Many people consider New Orleans to have something of its own identity. It’s in the South, but not entirely Southern. It’s in a dark red state, although much of the city leans blue. Some feel it to be kind of a banana republic, not even really part of America. “A northern annexation of Haiti” as one chef described it. But there is something that New Orleans does that is distinctly Southern, and distinctly American: fried chicken. And man, does NOLA do fried chicken well. Here are the best places to find some golden goodness in the Big Easy.
1. Willie Mae’s Scotch House
Though natives will debate this, most consider Willie Mae’s to the be sine qua non of fried chicken in NOLA. After being devastated by Hurricane Katrina, locals and visiting do-gooders made sure that this beloved institution made it back on its feet, and quite frankly, New Orleans wouldn’t be New Orleans without Willie Mae’s.
2. Dooky Chase's Restaurant
Yes, it might have a ridiculous-sounding name that you don't want to have to say to the cab driver, but there are few chefs in the Crescent City that command more respect and deference than the inimitable Leah Chase. She’s the reigning “Queen of New Orleans Cuisine”, and it shows in her perfect, crispy fried chicken, which should be on every person’s bucket list (even if it isn’t literally served in a bucket).
Jacques Leonardi doesn’t play around when it comes to heart-stopping, tastebud-melting Southern cuisine. After all, this is the guy who stacked an entire fried soft-shell crab on top of a huge plate of fried green tomatoes, skewered the golden tower with a steak knife to keep it aloft, and named it “Godzilla meets fried green tomatoes”. The fried chix here is some of the best in town... especially when paired with the peerless alligator sausage cheesecake.
4. Franky & Johnny’s
This beloved Uptown neighborhood institution shut down in February due to a number of problems, not the least of which was a very publicized sanitation issue. Nine months later, with new ownership and a gleamingly rebuilt, ultra-clean space, F&J’s is back in action, and thank goodness for that, because if anyone in town know’s the mystical art of deep frying well, it’s these folks. Many come for the fried seafood, but their chicken is seriously serious.
5. Lil Dizzy’s Cafe
Maybe there’s something in the water down in the Seventh Ward/Treme, or more importantly, in the grease, because it seems to be the epicenter of fried chicken awesomeness in New Orleans. Lil Dizzy’s joins in that tradition with some of the most talked-about fried birds in the city.
6. McHardy's Chicken & Fixin
Their slogan “Always Fresh Hot And Good” is no lie. It might be a bit out of the way, hidden deep in the Seventh Ward, but McHardy’s is definitely worth the trek if you’re looking for some crispy fried action. Oh, and there may or may not be someone in a chicken costume outside. Isn’t it worth finding out?
1. Franky and Johnny's321 Arabella St, New Orleans
2. Willie Mae's Scotch House2401 Saint Ann St, New Orleans
3. Dooky Chase's Restaurant2301 Orleans Ave, New Orleans
4. Jacques-Imo's Cafe8324 Oak St, New Orleans
5. Lil Dizzy's Cafe1500 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans
6. McHardy's Chicken & Fixin'1458 N Broad St, New Orleans
This Uptown resto is typically touted for their fresh seafood, but their best-kept secret is their deep-fried, juicy chicken.
The fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House is the best in the United States. No joke: it was dubbed such by the Travel Channel and Food Network, and also won the James Beard Award for “America’s Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” Tucked away the Treme neighborhood, the cozy spot features all the accoutrements of a beloved local haunt -- memorabilia mounted throughout, news clippings chronicling the success of the family-owned business (which has been open since 1957), homey environs -- and it’s worth noting that there’s always a line out the door, regardless of weather. It’s a walk-ins only spot, so be prepared to wait -- but the soul food here is so satisfying, and it’s entirely worth it.
The history of this cozy Treme spot is just as interesting as the authentic Creole flavors it serves up: perfectly crispy fried chicken, shrimp Clemenceau, and hearty, zesty seafood gumbo. Helmed by Chef Leah Chase -- known to locals and notable folk like President Obama and Beyoncé as the “Queen of Creole” -- the spot’s storied past covers its tenure as a po-boy and lottery shop in turned, as of 1941, beloved restaurant and community outpost for live music, local artwork, and civil rights. It’s the perfect option for a relaxed yet refined lunch during the week, and we suggest making a reservation -- it’s no secret that Dooky Chase’s is a Big Easy institution, and seating fills up fast.
Jacques-Imo's Cafe in Uptown is home to authentic NOLA cooking, offering a menu loaded with Louisiana favorites like Creole jambalaya, shrimp & alligator sausage cheesecake, blackened redfish with crab-chili hollandaise, and its famous Godzilla Meets Fried Green Tomatoes (fried soft shell crab over fried green tomatoes with remoulade and a side of slaw). You can either grab a table inside the mural-lined space, on the sidewalk, or even on the bed of Jacques-Imo's colorfully painted truck parked at the curb. All three options are steeped in the friendly, community feel that defines this neighborhood spot.
This is a perfect spot for a variety of NOLA cuisine. They do a killer fried chicken, but you'd be advised to also try their bread pudding, gumbo, and catfish.