In New Orleans, Popeyes doesn't even qualify as fast food, not the way that it would in any other city. I think that's part of what makes it more of a draw here. It's our heritage; it's where we come from. It's been at every party, it's been at every parade, it's been at Jazz Fest and all of the things that make New Orleans New Orleans. Popeyes has a role in that and has a place in that.What makes Popeyes fried chicken the superior fried chicken? Where to even start with that? I think there's a lot of nostalgia wrapped in it for me, where maybe it's not technically the best chicken ever, but here in New Orleans, Popeyes plays into our lifestyle. That's what makes it the best.
RECIPE: Super-Crispy Fried Chicken
My first Popeyes experience was being on the parade route, at 8 in the morning. It was 1) Popeyes for breakfast—nothing wrong with that, and 2) You're literally so hungover that you want to die, and that spicy chicken and butter with the biscuits just makes you feel like you can start Mardi Gras over again and keep going. If you've ever been in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Tuesday, there's only one restaurant that really needs to be open. It's Popeyes. If you've done anything else or eaten anything else, you haven't done it right. You'll have to try it again.My mom made fried chicken at least once a week growing up, and it's always been probably my favorite food group. (Yes, fried chicken is a food group unto itself.) I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and we didn't have Popeyes—or if there was Popeyes, as a kid, I didn't know what it was or where it was. We had Bojangles, so it wasn't until the late 1990s when I moved to New Orleans that I popped my Popeyes cherry, for lack of a better term. (And Bojangles has that Cajun Chicken Biscuit at breakfast; that's not bad. It's not bad at all.)
Popeyes biscuits are a religion of their own. For sure. What puts them in this category? I'm going to go with butter. And it's not even good butter, it's pretty cheap butter, but the biscuits taste like butter and hardly anything else.
Kelly Fields is a James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef and longtime New Orleans resident. She is the co-founder and chef at Willa Jean, which literally has a menu section called 'The Biscuit Situation.'