae’s had become synonymous with the Big Easy (aka New Orleans).
I decided to schedule my next business meeting at Willie Mae’s because I could hardly wait to feel the warmth of that Creole embrace again. Needless to say, this was a fantastic business decision that allowed me to gain new business and fill the void of my no-chicken diet that I endured for the past 12 months. I was thrilled when my client agreed to the meeting place, and I was more excited to introduce him to a life-changing meal that he would always remember. It would be the same meal that caused Andrew Zimmerman’s eyes to roll to the back of his head.
My heart skipped several beats when we drove up to the St. Ann Street location in the 6th ward—a few blocks away from the Historic Tremé neighborhood. As you can see in the photos, the exterior is not the most appealing, but it’s what’s behind the door that captures your heart.
The moment you walk in; you feel the unparalleled Louisiana hospitality that makes you believe you’re in the right place for good food. The sweet and spicy aroma dancing around your face causes the crowd to dissipate. The genuine smiles from the waiters and waitresses overpower the noisy chatter of hungry patrons. While standing in the waiting area, you not only feel the energy of satisfied customers who are leaving, but also the energy of the famous people from the past who stood where you stand and who sat where you will sit.
Willie Mae Seaton opened a bar in 1957 that eventually transitioned to a full-service restaurant in the early 70s where she showcased her passion for cooking and her passion for people. Her savory Southern-Fried chicken became the star of the show that has brought national attention to one of New Orleans’ best-kept secrets. The original Willie Mae’s restaurant is tucked neatly between the streets that tourists don’t travel on typically; at least not until the restaurant was featured on the Food Network. Today, her great-granddaughter runs the show and is sometimes there to greet the line of eager customers that extends around the building waiting for their place at one of the 10 tables coveted by both tourists and locals.
The menu is simple, but comprises flavorful foods that make you fall in love at first taste. I ordered the fried chicken with a side of creamy red beans and corn muffins. The chicken does not require much chewing because it melts in your mouth. It’s tossed around in a special family batter that creates the perfect combination of juicy and crispiness coupled with flavor that tap dances on your tongue with each bite. I’ve traveled across the United States, and I’ve tasted a variety of fried chicken. Willie Mae’s is by far the best fried chicken I’ve eaten.
I’m grateful to Ms. Willie Mae for sharing her wonderful recipe with the world, and I’m thankful for her great-granddaughter, Kerry, and her willingness to carry on the tradition. This chicken is so good, it’s hard to leave. My client and I were asked to leave because they needed to seat customers who were patiently waiting in the rain. Yep, it is that good.
Don’t bother asking for the recipe because I ask every time I visit. They laugh and say, “Come back to see us.” If you are in the New Orleans area, you must GEAUX to one of the two locations—St. Ann Street or St. Charles Avenue in the French Quarter.