New Orleans Dining: Willie Mae’s Scotch House


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Willie Mae’s Scotch House
2401 Saint Ann St, New Orleans, LA

(504) 822-9503

Many restaurants in New Orleans can legitimately call themselves cultural landmarks. And yet, when Hurricane Katrina came, the levees broke and the city flooded, there was a very short list of foodie destinations in the affected areas where I thought it would be a monumental tragedy if they never returned to business again. Magnificent restaurants like Commander’s Palace. Neighborhood hangouts like Angelo Brocato’s. And little holes in the wall like Willie Mae’s Scotch House, which is arguably the fried chicken Mecca of the United States and has huge historical value to the civil rights movement, much like the original Paschal’s in Atlanta.

It was a huge, Herculean task to bring Willie Mae’s Scotch House back from the dead. The water line from the flooding was several feet high, and the entire restaurant had to be gutted to the studs. A huge volunteer reconstruction project started in January of 2006 funded by over $200,000 in donations solicited by the Southern Foodways Alliance eventually resulted in the re-opening of the restaurant in May of 2007 (A short SFA film directed by filmmaker Joe York, “Saving Willie Mae’s Scotch House” chronicled the project.)

Upon re-opening of the restaurant, Ms Seaton, age 90, relinquished her place as head cook to her great granddaughter, Kerry Blackmon. However, despite organizational changes, the Fried Chicken is as great as ever.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House on Saint Ann Street in New Orleans, August 29 2007, two years to the day that Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.

It was fitting that we got to eat at Willie Mae’s on August 29. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Willie Mae Seaton, photographed in the restaurant’s kitchen in May of 2005.

Owner Slim Seaton (Willie Mae’s son) and local artist Damien Hunter, who’s paintings are displayed on Willie Mae’s reconstructed walls.

The dining room, as it appeared pre-Katrina in May of 2005.

The dining room, as it appears now post-reconstruction.

One of Damien’s paintings.

And another!

Many objects and ephemera from the original restaurant were saved.

The new kitchen.

Great Granddaughter and head cook Kerry Blackmon. “Whatcha wanna take a picture of me for?”

This is when I got my first glimpse of the fried chicken coming out of the new kitchen.

I was really tempted to take this off another table, but I thought the better of it.

Red Beans and rice is a staple dish in New Orleans, and Willie Mae’s makes a great one.

I really like the butter beans too.

The green beans are of the cooked to death variety and aren’t particularly memorable. But that’s not what we came for.

Smothered veal chop, Pre-Katrina.

Smothered Veal Chop, August 29, 2007.

Willie Mae’s fried Chicken Plate, May of 2005.

The 2007 version.

Fried Chicken Closeup.

Nice drumstick.

I must admit, I’m a breast man.

Because the fried chicken uses a wet batter, and has been brined, it manages to stay juicy even after a very crispy deep fry.

A 2007 fried pork chop. Rachel said she thought it was even better than the fried chicken. Heresy, I know, but I must admit its the best fried pork chop I ever had in my entire life.

August 29. 2007. A day of remembrance and a day of fried chicken joy.

48 Responses to New Orleans Dining: Willie Mae’s Scotch House

  1. [...] Off The Broiler goes to Willie Mae’s Scotch House. I have a soft spot for Willie Mae’s, as it was the place where I had my one and only face-to-face meeting with the late John Copes, when C.B. and I met him for lunch. [...]

  2. Brooks says:

    Nice work. I’m glad that you didn’t start grabbing food off of the other tables. I know that you are from Jersey and all and that’s kind of hard to overcome, but you are, apparently, slowly becoming a naturalized citizen. Congratulations. I’ll send you your passport forms soon.

  3. Markus says:

    Damn, I’m hungy now. Glad to say that as more and more places reopen it’s hard to get them all-just notenoughs days in the week or holes left in my belt. These pictured will get me to WM’s real soon.

  4. Malawry says:

    I knew you’d go back here. Thanks for the photos, now I really want some good fried chicken.

  5. crazy thing one of the customers in the photos was behind me at Martins Wine Cellar in Metarie when we went to New Orleans in August. The only reason that I remember is that he was talking about some friends coming up the southwest pass in a day or two when there was a hurricane brewing in the gulf. Small world, guess he really loves good food:)

  6. Jessica Erny says:

    Man oh man, I ‘ve never been there. I must go.

