Here’s a shout out to fans of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken: The new Gus’s on Mendenhall in East Memphis is open, and the place is rockin’ even during off-hours. Customers have been visiting nonstop since the restaurant opened two weeks ago, with sales last Saturday topping $10,000. That’s a lot of chicken.
We stopped by Wednesday at 4 p.m., and we heard the Bo-Keys on the jukebox as soon as we sat down, courtesy of the Sirius station BB King’s Bluesville. The music was a perfect appetizer for our three-piece white plate with an extra chicken tender. We’d never ordered a tender, and it tasted just like Gus’s chicken on-the-bone, thanks to the top-secret frying batter that comes directly from the original Gus’s in Mason, Tennessee.
My favorite thing about Gus’s is how the chicken is so hot and juicy. I love pulling a chunk of meat and skin from the bone with my fork and having to wait a minute or two before eating to let the spicy steam escape. The smell is everything that’s good about summer.
While the menu at the new Gus’s duplicates the other restaurants, the ambiance of the place is entirely it’s own. Owners Tripp Carter and Tom Mitchell spent $400,000 for the build-out, which included demolishing the existing building that had been empty for 25 years.
“Did you notice the sign for Rodgers Radiator Shop by the cooler?“ asked operations manager Ted Sullivan. “The shop was the last business here, and we found the sign inside the building when we torn it down.”
This mix of old and new gives Gus’s a comfortable, lived-in feeling. The restaurant’s brick and corrugated tin ceilings were reclaimed from a downtown warehouse, and the redwood for the window frames came from a Mississippi ranch. The name of the ranch - WW - is still stamped on the wood.
The restroom and storeroom doors have some history too, coming from a Mississippi gas station where customers left stickers for stores (Cowboy Corner), radio stations (107 FM), schools (Roar With the Tigers), and political campaigns (Impeach Nixon). “We wanted to preserve the stickers, so we sealed the doors exactly as they were,” Sullivan said.
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, Open Sunday - Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.730 S. Mendenhall (901-767-2323)