Southern Fried Goodness
Memphis' famous hot and spicy chicken joint brings KC in to roost.
The Fuss about Gus
Some of the most famous restaurants come from humble beginnings, and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is no different. Known for its succulent hot and spicy fried chicken, the Memphis-based staple got its start in the neighboring town of Mason in the 1950s as a mom-and-pop restaurant. In its heyday, Gus’s served the likes of W.C. Handy and Al Green. Nowadays, with the founder’s grandchildren at the helm, Gus’s is taking over the U.S. with the same taste bud-tingling slow heat that is the signature. The original outpost has garnered praise from publications like GQ Magazine and Saveur. To date, there are 14 Gus’s in eight states, with its first metro KC restaurant located in NorthWood Shopping Center, keeping good company with the original gas station location of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que nearby.
On the outside, Gus’s might look like a fast-food joint, but don’t be fooled; there’s nothing fast about it. And that’s the way they like it. After all, eating at Gus’s isn’t just a meal — it’s an experience. From the friendly staff that treats you like family to the decor that features mismatched chairs, a Tiffany blue vintage refrigerator, checkered tablecloths and disposable place settings, this blues-infused Southern eatery sizzles with down-home charm. The Motown sound that pours from the speakers and art featuring James Brown and the Memphis-born King himself further underscore the Tennessee blues vibe.
For entrees, Gus’s doesn’t offer anything other than chicken — take your pick of breasts, legs, thighs, wings, tenders or half chicken. Not to be confused with Nashville’s “hot chicken” that’s been sweeping the nation, Gus’s Memphis-style chicken is definitely milder than its cousin’s, featuring a cayenne-kissed balance of slow heat and flavor hidden within its thinly breaded, satisfying, crunchy skin. The heat, which varies from day to day, can be a little spicy for some, but most agree that despite the spike, it’s still love at first bite. But perhaps what makes Gus’s so delicious is the chicken itself. Fresh, never frozen and fried in peanut oil, Gus’s chicken is made to order — no heat lamps here, folks — and comes from the fryer to your table cushioned by a slice of white bread and at a piping 180 degrees.
The Side Show
Pair your bird with classic Southern sides such as fried green tomatoes, paprika-dusted mac and cheese, fried okra, and Southern-style chopped collard greens with a kick. Plates come standard with coleslaw and baked beans, but feel free to substitute to your taste. Quench your thirst with a refreshing cup of sweet tea, an IBC Root Beer float or a no-frills beer such as Budweiser or Pabst Blue Ribbon, although craft brews from local vendors like Boulevard Brewing Company are also on tap. Top off your fried feast with a slice of Gus’s heavenly homemade coconut, pecan, sweet potato, chess, or chocolate chess pie (think of the fudgy goodness and consistency of a brownie) and you will swear you’ve been transported to a Dixie kitchen.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is located at 2816 W. 47th Ave., Kansas City, Kan., (913) 232-7091. For more information, visit gusfriedchicken.com.