By: Shilo Urban
The staff T-shirts at Gus’s Fried Chicken say, “If you haven’t eaten at Gus’s, you haven’t eaten fried chicken.” Well, I hadn’t eaten at Gus’s before the Tennessee-based chain opened a location in Fort Worth on West Magnolia Avenue in January, its second in Texas. But I’d had what I’d considered to be fantastic fried chicken — from my grandmother’s tabletop “Jiffy-Fry,” to be exact.
Yet my childhood favorite was nothing like the spicy fried chicken Gus’s serves up, which is sold by the individual piece on a plate with baked beans, slaw and plain white bread, or as a “snack” with just bread. Fried in peanut oil, the crispy, glistening specimens arrive steaming in an amber-hued, shell-like coating. Not to be confused with the cayenne-heavy, Nashville hot chicken, Gus’s is not quite as piquant — and won’t leave your fingers orange.
Gus’s casual interior makes patrons feel comfortable. Tables with checkered tablecloths in red and blue fill the smallish space, which is regularly packed during peak lunch and dinner hours. Diner-style barstool seating offers glimpses into the kitchen, as well as into the refrigerated case filled with canned and bottled craft and domestic beers.
After ordering half-and-half iced teas that were served in souvenir plastic Gus’s cups, our visit started with Gus’s fried green tomatoes ($6.50), a Southern favorite not found on many Fort Worth menus. They came five to an order and were substantial in size. The slightly crunchy cornmeal coating encased soft, thick-sliced tomatoes that were tender and slightly tart. Demonstrate caution in eating them as they’re served tongue-scorching hot, thankfully with a cooling side of ranch dressing.
Dinner entrees in our party included a four-piece chicken tender plate with baked beans, fried okra and a side of honey mustard for dipping ($10.65 plus 50 cents for subbing fried okra for the slaw). The tenders were just that — tender and thick with that same crisp, shell-like coating. The baked beans were slightly sweet, and the fried okra, while toothsome, was nothing much out of the ordinary.
The same cannot be said about the mac and cheese, which was softer and denser than most varieties. Sprinkled with paprika, the hot, cheesy pasta was a balancing accompaniment to the crisp, sweet slaw of shredded cabbage and carrots. Both sides were part of my two-piece dark plate ($6.95 plus 50 cents for subbing mac and cheese for the baked beans), which included a juicy leg and hefty thigh. Dark meat lovers will agree, Gus’s spicy renditions of these bone-in favorites are lusciously succulent, yet hardly greasy.
Don’t miss the Southern chess pie ($2.95 per slice) for dessert. We ordered both chocolate and classic chess. Both buttermilk-based desserts offered a custard-like interior with a slightly crisp top and buttery crust. A scoop of ice cream may be added, but with the pie’s rich, creamy decadence, the addition isn’t necessary.
Location: 1067 West Magnolia Ave.
For Info: 817.927.4693, gusfriedchicken.com
What We Liked: The casual atmosphere, the reasonable prices and, most of all, the juicy, perfectly fried spicy chicken.
What We Didn’t: When the restaurant is busy, which is often, there is virtually no room to wait for a table, creating a potentially awkward dinner for diners near the door.
Our Recommendations: Save room for chess pie.
By: Shilo Urban