Reality Bites: The World’s Perfect Food (Pt. 1)

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Published  April 2015

antigravity_vol12_issue6_Page_11_Image_0001I was a vegetarian for 15 years and a vegan for two and a half of those. I broke, one fateful summer day, for Popeye’s spicy fried chicken, my absolute favorite childhood meal. And damn, y’all…the inevitable horrific stomach ache was worth it. I’m convinced that fried chicken is what God eats, and I’ve been bandying about the idea of eating every fried chicken I could get my hands on, in an attempt to find the best in the city. This is such a massive undertaking that I know it’ll take a long time to get right; luckily, for you, I’m a very serious and committed journalist, and will eat it all, from the fancy shmancy to the gas station variety. I promise this column won’t become all fried chicken all the time, but this topic is simply too expansive for just one article. This is part one of my fried chicken investigation (I’m looking at chicken-on-the-bone only—tenders just aren’t as good, sorry. Also, chicken wings are a separate issue, and will be explored as such).


 

Popeyes (various locations)
For me, Popeye’s has a certain undeniable nostalgia value.  As I mentioned before, Popeye’s was my jam when I was a kid. Friday nights, my dad would bring home that big red box, mixed/spicy (I was shocked when, as an adult, I realized that some people don’t feed their children spicy food, and am grateful I wasn’t raised like that—how sad), and always the same sides: cole slaw, mashed potatoes, and red beans. I would dip the biscuits in ketchup, which I’ve learned is apparently disgusting to everyone  but me. I remember ripping the skin off and eating that first, then delving into the meat—I loved how the spices would stain reddish streaks onto the chicken under the skin. It was my all-time favorite meal. I requested Popeye’s as the big dinner out, for both  my Communion and Confirmation. But does the nostalgia hold up? Yeah, it does. Despite all those horrible recent commercials featuring that lady who’s just chilling in Jackson Square, and is all like, “Spicy baby, Creole seasoning,  that’s how we do it in N’awlins, Mardi Gras, Red Beans, Cajun, Swamp…” the chicken is still the best. Interestingly, as a world weary, well-traveled lady, I’ve learned that Popeye’s in New Orleans is shockingly better than Popeye’s elsewhere in the country. What’s up with that? 9.5/10 Big Red Boxes

 

Hooks (2100 St. Bernard Ave.)
Hooks is a relative newcomer to the 7th Ward and they have fried chicken, so I thought: what the hell. Why not throw caution to the wind, and give it a shot? Ugh, what a freaking mistake;  there’s sugar on the chicken. Did they manage to mix up the sugar and the salt shakers? Eating this chicken is confusing and disgusting. It’s rare that I can’t finish something, and even rarer that I won’t give something a second chance, but Hooks is so abhorrent, that I will never darken their doorstep again. Even the french fries have sugar on them! The fried chicken livers have sugar on them! And everything comes with a dipping sauce that tastes  like that strawberry syrup they have at IHOP in that weird flavored syrup caddy that no one touches. Hooks, are you trying to kill me? Are you punking  the good people of the 7th Ward? 0/10 sugary french fries

 

Brothers Gas Station (various locations)
Brother’s is the gold standard of gas station fried chicken. Crispy, well-seasoned, and surprisingly delicious—I eat at Brother’s way more than I should. The batter is crispy and lightly spicy; the chicken is reliably juicy. It’s fairly greasy, but what do you expect from a gas station? This is the chicken to bring to a potluck if you’re feeling lazy, and you only have $5 to spend. On the downside, the fries are always soggy, and the cashiers  are inevitably jerks (if you know of a Brother’s location that isn’t staffed by total meanies, please let me know). 7.5/10 Total Meanies

 

Willie Maes Scotch House (2401 St. Ann St.)
This review is bound to be controversial. Willie Mae’s has quite the reputation (hello, they won the Food Network’s title “America’s Best Fried Chicken”), and I’m honestly not sure how deserved it is. The chicken is overly greasy and I felt sort of ill after eating there both times I’ve gone. I have a cast iron stomach, and I want to understand the hype, but I’m understandably reticent to revisit Willie Mae’s. The surroundings are fine, and the waitstaff is super  pleasant. I get the feeling that you’d come here if you’re a tourist, or from the Northshore or something, and you want some kind of “Authentic New Orleans Experience.” Let’s talk sides: the baked macaroni and cheese tastes exactly like the kind you’d get from your neighbor who sells plate lunches for $7, so that’s a plus. The okra is kind of a disappointment, though. Anyway, this isn’t the best fried chicken in America. Y’all, I wish it was, but it isn’t. I’m really not sure why people are so enamored with it! 3/10 Food Network Wins

 

Pollo Campero (2810 Williams Blvd.)
Pollo Campero is a fried chicken chain based in Honduras, with a location in Kenner. The sides are a selling point at Pollo Campero: yucca fries, plantains, and a salsa bar! And they serve corn tortillas alongside the fried chicken so you can make little tacos! Even without the sides, though, I’d recommend Pollo Campero because the chicken is literally flawless. There’s less batter on this chicken than on most, making it seem lighter. It’s also surprisingly not greasy at all. There’s no spicy option,  which always bums me out, but there’s salsa and seemingly fresh hot sauces. There’s also a lady who’s always in the parking lot selling homemade Central American pastries out of the trunk of her car! So many good things about this place. I suggest bringing new dates here. It’s cheap, delicious, a fun atmosphere, and you can weed out anyone who has a snotty reaction to being brought to a chain restaurant in Kenner, because trust me, you don’t need anyone like that in your life. 10/10 Little Tacos

 

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