Fresh hot and good: That's the mantra for making delicious fried chicken at the Seafood & Chicken Box in Center Point Alabama.
Fiorella's Restaurant, New Orleans
When people tell you New Orleans is not known for fried chicken, consider this: The famous Popeyes Chicken & Biscuit chain started in the Big Easy. Besides, any city with this many soul food restaurants has to have some fried chicken on the menu.
I ate enough in New Orleans to make my belly ache, and still it was a toss-up as to who had the best chicken. But I'm going
to go with Fiorella's for one simple reason: personality. This crispy bird has a kick to it. It's not hot enough to make you
sweat, but just spicy enough to get your attention. Mashed potatoes with real potato chunks make a perfect pairing.
Just across the street from the city's busy French Market, this local dive has the feel of a little country store. The sloped
porch roof looks as if it's about to fall in. Customers linger on a painted concrete bench out front. Screened front doors
stand open in welcome, the oversize menu posted on either side. Inside, a long mural of shrimpboats trolling the coastal waters
offers great local color.
Though the menu is vast, owner Victor Moran says fried chicken is his best seller. His motto: "Fry it fresh, serve it fresh."
Still, he attributes the great taste to a marinade he slyly describes as "special seasonings?and stuff." While locals make
up the bulk of the customers, Victor says he has some out-of-towners, including several Hollywood types, who make Fiorella's
their last stop so they can savor the flavor before they head home. 45 French Market Place, New Orleans; (504) 528-9566. Four-piece dinner: $8.25.
Seafood & Chicken Box, Center Point, Alabama
It would be easy to overlook this 12-table hole-in-the-wall. It's tucked into an inconspicuous strip mall in Center Point, a small city on the northeast side of Birmingham. Yet, our very own Editor claims the Seafood & Chicken Box as his favorite.
That's not the reason I chose it, of course. I picked it because they serve fresh, hot chicken, cooked to order. That, and
their secret seasoning. When the platter of chicken arrives at the table, the crispy brown crust glitters as if covered in
diamonds. I try in vain to get the owners, brothers Carl and Paul Gagliano, to reveal their secret. "It's a special herb,"
says Carl. "Or it could be a special spice," says Paul. "Or it could be both," they say in unison, smiling like Cheshire cats.
It's delicious, and that's all that really matters. Meals start with a bowl of coleslaw or a house salad, followed by homemade
hush puppies and crispy fries or a baked potato. The chicken is exceptionally tender and juicy, yet it features some of the
crispiest skin I've ever eaten. Carl says the egg wash infused with buttermilk makes the skin so tasty. Brotherly love keeps
the business running smoothly; Carl and Paul alternate days so that one of them is always on hand to fry the tasty fowl.
Don't expect to get this chicken in a hurry, no matter which brother is in the kitchen. The menu instructs customers to allow
20 minutes for an order of chicken. You either wait or call ahead. 1617-B Center Point Road, Center Point, Alabama; (205) 853-7414. Half-chicken dinner: $7.30.
Note: This article has been updated on October 31, 2005. At this time, we are unable to reach this business (or homeowner) after Hurricane Katrina. Please contact us if you have any information regarding its status.
While the chicken is the star, we couldn't forget the side dishes. Here are the best we found.
- Appetizer: Shrimp and Alligator Sausage Cheesecake, Jacques-Imo's, New Orleans
- Biscuits: Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Atlanta airport
- Collard greens: Gladys Knight and Ron Winans Chicken & Waffles, Atlanta
- Corn: Gladys Knight and Ron Winans Chicken & Waffles, Atlanta
- Desserts: Homemade Carrot Cake, Shingles Chicken House, Tallahassee; Sweet Potato Chess Pie, Twiams Chicken & Waffles, Louisville
- Fried green tomatoes: Jestine's Kitchen, Charleston
- Green beans: Monell's Dining & Catering, Nashville
- Gumbo: Dooky Chase Restaurant, New Orleans
- Hush puppies: Price's Chicken Coop, Charlotte
- Mashed potatoes: Barbara's Home Cooking, Franklin, Tennessee
- Yeast rolls: Bubba's Cooks Country, Dallas
This article is from the July 2004 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.