When properly cooked, fried chicken can be one of the most delicious foods on Earth: tender and juicy, salty, crunchy, fatty. There's a reason why it's become a thing of cultish devotion, one of the primary reasons being that it's much harder to get right than you might think. Some places, however, don't just get it right; they serve fried chicken that’s worthy of its own pilgrimage.
All of the examples that we included in this year’s ranking of the 75 best fried chicken places in America (which we whittled down from more than 200 candidates) are worthy of driving hundreds of miles for, but one has risen to the top. The fried chicken served at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, Louisiana, is our choice, and we’re not the only ones to call it the absolute best in America.
Located in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood since 1956, Willie Mae’s is located in an unassuming old house with two no-frills dining rooms. Look around and you’ll see nothing but fried chicken, because everyone who visits knows to order it. The recipe, perfected by Willie Mae Seaton (who passed away in 2015 at age 99) and today safeguarded by her granddaughter Kerry, is, simply put, otherworldly.
Fried to order, the crust is shiny, craggy, light, not greasy, and shatteringly crisp and crunchy, coming away cleanly as you take a bite without dragging the rest of the breading with it. Underneath, the chicken is impossibly moist and juicy. Willie Mae’s is a must-visit for anyone passing through the Big Easy, and it should come as no surprise that the restaurant that serves America's best fried chicken is also one of the nation's 101 best casual restaurants.