I’ve always associated Memphis with barbeque, and I love barbecue, so naturally when I found a roundtrip plane ticket for $89, I had the perfect excuse for another food adventure. Our first stop was Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, where they’ve been making fried chicken for 45 years!
Gus’s is a hole-in-the-wall, no frills, Memphis institution. They don’t take reservations, so either get there early, or be prepared to wait, and you definitely want to wait – it’s worth it! The chicken is perfectly crispy and seasoned. Pair it with an alcoholic root beer float and prepare for a nap. Gus’s is the only fried chicken spot I’ve been to that serves fried rice as a side, and according to the self-acclaimed fried rice expert, my boyfriend, it’s legit. The macaroni and cheese was delicious, too. We were too full for dessert, but they have a great selection of pies.
I was still on a mission for barbecue though, so on our second day, we went to Central BBQ, a Memphis legend for the past 15 years. We tried brisket, turkey, pulled chicken, and chicken wings. Expecting to enjoy the brisket the most, we agreed that the wings were the winner by far. Wet (with sauce), dry (with rub), or naked (neither), (their descriptions, not mine!) you really can’t go wrong. They had a great smoke flavor and crispy skin thanks to their unique process of marinating the wings overnight, slow smoking them in the pit, and finishing them in the fryer.
I also loved that Central BBQ has a big selection of hot sauces on the table. If you recall from my blog about my trip to the Caribbean, hot sauce is my souvenir of choice, so I picked up the Chaos Theory ghost pepper one to add to my collection. In the words of Beyonce, there was “hot sauce in my bag,” literally.
Everyone says you have to check out Beale Street, so I obliged. I figured Blues and barbecue would be a winning combination, but once again I fell victim to the fried chicken. This time, we were at Ms. Polly’s. Their motto is “Love, Peace, and Chicken Grease” and they definitely deliver love and chicken grease. We sat at the counter and dove into the chicken and waffles – if you’re into sweet and savory, there’s no better combination in my book.
On our way to Graceland (yes, you should check it out!), I insisted that we try Uncle Lou’s Chicken. They’ve been open for 16 years and you won’t find this spot by chance, but it’s well worth the ride. Unlike Gus’, Uncle Lou’s is known for the sauce they put on top of the chicken. It’s nothing short of addictive and thus they call it “sweet spicy love”. The corn nuggets, little fried bites with creamed corn inside were delicious, but their biscuits really stole the show. Save yourself an extra trip to the counter and get more than one!
At this point, I realized that my barbecue adventure had morphed into a fried chicken fiesta, and I wasn’t sorry one bit. While I highly recommend spending a weekend in Memphis, if you can’t get away right now and need a taste, you can head to Fulton Market to visit Chicago’s Gus’s location.
Better yet, come check out The Chopping Block's Southern Comfort menu (which is also gluten free), at Lincoln Square on October 17 and at the Merchandise Mart on October 30 and learn how to make the best fried chicken in town. If eating Southern food is more your style, I’d recommend our Bloody Mary Brunch at Lincoln Square on September 24 and October 21, where our chefs will prepare an amazing, chicken and waffles-focused brunch.