If you were to ask my wife what one of my favorite foods is, fried chicken would rank at the top. Anytime I see fried chicken on a menu, I order it unless something usurps it (like steak). There’s just something about hot chicken, deep fried and encased in a seasoned, crispy, skin that I just can’t turn away. Luckily earlier this evening, I had the opportunity to test out a new fried chicken restaurant in Brentwood, TN. Although not officially open, by the time you readers read this their doors will be wide open to the public. While new to the area, Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken (whew, what a mouthful) is anything but a new restaurant in practice. For those that lived/visited Memphis, TN and/or are familiar with The Food Network and The Travel Channel can tell you that Gus’s is a popular eatery. Interestingly, Adam Richman, the star of Man vs Food, featured Gus’s in one of his Memphis-based episodes of the TV show. Adam goes to some really interesting restaurants and I find myself always wanting to try what he tries.
Since my visit to Gus’s was based on the soft opening, the only rating I am basing my review on is the food and pricing. It’s just not fair to rank a restaurant (that has not yet officially opened) on service although I will say that the service was superb. My waiter, Eric, did a fantastic job and was extremely attentive not only to me but to all his tables. He made sure that my drink was topped off and kept checking on me throughout the wait for my fried chicken.
The atmosphere is fairly simple, consisting of weathered wood boards, metal siding, and various beer signs, lights and memorabilia on the wall. It seems to ring a “bar-style” environment. The “To Go” ordering area is walled & separated off from the main dining area, where you get table service if you really want it. This is nice as it doubles as a fast food restaurant and dine-in restaurant. Of course I’m wondering how “fast” the fast food portion is because it took a little while to get my chicken. Not sure if they make it to order or if they are going to cook in advance for the crowd. Again, it was a soft opening so time will tell on a repeat visit (hence the omission of rating on service).
At Gus’s, the main and only entree is chicken with one type of seasoning. You have your standard assortment of bone-in selections (breast, wing, thigh, leg) and for those who hate bone-in (AKA my wife), there are boneless chicken tenders. All chicken entrees are delivered as “plates” which include baked beans, slaw, and a slice of white bread. Plates range anywhere from the $7 to $12 range depending on the combination of chicken pieces you order. Of course, I ordered the Half Chicken plate ($11.40) which includes 1 piece of breast, wing thigh, and leg. For those looking for cheaper options, there are “snack” sizes (which are just pieces of chicken and white bread) for $5 to $6 or you can order individual pieces for $3.25 or less. In addition to the chicken, there are appetizers (Fried Pickle Spears and Fried Green Tomatoes), sides (baked beans, mac & cheese, fries just to name a few), and desserts (various pies and brownies).
Everything that is fried at Gus’s is in peanut oil. So if you have peanut allergies, your best bet is to stay away. My half chicken plate was ordered with baked beans, white bread, and I substituted the slaw for mac & cheese. After about 15 minutes of waiting, my plate was delivered with a nice heaping pile of golden fried chicken and 2 sides.
In typical dining fashion, I tried my sides first. The mac and cheese was just OK. Although I don’t prefer coleslaw, I began to wonder if the mac and cheese substitution was worth 50 cents. There was a nice flavor of sharp cheddar in the mac and cheese but the noodles were a little overcooked to the point where it was mushy. As for the baked beans, they weren’t anything special either. My can of Bush’s Grillin’ Beans at home tasted a lot better. Thinking back on it, I probably should have kept the slaw and substituted the beans for the mac and cheese. As for the slice of white bread, I’m wondering why they add it to the plate. It’s similar to many barbecue joints I’ve visited in the past. I’ve never eaten it but it’s placed under the meat. So I wondering if it’s there just to sop up the oil/grease. After a couple bites of each side, I moved onto the main course.
As mentioned before, there is only one style of seasoning to Gus’s fried chicken. The seasoning seems fairly simple and in this application, the term ‘simple is better’ rings true. The spiciness (as the name of the restaurant implies) comes from cayenne pepper in the seasoning. Coming from someone who loves spicy food, it’s a slightly warm sensation. People’s tastes can vary and of course, slightly spicy may mean “flamethrower” to someone else. So keep that in mind.
Every piece of chicken was piping hot in temperature and more importantly, was meaty, moist, and delicious underneath. Even the breast, which is typically dry because it’s white meat, was moist and juicy. In my opinion, it’s important to eat fried chicken in a way where each bite gives you a nice mix of seasoning & the meaty inside. This results in a nice combination of savory, filling bites with the perfect blend of seasoning & crispiness. The only con I have with the chicken is that each piece varied in the amount of salt that came with it. For example, the leg, wing, and thigh were perfect in every way. When I got to the breast, there was almost no saltiness whatsoever. Just to be sure, I ate just the skin and confirmed it was lacking a little bit in salt. So to compensate, I added some Louisiana Hot Sauce to season it up.
For those of you reading this far, how does Gus’s fried chicken rate against others? Well in regards to national chain restaurants that I consider the best when it comes to fried chicken, it blows KFC and Popeye’s out of the water. The problem I have with KFC is that the texture of the fried portion is either soggy like a wet napkin (original recipe) or too crispy where it cuts the roof of your mouth (extra crispy). Popeye’s has good flavoring but the chicken is too crispy where it feels like I’m biting into cooked chicken rolled in seasoned, crushed Corn Flakes. Gus’s texture is pretty much where I like my chicken to be. A few other sit down meat ‘n three restaurants around Nashville reflect the same texture. Gus’s ranks up there as well.
I’m happy to say that I finally got to try Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken without having to drive 3 hours. I honestly hope that it does well at its current location, as that location was a Jack In The Box that went out of business several months ago. Although the sides (at least the ones I tried) are borderline OK to mediocre, the true gem is the fried chicken. I’m sure that next time, I’ll try some of the other sides and maybe even a slice of pie that also seems to be very popular.
|Gus’s World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken
471 Old Hickory Blvd
Brentwood, TN 37027
Bill Total: $15.41 w/ Tax