The chicken is in the fryer and a Memphis phenomenon has arrived in Kansas City, Kansas. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (2816 W 47th Street) throws open the doors at 11 a.m. today. They specialize in hot and spicy fried chicken, so we thought we’d take a moment to explain what all the fuss is about for those who haven’t ventured to the South to experience the joy of hot chicken.
What: Like all great fried chicken joints, this journey starts in a tiny little restaurant. Napolean “Na” Bonner and his wife Maggie began frying chicken in Mason, Tennessee, in 1953. Maggie’s Short Orders packed in customers for 30 years until the family’s matriarch passed away. In 1984, “Na” Bonner, his son Vernon and daughter-in-law Gertrude opened ‘Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.’ They added a second location in downtown Memphis in 2001, which in turn spawned a series of franchises.
Why: The business is in the hands of the third generation. The fried chicken recipe is said to be known to only five people. The Kansas City, Kansas, location is only the 14th spot to get Gus’s chicken. The Memphis spot is world-renowned and now you only need to travel to KCK to understand why.
The Food: The chicken is fried in peanut oil and the sides are definitively Southern: fried okra, fried pickles, coleslaw, hush puppies, macaroni and cheese, and fried green tomatoes. The chicken is juicy courtesy of a buttermilk bath and gets its kick from cayenne pepper. It’s not ‘hot chicken,’ but instead should be thought of as fried chicken with a good amount of heat. If the cayenne scares you, grab a side of another Midwest staple: ranch dressing.
Barbecue fans will appreciate the slices of white bread that accompany chicken by the piece. Dessert is pie by the slice: sweet potato, coconut, pecan and chess pie (the uniquely Southern mix of eggs, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and cornmeal). And they serve sweet tea and beer (a good idea if you’re looking to cool down .
One Thing to Know: The chicken is fried to order, so you’ll have a bit of a torturous wait as you watch fried chicken arrive on the checkered tablecloths of your fellow diners. When it does arrive, it will have the same lava hot temperature as the inside of a jalapeno popper.
Gus’ World Famous Fried Fried Chicken will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call first, as they have limited hours in the first 30 days they are open. The phone number is 913-232-7091.[Image via Flickr: Evan Blaser]