Within 30 minutes of touchdown last night at Memphis International Airport, I was eating deep-fried pickles, drinking Fat Tire beer, and chatting with foodie friends, old and new, at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.
In town for the annual conference of the Association of Food Journalists, our group wasted no time in checking out one of the city’s most iconic foods.
The fried chicken was sensational. Crisp, golden-brown outside; so moist and flavorful within that it must have been brined first. Served piping hot , straight from the fryer….and hot, too, from the additional of plenty of cayenne (and who knows what else) in the batter.
On the side last night: terrific cole slaw and cooked-to-death greens, which is not an insult because greens are supposed to be cooked-to-death in this part of the world. The chicken was plunked on a couple slices of Wonder-like bread; part of the ritual, I presume. (Gus’s also offers beans and/or French fries some nights.)
Gus’s, by the way, has been around for about 60 years and now has three Tennessee locations plus a few scattered about in other fried chicken-crazy states. The downtown Memphis eatery is casual and friendly… and hot --- at least it was on a night when it was still 89 degrees at 7:30 pm.
The antithesis of “fast food,” Gus’s chicken can easily take 20 or 30 minutes to make its way to your table. That’s where the deep-fried pickles came in. And the Fat Tire. Beverages are basically iced tea, water and beer from a short list heavy on American “lites.”
Served with plastic utensils, paper napkins and a smile, the feast cost me just 16 bucks, tax included. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken was about the best “Welcome to Memphis” anyone could ask for.