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