Gus’s World-Famous Fried Chicken Lives Up to the Hype

Gus Fried Chicken - Bob Hazlett

Gus's chicken has been featured on numerous television shows and in magazines worldwide. Photo by Memphis CVB.

National Civil Rights Museum exterior sign

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Photo by Brand USA.

World Famous Beale Street Memphis Jones at BB King

Hear Memphis Jones entertain at B.B. King's on Beale Street. Photo by Craig Thompson.

The “World Famous” in “Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken” at first seems like self-proclamation. But then you taste the chicken and you get it. There’s nothing better. This is the best food America has to offer. Diplomats and dignitaries should be served Gus’s fried chicken at the White House. Gus’s has this effect.

The chicken served at their Downtown Memphis location has been serving legions of local fans for years, often creating around-the-block lines at lunch on Fridays when the weather is good. Then word got out and food and travel television started to visit, including Food Network shows like The Best Thing I Ever Ate, $40 a Day, Man vs. Food and Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels. Award winning and beloved by people around the country, it’s no surprise that Gus’s has expanded, opening doors in a handful of other states.

But for Memphians, Gus’s is still our great little family-owned (three generations) fried chicken joint, and what makes it world famous is more than just the chicken, though that’s a great place to start.

The Chicken

Like a lot of great family recipes, Gus’s is a secret. Word has it that only five living family members know the recipe. Employees are in the dark, too. Because of this, the product is rarely ever the same. According to their own words “Gus’s chicken is a little different each time you try it. It’s got that handmade character – a little of this, a touch of that, a pinch of love, a dash of hot.” This would seem to be a challenge when you try and expand into other states, but Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is doing just fine in Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi (with more franchises opening across the United States). And while the experience varies from day to day and location to location, what is clear to anyone who eats at Gus’s is that every bite is infused with love – love for the food, for the hospitality, and for the family tradition.
 

A photo posted by Allison McCarty (@allison.mccarty) on Nov 5, 2016 at 12:19pm PDT

The Pickles

If the Oscar for Best Actor goes to the chicken, then the fried pickles at Gus’s World Famous gets Best Supporting. So much of southern cuisine, whether it’s soul food or bbq, is about the sides, and Gus’s is no different. Every chicken plate comes with beans, slaw and two slices of white Wonder Bread. But frankly, all of that is afterthought next to the chicken until you order a side of fried pickles. Crisp and hot, but with a nice burst of tang, Gus’s fried pickles are the perfect accompaniment to a spicy drumstick.

The Joint

Any establishment that uses the name Gus should be in a well-worn space with a lot of character. Gus’s is exactly that on South Front Street. Though consistently awarded as one of the best restaurants in Memphis, Gus’s is no white-linen synchronized service experience. It’s a joint complete with jukebox, neon signs, no waiting room, and nondescript tables and chairs. All of this makes it a very fun and very friendly and very low-key environment.

The Neighborhood

The Downtown Memphis location is easily accessed from the historic South Main Arts District and is in walking distance of Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum, FedExForum, and the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. Their East Memphis location is a quick ride from Shelby Farms Park, University of Memphis, Memphis Botanic Garden and the Dixon Gallery & Gardens.

The Price

Oh yeah, and you’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $10 per person. So there’s that.

By Peter Short