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.
K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen continues to honor late chef Paul Prudhomme’s delicious heritage with popular local dishes. Yes, there is blackened fish and étouffée, but one of the best-kept secrets is the fried chicken. At lunch, the andouille-studded red beans and rice comes with a juicy fried breast, but keep eyes peeled for the random fried chicken special.
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.