  7. That was great. I really like the before and after photos.

  8. Leslie Kelly says:

    You know what made me really happy about those pictures? Seeing the appreciative customers filling this bright, welcoming place. I can’t wait to get in there for some of that chicken! Here’s hoping Dookie Chase’s will be back in business soon, too…

  9. Brooks says:

    Leslie,

    How You?

    Leah is now, indeed, back in business-sort of. They are doing to-go only and it seems to be pretty much lunch through 6 or so in the evening. I had some chicken and some gumbo the other night because I showed up on the right porch at the right moment and both were really good. The kind of thing that they only dream about in your new/old neck of the woods.

  10. [...] and September 2005. Still, there have been some amazing cases of businesses on the rebound, such as Willie Mae’s, Dooky Chase, Mandina’s, Angelo Brocato’s and Camelia Grill, New Orleans eateries of [...]

  11. Foodmomiac says:

    If fried chicken is wrong, I don’t want to be right!…

    Best Fried Chicken EVER Originally uploaded by Foodmomiac I’m trying to figure out how to tell you about Willie Mae’s Scotch House, but I’m feeling a bit tongue-tied. What can I say that hasn’t already been said by Jason Perlow?…

  12. seregaborzov says:

    Yea, the before and after photos cool

  13. Louise Terzia says:

    Thanks for the nice story. I’m sending a friend information on how to get to Willie Mae’s this weekend–here’s hoping I finally get some of that fried chicken before too long!

  14. Deborah Mourning says:

    We were visiting my son in New Orleans from St. Louis and we met Willie Mae’s sweet grandson. I told him that his grandmother’s chicken was the best chicken I had ever eaten, which it was. It was a wonderful experience and so delicious. Thank you. Willie Mae!!

  15. Quenyatta Echols-Williams says:

    i lived in NOLA for 9 years and had not heard of Willie Mae’s until recently. i’ll be returning this weekend and can’t wait to try some of that chicken. so good to see such local staples returing.

  16. wei yang says:

    I saw their fried chicken on discovery channel-traveling and living, they look really delicious, I’m going to try it out someday. I live in Singapore though but I want to eat those chicken! And the smothered veal chops! And the red bean rice! And the butter bean rice! And wwwwwaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!

  17. Mariza Faria says:

    Hi I am Brazilian and I have great affection for New Orleans.

    Watch TV by a recipe from the Chicken Fried Fashion South and I have this recipe. How could acquire it?

    Here in Brazil working on a TV Educativa and the President there is a Father born in New Orleans, Father Edward J. Dougherty.

    A big hug Brazilian!

    Mariza

  18. Melanie says:

    WOW!!What great food –photos great too–need to eat there right now–but am far away.

  19. Pat says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article. I saw the filming of the construction and re-opening of Willie Mae’s Scotch House. I shed a few tears while watching the reconstruction. The chef who help make this dream a reality is a SAINT! It is so nice to know that real people still exit in this great country. See what we can do when we reach out and work together. Hats off to all of the wonderful volunteers. Does anyone know the origine of the name (Scotch House)? Pat from Tampa

  20. Dante says:

    What is the origin of the restaurant name “Scotch House”? I have heard several different versions.

  21. Tracy says:

    Me and a group of my colleagues were just at Willie Mae’s July 3, 2009 while visiting New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival. I must report that the service at Willie Mae’s was the worst I have ever experienced at any restaurant.

    It is very unfortunate Kerry Blackmon, the great-grand daughter advised, she could not apologize for the waiter deliberately ingoring us to wait on other people who came in after us. It took over an hour for the waiter to take our order after being seated. After speaking to Ms. Blackmon twice about our service, she reluctanly adjusted our check.

    The one positive thing I would like to say is that I got an opportunity to meet Mr. Slim Seaton, the owner and his lovely wife Ms. Doris. They were very pleasant and kind.

    I must also, admit the chicken was just OK for me and definately not worth waiting over an hour for.

    I pray Ms. Blackmon has not taken the generosity of so many kind people who help them rebuild after Katina for granted.

