Ever since I moved to Memphis nearly three years ago, I've discovered that everyone in town has a strong opinion about who fries up the best chicken. I always feel a bit out of my element when it comes to arguments surrounding meat or fried foods, since I am a tofu and veggies girl from Cali. However, a recent visit to Uncle Lou's Southern Kitchen made me feel okay about cheating on my usually healthy diet — and gave me a bit of a best-fried-chicken-in-town opinion of my own.
Owner Louis Martin opened Uncle Lou's in April 2001. Most of the recipes are family originals or created by Martin. The best recipe on the menu? Sweet Spicy Love sauce.
I'm a ketchup gal and not really a fan of hot sauce. I did grow up in a state where Mexican food was plentiful, but I always ordered the mild (aka wimp) version of everything. Because of my hesitancy toward anything spicy, I was nervous about Uncle Lou's and hoped that I would find something on the menu that wouldn't send my mouth into shock.
Imagine my surprise when I ate several wings doused in Sweet Spicy Love. The wings were just right, mostly because they weren't heavily breaded. The sauce took front and center, as it rightly should, since it was amazing — the perfect combination of burn-your-lips spicy and make-your-tongue-dance sweet.
My first bite was actually more of an inhalation, which coated my lungs in hot sauce fumes. And then, since I'd only had a moderately adverse reaction to the hot sauce, I tried another wing. And another. And five more.
In order to recover, I finished off the fried corn nuggets. (Hey, survival is survival.) Slightly sweet, chewy in the middle, and crunchy on the outside, the corn nuggets were like a palate cleanser between bites of wings, fried chicken, and French fries.
Just when I thought I couldn't possibly eat one more bite of anything, Martin brought out a plate with honey-buttered biscuits. Soft, chewy, and buttery melt-in-your-fingers, the biscuits disappeared in under two minutes. They were a perfectly sweet way to finish up the meal.
Martin has created a spice mix called Corruption that will make going bad seem so good. A simple mixture of salt, onion and garlic powder, lemon and celery salt, and other spices, it can be sprinkled on anything — chicken, burgers, fries.
If you were driving by Uncle Lou's, you might dismiss it as one more dive on the edge of a strip mall. But it's been featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It might be a dive, but don't let that fool you. The service is amazing and the food ... well, if you aren't drooling by now, you don't have taste buds.
Next visit, I'll follow Martin's advice and call in my order ahead of time. Our food did take some time to arrive (everything is made-to-order), but it was well worth the wait. While we waited, I checked out the wall filled with framed newspaper and magazine articles about Uncle Lou's. I was intrigued by the two large maps of the U.S., with hundreds of colored pins representing visitors.
By the way, you can buy an entire kitchen's worth of supplies, like breading, sauce, and spice seasonings. I ended up coming home with a bottle of hot sauce. My affair with ketchup is not over, but I did put the hot sauce on a separate shelf. Don't want them to get all jealous and spicy on each other.
Uncle Lou's Southern Kitchen 3633 Millbranch (332-2367)