New Orleans’ affair with fried chicken is historic. Popeye’s was founded here, and the late, legendary chef Austin Leslie—purportedly the inspiration for a long-ago television character—left a fried chicken legacy still cooking at Jacques-Imo’s.
Fanatics hold a dry-battered Dooky Chase chicken leg in one hand and a wet-battered thigh from Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the other. Never mind the small independent chicken joint Jim McHardy’s Chicken & Fixin’ gas station and convenience store birds and the myriad Creole soul and plate-lunch restaurants “famous” for their fried chicken like Lil’ Dizzy’s, Coop’s, Franky & Johnny’s.
But that’s barely, dare it be said, scratching the surface. So deep is the city’s fried chicken love, there’s now a festival dedicated to the matter. Meanwhile, there are some long-standing restaurants with worthy wings—and other parts—as well as new spots hatching fine fried chicken; even one place with some skin in the game.
Old-school plate-lunch places like Praline Connection in the Marigny and Neyow’s in Mid-City serve crackly, deeply seasoned fried chicken to go with creamy slow-cooked beans, tender stewed greens and Louisiana rice. Note to liver lovers: Praline Connection’s deep-fried chicken livers come with gravy and pepper jelly—yes, do both—and are not only available in the restaurant, but also at their Louis Armstrong Airport location on Concourse B.
Beloved Fiorella’s Café may have recently been revamped, but its fried chicken has not changed a bit. Black pepper-shot dry batter evenly coats chicken pieces that stay juicy, crispy and the stuff of fried chicken dreams, offered by the box (10 pieces) or platter.
Coquette chef-owners Mike Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig occasionally hold all-you-can-eat “Fried Chicken and Champagne” dinners. The events are so popular, fried chicken is now a regular brunch/lunch menu item, served with flaky biscuits, pickles and deviled eggs.
Speaking of deviled eggs, Turkey and the Wolf, Food & Wine's “Best New Restaurant 2017,” makes house hot sauce-topped deviled eggs garnished with fried chicken skin, and every now and then there is an upmarket version of a fast-food favorite, “Fried Chicken Salad.”
Some may think of New Orleans as the Deep South; but when it comes to playing chicken, it's more like the deep-fried South.