  22. Edd Anderson says:

    I just went there this passed Saturday (July 11, 2009) and I honestly have to say that this is one of the best Soul Food Restaurants I have ever been to. The fried chicken was truly remarkable and the side items are to do die for (not by high cholesterol or anything..lol). The servers were very courteous and the “old-time” feel of the restaurant will give tourists a taste of classic New Orleans. Some might argue about the service as far as the waiters and staff but since they only have a limited amount of servers I must say that they have done very well despite the 45 minute wait. I enjoyed it!!

  23. Nick Jaquith says:

    Wow.

    I was the second person to step foot in the place in January of 2006, accompanied by maybe 20 other volunteers. My boss had taken me as his assistant, as he was the lead contractor on the initial stages of the clean-up.

    I’ve never seen anything like a kitchen left alone, 5 months after a flood. It was absolutely wretched. Rotten food was everywhere and mold grew up every wall. But we got to work and left 2 weeks later with a nice, clean shell.

    I’m just now seeing what it has become.

    Working with Willie Mae (and her kids) was one of the most uplifting experiences of my life. They were so warm and welcoming (and thankful!). Her smiling face every morning was more than reason enough to be there.

    I’m glad to see it booming again.

    Thanks for the article!

  24. wanda jemison says:

    I visited on 9/18/2009-9/20/2009 the chicken was great the veal was sold out ( shame) the bread pudding was dry, needed moore spices and sauce. over all experience was good.

  25. Phyllis Dunams-Broussard says:

    Hi, I just want to express how excited I was to find your restaurant on the internet I had seen the documentary on the food network channel.I am from New Olreans born and raised uptown. I can honestly say I had never heard of your restaurane until that show. I will tell you this, both my family and I will make it our business to visit a your restaurant with God willing on our next trip.I live in Baton Rouge and have been here for 20plus years and please know I’ve forwarded this information on to my family members who still live in the Big N.O. So until then may God continue blessing you ,your family and the restaurant.

  26. Bonita says:

    One of my best memories of nawlins is eating lunch at willie mae’s and then catching a taxi that evening and asking where I could get some good red beans and rice he said at his mother’s place his mother was willie mae and he took us back there for dinner. I am glad they survived and as some as I can I’ll be back there for the fried chicken and ice tea. let the good times roll. P. S. we saw you on the travel station last night

  27. [...] many out-of-town foodies have heard of Willie Mae’s Scotch House restaurant and the story of the restaurant’s destruction during the flooding of the city in [...]

  28. KEN says:

    Hello Miss Willie mae and Ms. Kerry I’m from Compton, CA and do alot of cooking but when I seen yall on TV I just fell in Love with your restaraunt my family is from new orleans, shreveport, baton rouge but i never been in my 44yrs but my daughter has 3 times around when they havethe bayou classic i will be there soon kep me informed about what’s going on with the business a TRUE FAN OF YALL I’M STILL TRYIN TO DUPLICATE YOUR CHICKEN RECIPIE LOVE YOU ALL THANKS FOR MAKINIG ME HAPPY WITH YOUR COOKIN AND KEEP GOD FIRST IN YOUR LIFE…….

  29. Brenda says:

    I heard so mush about the great chicken at Willie Mae’s. My husband and I decided to go today for lunch. we were so dissappointed. The chicken was so greasey,and the red beans and rice was cold. The couple we were with said the same thing, way to greasy.

  30. FREDA ETIENNE-SEALS says:

    I HAVE NEVER BEEN BUT I AM LEAVING TOMORROW FOR SPRING BREAK AND THAT IS THE FIRST PLACE I WANT TO GO , I HAVE HEARD LOTS OF STUFF ON TV AND ONLINE I AM EXCITED HOPE IT IS WORTH THE TRIP.

  31. jeannecterrill says:

    Thank you for the Fried Chicken Pictorial…I can almost smell the chicken… we are planning a trip to NOLA in August and we will be stopping by Willie Mae’s.

