Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Willie Mae's Scotch House
2401 St. Ann Street, at N. Tonti, Treme, New Orleans, LA
Review by SuSu, MaceVindaloo

We're not sure if this is true, or even why it should be true, but in the 1950s, scotch and milk was a popular cocktail. Hard though that is to imagine to our modern palates, the drink was served in this converted house in this area called Treme.

Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed this structure; anything left standing was under several feet of water. Volunteers and workers rebuilt it and now it's re-opened with great-granddaughter Kerry Seaton, great-granddaughter of the original owner (Willie Mae) at the helm, the keeper of the secret fried chicken recipe. (The original lady is now suffering from Alzheimer's, which Seaton blames Katrina for bringing on.)

Andrew Knowlton, the restaurant reviewer of Bon Apétit magazine selected Willie Mae's fried chicken as the best in the country, and weeks before the hurricane hit, the James Beard people awarded her a "keeper of the flame" award. The chicken is tender, the skin is thin and crispy from a watery-textured batter, and just seasoned enough so that table condiments are really not necessary. There is salt, pepper, and hot sauces available if you must, but we recommend you don't.

The chicken comes three pieces to an order: the drumstick, a full wing, and a thigh. We don't know if they serve the breast, or even if it's available. We would never risk ire or ejection for such a question when the result brought to the table was so sublime. You get a choice of side dishes. You must be careful about this, because their side dishes are actually large enough to be the meal itself. You get a choice of red beans or butter beans, both served with rice. Or a salad, or ... we can't remember.

The menu is not that extensive, but it is full of homey comforting classics, such as smothered pork chops. They also offer a delectable cornmuffin which is not sweet and taste brightly of yellow corn; it's moist and tender, and costs 75 cents apiece. The chicken plus side dish is $10. Some people complain that's expensive, but they need to eat somewhere else. It's a bargain to eat what the James Beard Foundation designated as an "American classic," just weeks before Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed this place.

We're really grateful it's back, and it's testament that it's a good thing to leave the city center and the French Quarter now and again. It's certainly walkable from the FQ, but if you prefer, you can take a cab (about $8). If you do, get a card from the driver, so you can call him to get a ride back. There is also a bus, but we've never seen it running.

The rest of the neighborhood is still struggling to get back onto its feet. In our walk, we saw FEMA trailers with sewage lines and gas bottles connected, indicating that people are still living in them. We also saw what looked to be parks, but are probably cleared blocks of old derelict housing. In fact, many of the houses we saw look dangerously unstable; they should have been abandoned and torn down, but it looks like people are actually living in some of them.

Across the street is a abandoned school. But Willie Mae's place — even though it's not as homey in decor as it once was — it up and running and hopefully making enough money to survive and inspire others. So fie on those who complain that it's expensive. A huge lunch for two at $27 including beverages, sides, breads, and that crispy frangible fried chicken, is a bargain in both spiritual and gastromonic senses.

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