As the squawking over fast-food sandwiches subsides, many of us are left with a craving for good fried chicken. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, which opened in July in the Warehouse District, is a solid contender to satisfy that desire.
The restaurant is an outpost of a brand that originated in Memphis and now has 29 locations across 13 states. While many of those are franchises, the New Orleans restaurant is corporate-owned. Gus’s tested our waters at the 2017 National Fried Chicken Festival and came away with third place (the Original Fiorella’s Cafe in Gentilly served the judges’ favorite).
Gus’s recipe dates back to 1953 and a family that built the chain from a Tennessee tradition to widespread, award-winning acclaim. Gus’s New Orleans location on South Diamond Street, has a display of framed articles and accolades. Those endorsements may reassure diners who feel curious about a Tennessee recipe or disloyal to local stalwarts such as Willie Mae’s Scotch House.
Gus’s helps new diners with information on its approach. Every table holds a sign with a treatise entitled “Why white bread…” and it explains the sandwich slices that accompany its chicken. The text acknowledges that the restaurant could serve biscuits or cornbread but doesn’t. It even promises the business won’t be “upset” if diners bring their own biscuits.
Against that backdrop, we are encouraged to enjoy the chicken on its merits. And it is enjoyable. The crust is smoother and less craggy than that on pieces from Popeyes or Willie Mae’s but provides a satisfying crunch. Both white and dark meat is juicy, with just enough heat to linger at the back of the throat. Plates of chicken or tenders are customizable by size and color (white or dark) and include baked beans, coleslaw and a slice of bread. A three-piece dark meat plate is $9.25, and sides can be substituted for an extra 50 cents.
Dinner is served Thursday through Saturday to 16 diners a night.
Sides are straightforward, reminiscent of a good church potluck. Baked beans are sweet, which some might find cloying. The mild coleslaw mainly serves to offset the chicken’s heat, while mustard and pickles add tang to the potato salad. Creamy macaroni and cheese is topped with shredded cheddar and a dusting of paprika.
Gus’s isn’t a place to count calories. There are no soups or salads, and the appetizer options are fried okra, fried pickles and fried green tomatoes. The kitchen offers a small selection of vegetables but handles them well. Both okra and tomatoes arrive piping hot and firm within crisp cornmeal-battered exteriors. The greens (a side dish that contains pork) are cooked well and simply seasoned.
Kids’ meals are available for $5.50, but apart from the grilled cheese sandwich, all chicken selections are hot and spicy.
Gus’s makes several varieties of pie. Chocolate chess, served warm, is a knockout, and pecan is a solid option.
The restaurant offers full table service, and waitstaff are competent and friendly. Checkered vinyl tablecloths impart a picnic vibe, as do paper plates and plastic flatware, although they seem incongruous even with casual table service.
Gus’s brings its strong addition to a city that loves its chicken. It isn’t Willie Mae’s, but it’s not trying to be. And, besides, haven’t we had enough arguing over fried chicken?
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
308 S. Diamond St., (504) 252-4870; www.gusfriedchicken.com
lunch and dinner daily
hot and spicy fried chicken, fried appetizers, chocolate chess pie
disposable tableware, overly sweet baked beans
hot and spicy fried chicken that lives up to its reputation