posted by Joe Anaya on November 26th, 2012

I love fried chicken. If I were on death row, my last meal request would be a good plate of southern fried chicken, legs and thighs. No health conscious breast meat. So, when I was down south helping Matt W fix up a house for flipping, I made it my mission to find the best fried chicken in Arabi, Louisiana a suburb of New Orleans.

My first step was to check out Yelp for fried chicken. Not surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of Yelp users in Arabi, so that was not much help. So, I decided the thing to do was ask the people we met, “Where’s the best fried chicken?”

At the Home Depot, where we were picking up supplies, I asked the cashier, “Where’s the best fried chicken in town?” Without hesitation, she says, “Popeye’s.” “Pardon me?” She repeats, “Popeye’s.” I nod in thanks and think to myself, “Is that woman out of her mind?” Popeye’s is a fast food chicken place. That’s like asking, “Where can I find the best surfing?” and someone says, “Raging Rapids Water Park.”

Now, I’m not opposed to eating fast food. In fact, I demand it. When the apocalypse comes, all the organic-free-range-holistic eaters are going to be in trouble, but me with a constitution having been bombarded with chemicals and minute traces of insects and poisons will thrive.

Anyway, I chalk it up to that particular cashier being some sort of statistical outlier, until we go to the equipment rental shop. I asked the guy, “Where can I get the best fried chicken?” Without hesitation, he says, “Oh, Popeye’s just down the block.” I refined my question, thinking maybe he just misunderstood the point of my question, “No, not just for lunch, but for dinner, later on after work.” “Yeah, Popeye’s is open till 10pm.” Okay, then. “Is there somewhere other than Popeye’s?” He scrunches up his nose and says, “There’s a Chevron gas station down the way, they have good chicken, but Popeye’s is the best.” I’m always game for trying dives and hole-in-the-wall places, but I’m not going to eat fried chicken from a gas station when I’m looking for the best. Strike two.

What is going on? It has to be some statistical anomaly to have two people pick a fast-food chain as the “best” place to get southern fried chicken. I’m starting to think maybe I’m just in the wrong demographical (is that a word?) area to find people who don’t think the best fried chicken doesn’t come from a fast food restaurant.

The next day, we’re at the special order desk for some windows and I try again. “Where is the best place to get fried chicken, and don’t say Popeye’s?” Now it’s her turn for incredulity, “You don’t like Popeye’s?” Okay, now something’s up. I tell her my vision of a tucked away restaurant called Mama Creole’s or some such thing then tell my tale of woe with all the Popeye recommendations.

She laughs, then explains how Popeye’s originated here in Arabi and that the signs actually say, Popeye’s “Louisiana” Kitchen. The tobacco brine they use is a standard in this part of the state. So, Popeye’s tastes like everyone’s home-made fried chicken. Well, now I know.

I dragged Matt W to lunch at the nearest Popeye’s. So, armed with this new information, I eagerly take my first bite, and…
It tastes just like fast food fried chicken. Strike three.

File Under Mr. Cool