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Jason Perlow

Willie Mae's Scotch House (N.O.)

87 posts in this topic

A 90 year old woman fried chicken yesterday afternoon for her friends and family in the kitchen of a modest house located in the Treme Neighborhood of New Orleans. While, on the surface, this may not seem so remarkable, this woman was Willie Mae Seaton and she hasn't been able to cook in her house since Aug. 29, 2005.

Film at 11. Longer narrative to follow.

And yes, it is damned fine chicken. In fact, given what it has taken to get a piece of it, I can safely say that it was the best yardbird that I have ever eaten.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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That is fantastic news. I'm disappointed I missed it by a week or so, but I couldn't be happer for Miss Willie Mae.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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"That's my boy." says Willie Mae Seaton.

"She can be so pigheaded," says John Currence.

Sweetness and light at the corner of Tonti and St Ann. I love all of these people. Jim's done a nice job on this piece. He spend the whole weekend following everyone around and obviously paid more attention to detail than I thought that he was. Nice work.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I stopped by Willie Mae's yesterday to see how things were going. Mrs Seaton was sitting in the dining room of her restaurant, visiting with her grandson. She seemed in good spirits, and was eager to re-open and get back to work. As always, she expressed her gratitude for all the people who helped rebuild her restaurant and home. But she was still fussing about the dropped ceiling not being put back in the dining room. My wife and I both told her how nice it looked restored to the original height, but she definitely did not agree.

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I stopped by Willie Mae's yesterday to see how things were going. Mrs Seaton was sitting in the dining room of her restaurant, visiting with her grandson. She seemed in good spirits, and was eager to re-open  and get back to work. As always, she expressed her gratitude for all the people who helped rebuild her restaurant and home. But she was still fussing about the dropped ceiling not being put back in the dining room. My wife and I both told her how nice it looked restored to the original height, but she definitely did not agree.

Well, let's put it this way-I painted that ceiling and I love it. There had to be choices made based completely on financial issues-plumbing or a dropped ceiling-we thought that plumbing might be the way to go. Also, as opposed to her old place, there is a central unit in there and that should handle things better than those old ginormous window units that she used to have.

If anyone out there would like to donate 25K for a dropped ceiling and the rearrangement of all of the services, well, I'm sure that we can get it done in no time. Until then, well, I did a very nice job painting that ceiling.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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If you're around New Orleans this weekend, Joe York will debut his documentary "Above the Line: Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House." The free showing takes place Sunday, April 1, at 9:30 p.m. at the Republic (828 S. Peters St.).

Hope to see you there.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I saw the Joe York documentary last night, and it was just tremendous. If you get a chance to see it, don't miss it. Setting aside the subject, it was a wonderful as a piece of filmmaking. York is really adept at making still imagines feel dynamic. He also uses the visual footage of the city as a way to comment on the interview.

There was a hilarious jab at a lot of big name chefs. I can't really explain the sequence and do it justice, because it was all about context and editing.

Getting to the content, the movie showed just how difficult it is to bring back one small restaurant. It was really moving and honest about the project.

The room was packed with people, many of whom had been involved in rebuilding Willie Mae's. I saw a lot of people that I had worked with on the project. Honestly, even if Willie Mae fries her chicken today, sits down this evening and decides she's ready to retire, I think the project was still worth it. It made a lot of good people care about our city and visit our city when we needed them.

I should also mention that our own Brooks has a lot of screen time in this film. I think this officially makes Brooks a movie star.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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It was a big, big weekend here for all of us who have spent the last year and a half working to restore a 90 year old woman's restaurant and attached house. This place has been, in mine and many other's minds, a really nice metaphor for the struggle that is putting this place back in semi working order. With absolutely nothing but privately donated money and labor, a rotating group (eventually totalling over 200 people) of incredibly dedicated volunteers, and a hell of a lot of whip cracking, cajoling, and generally good natured prodding from our fearless leader, Johnny Snack(John Currence), we all managed to, unbelievably, put Mrs Seaton back in her house about three weeks ago and then to, yesterday, let her get back where she wants to be-behind her stove making "good food for the people."

