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FWBP Food & Wine: The new Gus’s Fried Chicken has an instant patina

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

1065 W. Magnolia Ave.

Perhaps spicy fried chicken was the only thing lacking on Magnolia Avenue. From vegan to Mexican and from Italian to barbeque, most of the other bases are covered very well. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken opened in December; here’s why people have been clucking about it ever since.

This Tennessee transplant boasts 17 restaurants in 10 states. The original 60-year-old chicken shack is in Mason, Tennessee, while its most famous hatchling resides in downtown Memphis. The walls of the newest Fort Worth Gus’s location have a few colorful prints of Memphis landmarks such as the Peabody Hotel and Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous barbeque restaurant, to remind you of where it came from.

The brand new chicken house has an instant feel of patina.

A nondescript mid-century streamline office has been painted flat white with a classic metal awning and original glass block windows across one wall. The only current signage is on the glass door and a banner out front.

Inside, the joint seems time-worn with exposed brick in spots, some tin and some particle-board ceilings, mismatched chairs, fans and lighting … just as if it had been collected over decades. A couple of flat screens, some scattered chicken collectibles and gallon jugs of Louisiana brand hot sauce serve as décor.

We enjoyed friendly and prompt service on a recent Friday night. The no-glitz, no-glamour attitude was fun, and service was almost picnic style with plastic foam plates and plastic cutlery on blue checkered table cloths.

Some of the other fun chicken-shack kitsch includes serving tall boys in brown paper bags to your table and spotting the traditional family style meals piled high with fried chicken on a plastic cafeteria tray.

The old-school appetizers include fried okra, fried pickles and fried green tomatoes. Our fried okra ($5) was a sizable basket served with ranch dressing for dipping. It was the perfect snack while waiting on our spicy chicken to emerge from its peanut oil bath.

We saw a lot of families dining with young children, which got me wondering whether I had missed the kids’ menu with milder, non-spicy options. Just to be clear, there aren’t any non-spicy chicken selections at Gus’s World Famous (I asked). But no one was complaining, not even the kids.

The standard meal comes with your choice of chicken pieces, baked beans, slaw and a slice of white bread (two pieces $7.95). The fresh, never frozen chicken is tender and juicy, and unlike the Kentucky-fried version, the crispy exterior is not dripping grease down your wrists. Its brightly hued crust warns you that it packs a punch, but it’s just enough to get your attention (the first bite is sure to do that).

The cole slaw is about as good as it gets, creamy and sweet with crunchy white cabbage, and the baked beans are sweet and tomatoey, which is just what you need to balance the mildly peppered chicken. Other starches include seasoned fries, mac n’ cheese and a sweet potato salad – which you either love or hate.

Gus’s also has chicken tenders and they are slightly less spicy, but the tenders also have less crunchy coating than the bone-in variety, and that’s what you came for anyway. The nightly special was five tenders with two sides ($10). It was a shareable portion, only for the hearty appetite.

For dessert, there are several pies to choose from and all are baked on site. Choose from pecan, chess, chocolate chess, sweet potato or coconut by the slice or take home the whole pie. We sampled the chess pie ($2.95 a slice) and it was a nice specimen with plenty of sweet and eggy filling.

The new Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken has the appeal of other Fort Worth landmarks such as Angelo’s Barbeque or The Paris Coffee Shop. It fits like a glove and feels like an old friend. It is simple, affordable and comfortable, the kind of place that makes no excuse for being what it is – a fabulous little hole in the wall – or for sticking to what it’s famous for in the first place – just mouthwatering spicy fried chicken.

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