In January of 2012, my brother Joe and his wife Ruby, Elzia and Carol Hicks, and my wife Janet and I spent a couple of days in New Orleans before embarking on a seven-day Caribbean cruise. Of all the places we ate the one we liked best was a legendary chicken joint called Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the Treme neighborhood.
Willie Mae was Willie Mae Seaton and she started her modest restaurant in 1957. In 2005 she was awarded the prestigious James Bears Award for “American Classic Restaurant for the Southern Region.” And, just in case you don’t know, that is a big freaking deal.
Sadly, 2005 was also the year that Katrina wiped out much of NOLA, including Willie Mae’s prized restaurant. She was relocated to Houston, TX but found a way back to Treme determined to get her doors open again. Friends found her sitting on the front step and the word went out that this now famous lady needed help.
The story goes that some of the nation’s top chefs came to her rescue sending money and labor to rebuild the Scotch House to what it had been before Katrina struck. It was hearing of that story that brought us there for lunch in 2012.
People who claim expertise in fried chicken make the claim that Willie Mae’s is America’s best. I’ll take it a leap further and lay claim to it being the world’s best. In 2014 I took my grandson there for lunch and after his first bite he looked at me and said, “Big Papa, you’re right, this is the world’s best.”
Willie Mae passed at the age of 99 and the business is now run by her great-granddaughter who has opened a second location near the French Quarter.
In total, I’ve been there three times and if all works as planned will be enjoying it again this coming spring.
Enjoy the slide show.