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Willie Mae Seaton with a big can of baking powder (That's the only part of the recipe that you'll get from me. I know better than to tell secrets that might get me banned from the modest, but hallowed doors on St Ann and Tonti St in Treme.

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Mary Beth Lasseter, John Currence, and Mrs. Seaton's niece taking a break before the onslaught (and it was) of diners.

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Miracles, it would seem, do indeed happen- even in New Orleans.

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Getting things rolling on the line in Willie Mae's kitchen. That's her daughter in law cooking there in the foreground and a couple of visiting heavies from the East Coast helping to get things underway on the first day. Also, Joe York, soon to be world famous documentarian (and snappy dresser) and part of his extensive crew of assistants are in the background. It's good to have a personal film maker.

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John Fleer, formerly of Blackberry Farm and now of his house (and really happy about it) coming out with one of the first plates (that veal gravy was off the hook)

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Ann Cashion, standing in front of a bowl of Mrs. Seaton's secret batter mix, getting some chicken ready for the pan. She turned out to be a good student. Perhaps someday she will be ready to move out into a kitchen of her own.

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My hero, directing traffic. Between Mrs. Seaton, Ms. Cashion, Mr. Fleer, and Mr. Snack, that adds up to better than 10 Beard nominations and at least three medals (I'm not really sure, but it's plenty of them). I'm betting that's pretty close to the first time that's ever happened in a commercial kitchen open for business (happens at fundraisers all the time, though) Before all of this started, John had a full head of hair and a semi functioning liver. Now? Not so much.

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Willie Mae's niece and her son Slim (back from Houston, where he evacuated, to help out for a while) washing up. The dishes were flying around pretty fast back there all day.

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I'm sure that some of you geeks want plate pics but this is as good as it gets. I don't do that. Also, this would be pretty typical of the way that it looked all round yesterday-boarding house reach was the rule of the day. Those plates were coming back as clean as a whistle. What you see there is braised veal on one plate and fried chicken on the other. Yesterday's sides were butterbeans, redbeans or snap beans. No bread pudding and I, your ace reporter, can FINALLY explain why she only has it every once in a while....She only makes it with bread ends. That means that she only makes a pan when she has saved up enough bread ends to do it. When it's gone, it's gone. Now you might say, "Why doesn't she just buy some bread for that?" Well, you don't stay in business long if you aren't sharp and by way of her thinking, it is an expense she could ill afford when times were lean. As she puts it in Joe York's excellent documentary, Above the Line, Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House

, "I'm all bidness, baby. All bidness." And she is. Don't kid yourself. I saw a couple of signs yesterday (most welcome signs at that) that, though she might have lost a couple of steps, she's as sharp as a tack when it comes to that place and the way that she wants it run. Believe me, when she corrected one of those Pros from Dover they did what she said. Same for her son, Slim. He's kind of the fry guy and has been for a long time. Ann Cashion was frying chicken during the rush and she pulled a basket which she says (and still does and I'm not arguing with her-she's a great chef and crazy smart) was perfect, even now, but that Slim quietly took out of her hands and quietly put back in the grease (peanut oil for those of you keeping score at home) for another couple of minutes. Apparently this happened with someone else two years ago at the Beards. Willie Mae Seaton likes it on the dark side and who's to say she's wrong-the results speak for themselves. The stuff is crazy delicious.

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Even Barbie tried to get fly in for lunch.

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Pableaux conducts the post game breakdown with Mrs. Seaton. She's a tough nut to crack, but the charming Mr. Johnson has no trouble with her.

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Boys will be boys. When a man, even one as old as John sees wet concrete, they have to, they are compelled to, write their name in it. I'm sure even the Romans did it when they were building aqueducts. At least he spelled it right.

