Willie Mae’s has been around for a long, long time. In recent years, the restaurant has been featured on places like the Travel Channel and the Food Network, which is rather impressive. Once a place becomes hyped to that high a level, though, one wonders if it is true, or if they are simply being viewed through the magnifying Hype Lense.
There is no Hype Lense here. Willie Mae’s is a glory to experience.
J and I had been wanting to go there for years. YEARS. However, as stated before, our forays to New Orleans never included allowance for a rental car, so we always stuck to places we could get to on our own two feet, or roll to by streetcar. So we never made it. Willie Maes, at 2401 St. Ann St., in the Treme, had always seemed an unnavigable, if not unobtainable, dream.
Until last Saturday. Last Saturday, we had finished our CBD errand and realized, “Hey, we’re in a car. We’re in New Orleans. It’s lunchtime. LET’S GO!”
So go, we did.
When we got there, there was a line outside, which seemed usual. We waited a bit, which gave me time to take in the neighborhood, and the outside of Willie Mae’s itself, which looked so familiar from everything I’d ever seen or read or viewed. Our wait was not long, though, as the “line” turned out this time to be a single party of 13 or 14, so they were patiently chilling out outside while enough tables were gathered up to accommodate them all together. Before we knew it, we were nestled in a corner table contentedly staring around us at all of the great photos, framed articles, and various and sundry knick knacks that lined the walls. These various and sundries included a rather sizeable Zulu coconut, always grin-worthy.
The staff was very friendly and downright familial, which was fantastic. We immediately knew what we wanted: Fried Chicken for both of us, red beans and rice for J, butter beans for me. When the food came, I had to document it very quickly before it all disappeared!
Hype, schmype, this stuff is the stuff that southern chickeny dreams are made of. The butter beans were mellow and creamy. The cornbread was Home in a muffin. And the chicken. OH boy, the chicken! The batter was light and fluffy and crunchy and crispy, with just enough grease to know that you’re eating fried chicken, but not so much that things got soggy at all. The meat fell right off the bone. Literally. I’ve never seen cleaner bones.
J and I got really quiet, because our mouths were full. I got into a great routine, whereby if I let my chicken crunchies fall into my butter beans, THEN I had butter beans with crispies in it, which was very grand, indeed.
That chicken plate was gone far, far too soon. I got full full full, and only had half a cornbread muffin left and was about to wave my white flag. But J piped up, jokingly admonishing me that, “Nuh UH – Willie Mae’s made that for you, you gotta eat it!” Joking or not, that was enough inspiration to finish that cornbread off and leave a whole bunch of clean plates.
Amazing drooly chicken, homelike sides, wonderful people, affordable prices. I am already looking forward to my next foray to Willie Mae’s. After all these years of wanting, they were definitely worth the wait.