The Fried Chicken Fantasy

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris February 01, 2024 20:52 in Dining Diary

If there is one person in town I trust to steer me to great food, it’s Scot Craig from Katie’s. The guy serves delicious food to so many people there are sometimes waits of two hours to get in. When Scot told me that the best fried chicken in town was at Fiorella’s Cafe, a Gentilly restaurant on Franklin Ave, I resolved to try it. I have been trying to get there to have it ever since.

Scot Craig is a master of comfort food, and so much more. It wasn’t long after he told me about the chicken that someone mentioned Teddy’s poor boys, a really famous place for sandwiches in the 1970s.  They were most famous for their poor boy on an entire loaf of French bread.  The more I heard about the place the more it seemed that they were in the same space. 

Finally, I was able to get to Fiorella’s to have the famous fried chicken. And I wanted a poor boy because I never did make it to Teddy’s.  When I looked at the menu I saw a club sandwich. I had to have it. In my eternal quest for the best club sandwich anywhere, new candidates are constantly emerging. It behooved me to enter it in the club sandwich sweepstakes. 

I also noticed a special of the day, which was butter beans.  The special vegetable side that day was okra and tomatoes, so that’s what I ordered. There weren’t a lot of choices for sides besides a Caesar salad and a house salad every day.

The club sandwich was different, and I mean that in a good way. They use Texas toast, a thicker slice. There wasn’t a need for another slice. It was toasted perfectly, and nice turkey and ham slices were layered adequately with lettuce, tomato, and bacon. The sandwich doesn’t come with cheese but I ordered it extra for $1.50. I liked this sandwich. It wasn’t overstuffed, but it was ample enough. It was good and satisfying in the way that club sandwiches are.

I also got the poor boy, trying to channel the old Teddy’s. It was a roast beef poor boy, which I got dressed with extra pickle. This seemed to be done in the style that was popular when Teddy’s was around. The roast beef was too thick for my taste and didn’t have any special flavor. In short, this was a really ordinary sandwich. It was probably great way back when but more likely was popular because of the whole loaf gimmick.

The butter beans were good, but I never met butter beans I didn’t love. These came with a link of smoked sausage that was too firm in the grind for me, and it was too dark. It seemed like cheap sausage, though I didn’t notice if the plate was a price that was on par with the quality. For a lunch for workers in the neighborhood, this is a hearty plate of food to fuel a workday, and I’m sure they sell a lot of them.

As for the fried chicken that drew me there, I don’t get it. Fiorella’s fried chicken is straight from the mid-20th century, when chicken was simply dusted lightly with salt and pepper, dredged through egg wash and flour, and cooked in a cast iron skillet with Crisco. Pre-Al Copeland. There is nothing wrong with this version of fried chicken. It is wholesome and nostalgic. But in today’s world of sophisticated flavors, it comes up short. It was hot and crunchy and golden brown, but I don’t need to drive to Gentilly to have it again. The two sides I chose with this were the special side of the day, okra and tomatoes, and potato salad.

Potato salad doesn't move me, and I have strict guidelines on what constitutes a good potato salad. It must be chunky and mayo-based, but lately, I have opened my mind to other possibilities. This was not especially good. It was creamy and mustard-based, with all the ingredients congealed into a unified mass. In this case, there was little to recommend it. I did like the stewed okra and tomatoes, a classic local dish. I wasn't sure that the okra wasn't pickled, because it had an extra dimension of flavor, and it had more crunch than I expected. The tomatoes that made up the other part of the dish seemed canned, but I would expect nothing less. I still liked this very well.

Somewhere in this order were French fries, which were a side with something. They were frozen crinkle-cut fries, with all the boredom that engenders.

Fiorella's started at the French Market as a produce stand. It has a good following and that following followed them to Gentilly. It is worth a drive to Gentilly to see the place, which is charming in that yesteryear way. It is a slice of N’Awlins, offering great memories for a lot of people. They stay busy with a neighborhood crowd, and it is wholesome. I like the scene, and I like the food okay. Outsized expectations strike again, making disappointment inevitable.