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After service- my friends Mary Beth Lasseter, Joey Lauren Adams, Bess Reed, Ann Cashion and John Fleer take a break on the sidewalk and discuss what bar it would be best to get it over with in. They settled on the Bon Ton and then off to Pableaux Johnson's for his weekly Bean Salon.

It was a great day. It was, in many ways, a great year and a half. Who knows what's going to happen? I surely don't. What I do know is that I have made some friends for life and we finished what we set out to do. The rest is up to someone else much bigger and alot more benevolent than I.

Also, just for the record-that chicken? It really is all of that and a bag of doughnuts. Really. I NEVER order fried chicken in restaurants but I have always eaten Willie Mae's. But, over the last year and a half, I and many of my friend have questioned whether it was legend or whether it was fact. I'm here to tell you that it is an absolute fact that this stuff is consistently the best chicken in the land. The best. Get there while you can and while she's still making it. Plan a trip-you won't be sorry.

Also, Leah Chase is opening up Dooky Chase on Holy Thursday, so you can do a twofer in the same block. That's a good day of eating, dear hearts. A very good day.

Thanks for watching. Tune in next time for a new episode of, "As The City Drowns." Check your local listings for showtimes in your area.

Best,

Brooks


Edited by Mayhaw Man (log)

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Thanks for all that, Brooks. I'm hoping to make it down Friday.

You mentioned Dooky Chase opening, and just for the record, it won't actually open to the public on Holy Thursday. It's an invite only event for the hundreds of volunteers who helped over there. She opens to the public on Monday.

Pretty amazing that those too places in the Treme are opening the same week. It took too damn long, but that's true of pretty much everything in our recovery.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Pableaux Johnson posted plenty more photos of the opening day at Willie Mae's. I'm not going to say that Mr. Johnson's photos are better than those by Brooks posted above. I'll just say that Pableaux is a man with a fancy camera and a fill flash, and he knows how to use them.

Pableaux Johnson's photos of Willie Mae's


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I am pleased to announce that Willie Mae's Scotch House will be open for lunch tomorrow and, happily, the day after that and the day after that, hopefully ad infinitum.

The family has come to an operating agreement that will allow the place to operate on a daily basis with (hopefully) as little familial rancor as possible. All permitting issues have been dealt with and they are ready to serve all comers beginning tomorrow at 11.

Take that all you naysayers and haters and take that USA Today.

This project was done with private labor, private financing, and a great deal of hard work from people who didn't know the Seatons and who in most cases had never even heard of Willie Mae's Scotch House. It was done with hard work and love from many people and they all deserve a great deal of credit and thanks, as do the thousands of other volunteers who have helped out all around the Gulf Coast, in so many ways, since Aug 29, 2005. THIS is the way that this place will get rebuilt. Waiting around on our government officials (on every level of government) to do it is not only a waste of time, but a Quixotic exercise is futility and frustration. We are NOLA. We're not like you and we like it that way.

Thanks for everything to everybody and hopefully I'll see you at lunch.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Lunch today on a very rainy Monday.

After a long weekend in Oxford attending the nuptial ceremony for John Currence and Bess Reed, I was tired and didn't feel like fixing lunch. The solution? Willie Mae's Scotch House for butterbeans, breaded pork chops, snap beans, fried chicken, rice and gravy, and a big glass of tea to wash it down with.

The food was really good. Go there. It's open, really nice, and operating more or less like a Swiss watch. They have plans to open the back dining room soon (their plans hinge on employees rather than money or construction-so now they are just like every other restaurant in town and that in itself is kind of nice.

