As it turns out, Nashville isn’t the only place famous for hot chicken. A little town down the road called Memphis also slings her own version, and one of its bird slingers–Gus’s Famous Fried Chicken–has expanded across the country, including Austin.
Located spittin’ distance from the convention center and its satellite of hotels, Gus’s has a built-in clientele. However, based on the number of blue collars scattered about the lunch rush, Gus has resonated with the working class, and for good reason. Gus’s has a downhome, divey comfort to it: this ain’t no fancy pants your-water’s-gonna-cost-you-$8.50 kinda place. This also ain’t no I’m-gonna-get-a-salad-cause-I’m-trying-lose-weight-and-I’m-worried-about-my-gall-bladder kinda place either. Nearly every damned thing in here is fried, and if it ain’t fried, it’s swimming in cheese the color of post-nuclear Armageddon. Fine china and cutlery? Styrofoam and plastic.
So how’s the chicken? Pretty dang good. The breast I devoured was perfectly crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. My pals ordered a couple three-tenders plates, which were similarly perfectly cooked. Gus’s used to be called “Gus’s World Famous Hot and Spicy Chicken,” but I reckon the New York marketing gurus advised dropping “Hot and Spicy” lest the weakwilled and morally suspect would be frightened away from Gus’s crowing chicken empire. My pals thought their tenders were spicy, but my green chile addled tongue thought they (and my breast) had little to no heat. Still some good pieces of chicken, but you’ll have to go elsewhere (T22, perhaps?) for birds of pain.
In a nod to the aspirational class, Gus uses fresh, never frozen, hormone-free chicken and fries everything in peanut oil. So I guess that makes it healthy. Speaking of fried, the fried pickles spears were delicious, delivered steaming hot, as were the fried okra. And topping the mac-n-cheese with a dusting of cayenne and (ahem) shredded cheese is brilliant: cheese topped with cheese!
It’s difficult to franchise a place, especially a downhome place, and keep its vibe legit. Props to Gus for doing just that because this place feels local and comfortable, a little bit of Tennesee in the sea of downtown high rises.
web&where: interwebs; 117 san jacinto boulevard; (512) 474-4877
overall: ** (food**; drink*; atmosphere**; service**; instagrammability**)
does it scramble? n/a
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]