Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Willie Mae's Scotch House: Is It Worth It?

A sleeper on the Willie Mae's menu, a country style fried pork chop.

A place like Willie Mae's Scotch House is tailor made to be a complete bust. Featured on more travel shows than voodoo, Willie Mae's was rebuilt by a cadre of chefs following the federal flood. With such an influx of attention and cameras, one could understand if they began hawking seasoned flours and stovetop chicken fryers on HSN. What's more, Willie Mae Seaton has long since turned the place over  to her granddaughter. It would be very easy for Willie Mae's to cash in on its fifteen minutes, follow the lead of other "World Famous" New Orleans restaurants, and begin buying stamps at a discount rate.

No way in hell that has happened or will happen at Willie Mae's.

This restaurant is so charming I thought it was going to take Lindsay home. The servers have a warmth and personality that will steer you away from say a regular fried pork chop to the country style pork chop, which has a more coarse coating, but a juicier interior. Perhaps it is the fact that your seat may be under a grotto filled with well-wishes from Jesus, but there is something both holy and homey about the food served here.

Red beans are costume de rigueur at the carnival clubs that are New Orleans' neighborhood restaurants. To be clear, the ones at Willie Mae's are an excellent example of the Creole standby. However, pass them up as a side to your fried chicken or pork chop for a plate of the butter beans. They are smoky, rich, and silken like a a bootlegger's smoking jacket. Skip the cornbread and macaroni and cheese; order more beans.

The fried chicken at Willie Mae's could perhaps be the best in the world. The crust is a shade below mahogany and shatters just slightly less than a Christmas ornament dropped on the ground. Break the seal of the crust, and a waft of sultry, fragrant steam floods out as if you had opened the door to a sauna filled with Victoria's Secret models. The interior, juicy and salty, is worthy of an interview with James Lipton. One of the great experiences in this mortal coil is to run a palmful of fried chicken crust through the last bits of butter beans on your plate. A standard order comes with three pieces, you might as well order two.

If you go early, you will deal with crowds, lines, and a long wait for chicken. Go around one and you will waltz right into one of New Orleans' best restaurants.

Willie Mae's Scotch House: Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
2401 St. Ann St
(504) 822-9503
Open daily.


Anonymous said...

Red beans at Willie Mae's are fantastic, the fried chicken on the other hand is cooked perfectly on the inside but the skin has absolutely no flavor and I'm a skin guy. Best fried chicken is in this order, Mchardys, McKenzies chicken in a box and Popeyes.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Comment # 1. McHardy's over Willie Mae's...any day.

Wilson said...

The butter beans are fantastic. However, no point in placing 2 orders as they'll screw you out of a breast. Happened to me on diff occasions when both my dining companions and myself made a 3 piece order. Both times they brought out 6 pieces on a plate and both times only 1 breast. Makes it awkward when sharing with someone - who gets screwed? Neither time was I provided a satisfactory explanation why this is protocol. I love dark meat so not a huge deal but they still charge you full price and a leg isn't exactly equivalent to a breast. The biggest sin is you lose all that great crust with a smaller piece.

nikinik said...

McHardy's is definitely better than Willie Mae's!

Rene said...

I've never been that impressed with McHardy's, my run ins with it have been greasy and poorly fried. But perhaps a revisit is in order (admittedly been since 2010 or so).

Wilson, my best advice is to sweet talk a waitress, 60% of the time it works every time.

Anonymous said...

This blog could survive on "Is It Worth It?" entries alone. Please keep them up. This might be the most interesting one you've posed so far. I think Willie Mae's is a good restaurant. They know that kind of food and they do it well. I eat that kind of food all the time and I love it. I found all the post-hurricane hype to be pretty amusing, though. There's no way a white-owned restaurant cooking basic Southern food would get that kind of attention. I disagree with your review on one point, though. I'm not wild about their fried chicken, or any batter-fried chicken for that matter. I think the only way to fry chicken is to roll the dry, well-seasoned pieces in flour then pan-fry.

jeffrey said...

I agree about the "Is it worth it?" posts. Great stuff. But I'm also a McHardy's partisan. In fact that might be in order for tonight's game.

NMissC said...

I pretty much agree with the post all the way through, except would not go as far as "best in the world." I've not tried McHardy's.

I was down there for the last weekend of work crews at the place and put in an afternoon. The story of how it got all the attention is an interesting one-- it got that heritage-related Beard award the same night as Galatoire's. After the flood, Willie Mae somehow slipped from her family in Houston and got back to N.O., where she was found sitting on her front steps by a sympathetic police woman, who was shown the award, called the Beard people, who, with a typical NE'ers understanding of geography, assumed Oxford Mississippi was right next to New Orleans, and called John T. Edge here in Oxford to see if he could help her. Good call. He and John Currence mobilized the Southern Foodways effort.

There was a fluke-y-ness to the attention, to some extent, but Willie Mae made such a sympathetic figure, the place is so appealing, and the food really is good. It all just came together. Another factor was that Currence was from there and quickly and whole-hog committed to doing something, with this project being that something. Because of Foodways, John T., and Currence, the attention came with it. We all can't change everything, but they did good in changing something.