The place is busy, but things move along pretty fast (excepting chicken-they fry to order, so if you get chicken, prepare on about a 25 minute delay between ordering and eating. Chat with your neighbors as they are probably pretty interesting people and you might learn something. Today there were a couple of uptown (though clearly kinda hip beyone the norm) lunch ladies, a couple of guys who were clearly big shot politico types (loudly discussing how Bill Jefferson is going to fry), some contractors and a few of their employees, a film crew from CA who had come from the airport STRAIGHT to the place, luggage and all, and literally cheered when the food hit the table, and a couple more guys who likely didn't make their living in a very legal manner. All in all, it was a great crowd of people with one thing in common, if nothing else-everyone in there liked to eat. I had a great time and I am sure that most of you will too.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Kim Severson of the New York Times visits New Orleans and tries the chicken at both Dooky Chase and Willie Mae's click). This blog entry includes a video of Kerry Seaton in the kitchen, but she won't give away Willie Mae's secret.

[Note: I cross posted this on the Dooky Chase thread.]

I was there a few weeks ago on a Saturday. It was pretty outstanding. Not just the chicken, but everything.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Quick question: is Willie Mae's lunch-only or do they do dinner as well?


"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside" -Mark Twain

"Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock 'n roll." -Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of The Legend of Zelda, circa 1990

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Quick question: is Willie Mae's lunch-only or do they do dinner as well?

Lunch only. Mon-Sat, although I'd call to double check that they're still serving Saturday.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Take out from Willie Mae's today (happily, I work not far away in Treme/Gentilly). While I am kind of known for being a fan of the place (weigh your opinions with this fact), I can tell you that it ain't no joke. Kerry is frying chicken (or Slim, her son) that the tough as nails Willie Mae would not have EVER objected to. It's pretty awesome. White beans were really perfect and we had some bread pudding for dessert.

If you are in town, and have some time (if you order chicken it will take 25 minutes-they cook it to order...no matter how full the dining room), I highly reccomend that you go. You'll see a part of New Orleans that you wouldn't normally see during a convention visit and, better than that, you'll see a place, and a life, I suppose, that was rebuilt by people that didn't even know the woman or her grandaughter, who is now running the place with style and aplomb.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I was really happy to see in an ad for Willie Mae's that Kerry is also hosting some music at the restaurant. Last time I was there (pretty recently), that neighborhood was still largely empty. Doing some shows is just another way of getting some life back to the neighborhood.

And that was really the idea behind everyone helping. Trying to restore an anchor to the neighborhood. If it can be more than just a restaurant, all the better. The more activity that goes on at Willie Mae's, the better anchor it will be.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I'm coming in for the IACP conference (April 15-19) and I would really love to go here. ....anyone want to meet me for some fried chicken?

I've followed this story since the hurricane and it's incredible.

I've only been to New Orleans once, in the French Quarter, so I have no idea what neighborhood this is in.... but Willie Mae's is one of the reasons that I want to come to New Orleans.

PM me if you'll be around.

Judith

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I agree that the 'OZ sponsorship is a great idea....on my last visit, Kerry had WWOZ cranked up in the kitchen, singing along and dancing as she worked.

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OK. I'm a believer. Shatter crunchy crust on the chicken. Beautifully seasoned, soft melting pork chop. Hello! Butter beans! I should get out more often, these beans were sublime. Can you tell that I'm in a state of complete infatuation with New Orleans?

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I thought I would bump this back to ask if anyone has eaten there lately and how is Willa Mae doing?


“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

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I thought I would bump this back to ask if anyone has eaten there lately and how is Willa Mae doing?

Although, I can't tell you how Willa Mae is going, I did eat there the week before Fat Tuesday this year, and it was awesome, without a doubt the best fried chicken I've had. We purposefully went after the lunch rush with a large group of about 12, and they split us up into a couple different tables. People continued to spill in all afternoon, and probably as a result of our group, there was a wait even in between regular lunch and dinner hours. I guess it's no surprise that they were packed that time of year though.

The place struck us as very clean, and our server had a few (well earned I'm sure) laughs when describing what used to be there before the flood (mostly things that had now been moved onto the wall for decoration/keep sake) from what was now new.

Likely as a result of the time of year, getting a cab back proved to be a serious challenge. We were advised against walking back by the guys who drove us out there, but eventually we made it back in two separate cabs that we somewhat chased down.

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