  32. Sevda says:

    I went to Willie Mae’s to see what all the hype was about. We got there around 1:30 and we were seated at closing time which was 3 pm on a saturday. We thought if all the people are coming here than the chicken must be good. However, I was highly disappointed about the greasy non-flavored chicken. I even hate to give such a review but I am just writing down what we experienced. If the Travel Channel and Food Network think that greasy non-floverd chicken is good than Willie Mae is the best. She was out of half of the stuff, red beans, corn bread etc. Maybe she had a bad day yesterday and just made a bad batch of chicken but I decided that I wasted my time and money. I would prefer KFC any day over Willie Mae’s.

  33. Sonic98 says:

    I will have to check it out next time I’m in NOLA. I always like checking out places to get fried chicken when I travel. I’m a little disappointed in the pics of the chicken. Being in NO, I was kinda expecting it to look a lil more like Popeye’s. Hopefully the taste will be closer than the pics. The previous post doesn’t bother me that much. It’s not like I’ve never been somewhere and they were out of a certain side or drink before. I’m used to it now.

  34. johna says:

    My husband and I rode our motorcycle from arkansas to eat at willie’s. It was the best fried chicken we have ever eat any where, and we have eat at a lot of places on our bike. The other night we say that we wishes we had some for supper that night…………. We will ride back it is worth the 6 hr. ride……….Keep up the good food……………..

  35. Kenny says:

    Way over priced 3 pices of chicken which were very very small and a side which was also small for 10 bucks. defiently not a local spot a tourist trap for sure. In a very bad neighborhood. Obviously by the prices and size of portions this place doent care if you come back or not .Flavored and seasoned very well. If prices and size of portion matched the flavor this place would rock.I am a local and wouldnt take any more of my friends here again

  36. stephen pomes says:

    Although I’ve lived in the New Orleans metro area for most of my life, I only recently visited Willie Mae’s. I truly regret not having the opportunity of meeting Willie Mae Seaton.

    The food is fabulous, and I look forward to being a regular at this restaurant.

  37. Skip Mungro says:

    If any of my FB friends or family are going to New Orleans please try Willie Maes you will love it and go back again.

  38. Jon says:

    Hmm. Bourdain finally shot an episode here (and even joked about how overexposed the place was now).

  39. Hello!!!

    My name is Melvin Duncan, and I work over at the Beastern Hotel. I had some of the guess at the Hotel talking bout how excellent the food is at your resturant. They gave your resturant high marks and high prays. I will be coming to see you and with friends to eat at your resturant soon!!!

    Mel Duncan (Ret USA )
    Student, SUNO

  40. Mr. Darnell Jordan says:

    I have to write something about this place. I was so excited to be heading to New Orleans and this place was one of the places at the top of my list. I saw it on television and thought I have to go. The day after my arrival, me and my two best friends fought the storm and made our way to Willie Mae’s. When we got there, we were ignored for a while before finally being asked to sit on a wall in the second dining room. We sat for about 30 min. and then was taken to a small table that was so rock my drink kept sliding toward the edge. We placed our orders and was abruptly told what we could not have as in certain parts of the chicken or make any special orders. We sat anyway to get our food. After about an hour and half of waiting, we were never offered bread, more soda, water or anything. We finally asked the rude young man, Gregory about our order. He told us that our would be coming up in a bit because they had to change out the grease. We were amazed that after all that time the food had not even been started. We then went to ask him another question and he walked off from us. We finally got another waiters attenion and asked how much were our soda’s. He said 2 dollars each. We then just placed our money on the table and walked out. So in all we spent about 3 hours there and never even got any food. People were complaining throughout the entire area we sat in. Not to mention about to fall from the slippery/ greasy floor. It was the most awful place I have ever gone to.

  41. [...] New Orleans is known for its wonderful creole seafood.  Yes it is!  It is also the home of a little restaurant known for its fried chicken.  Unfortunately time did not allow for us to make our way to this gem [...]

  42. Kay Roll Tide says:

    Best fried chicken I have ever eaten!!! Me and my friends were in town for the BCS Championship Game ( ROLL TIDE).

  43. Burt Ballard says:

    Wow that incredible food. This was by far the best chicken I have ever devoured. I will be back soon

  44. carl e cook says:

    willie maes chicken is finger lickin’

  45. [...] Willie Mae’s Scotch House [...]

  46. [...] five days, we ate the local fare of po-boys, debris, pecan pie at Mothers, amazing fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House, beignets and cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde, seafood at Deanies, and a muffuletta at Central [...]

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