Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Gus World Famous Fried Chicken

My father is pretty adamant about making sure his first meal in a new city is something indicative of that city. So when we visited Memphis, TN, we had our choice of either BBQ or Fried Chicken. Fortunately, with options like that, we couldn't go wrong either way.

We took Friday off to fly down from New York on the early 8:30AM flight, so we arrived downtown just after 10:30AM. Since our hotel room at the Westin Memphis Beale Street wasn't ready yet, we decided to walk a few blocks over to Gus World Famous Fried Chicken (310 South Front Street) when they opened at 11AM.

As you can see from the photo, there was already a line of devoted patrons at 10:50AM when we arrived. While we were probably the 3rd group there, we didn't realize there was a queue forming on the other side of the door, so we got in line. People must have been die-hard fried chicken fans, because no one even offered us to go ahead of them in line even though they clearly knew we had arrived before them. But we didn't care, we just enjoyed the delicious aroma of fried chicken wafting through the air.

At 11AM, the doors opened and people flowed in and took their seats at the checkered tables. It was a very casual place with laminated menus and young waitresses. For a second, my father didn't know if they even accepted credit cards (but they did).

We chose a table in the back corner by the 1950's style jukebox. The waitress offered me a high chair which I stayed in for the first 15 minutes while my parents and I ate our appetizer of fried pickles ($5.75).


Then I decided I wanted to sit next to my father in a normal chair as the 8 Piece Family Meal ($20.95) came out. Each of my parents got to try one breast, thigh, leg and wing as well as the BBQ beans, cole slaw and white bread. But no Southern meal is complete without a side of potato salad, so we ordered one of those as well along with a sweet tea (which was WAY too sweet even for my father).  

And the food lived up to the hype. While many people will wonder what made Gus taste so different, I have to say it was the thin crispy skin. Most of the fried chicken you get in NYC has a thicker skin that is almost a meal in and of itself. But here, the skin was paper thin and spiced with just the right amount of heat (more than KFC's Spicy but not as hot as Korean Fried Chicken). We had hot sauce available, but Gus' fried chicken didn't need any at all - the true sign of quality cooking!

In case you wanted to see what else they served, here's a snapshot of the laminated menu.

Full disclosure: on our cab ride to the Memphis Airport, our driver wasn't a fan of Gus Fried Chicken. He said, and I quote, "You can get just as good fried chicken at any gas station around here." Well, if that's true, we're going to have to check out some more gas stations.

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