117 San Jacinto Blvd.
Austin, TX 78701
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It’s a small chain out of Memphis, Tennessee. The first store was launched bv a husband and wife team in Memphis, and after 60 years the joint has become a local classic in the town where Elvis often ate deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches. The Austin store is run by Brian O’Neill, a real restaurant pro and the decor is well, fried chicken simple, just like the menu itself.
There are two appetizers: some absolutely killer fried pickles (as good as David Bull’s version on 2nd, and that’s saying something). And Fried Green Tomatoes, also good but not quite up to those pickles.
You can get your chicken with white meat only, dark, or a combination. I’m a dark meat kinda guy so you know what I ordered. My first taste was at their soft opening. I liked it, but mine seemed a bit dry. That’s why I never do a review based on one visit only. The second visit this week, with my old pal Pike Powers, was a different story. I had two thighs and one leg, and they were incredible. Beautiful golden brown presentation. The flavor rush I had missed on the first visit was there in spades. The batter was crunchy and uber-flavorful, and it stood out because they remove the skin before it’s battered and goes into the deep fryer. This produces a unique piece of chicken that seals in the moisture. I made an absolute spectacle of myself, gnawing away at each piece until there was nothing left but a few bones. But when you have something this tasty that is the requisite behavior.
My recommendation would be the cole slaw and seasoned fries to complete your plate. All of the sides are good, but the slaw and fries seem to complement the taste best. Of course, that’s me. The Mac and Cheese looked pretty damn good as well.
They serve pies for dessert: pecan and chocolate were what we tried. I said at first: OK, I’ll just have a bite. Well that idea went south in a hurry and before I knew it, our pies had disappeared.
Gus’s is loud, friendly, and the waiters are accommodating. It could have just as easily begun here instead of Memphis because it’s definitely got an Austin vibe. Is it world famous? Hard to say but I suggest that it will soon become a staple in Austin as it’s been in Memphis. I may never have another piece of Chicken Fried Chicken again! This is the real deal, famous in the south in the 50’s and with joints like Gus’s, making a serious comeback. Glad to have them in Austin!