Frank Fejeran’s new joint has been open for just over a month now, and I have finally had a chance to check it out. I went in during the latter half of the dinner rush, because I had heard it is busy. That was no rumor. When I arrived, there were no open seats available in the dining room and there was a line of people ordering food about 10 deep.
I waited my turn and placed my order (3 piece dark, spicyAF, baked beans, potato salad and two Biscuit Donuts). I was told it would be 25 minutes, so I asked if I could step into the kitchen to say hi to Frank while I waited. I walked into the kitchen and was amazed at what I saw.
I have seen or worked in some pretty small kitchens in my day, but Ma Lou’s kitchen is about as small as they come. Considering there are six people working in the space, efficiency is the name of the game. I stood in the corner, by the back door, and watched the smooth choreography of a well oiled machine.
As the orders came in, one guy read the tickets and prepped (dipped in liquid and dredged in seasoned flour) each piece of chicken to get dropped in the fryer. Frank was working the fryers and dropped the chicken for each order before passing the ticket to the two guys working the finishing table. Depending on how the chicken was ordered: Southern, Medium, or SpicyAF (AsF**k), they prepared each order and bag it up. The person preparing sides was just inside the front door of the kitchen, managing a steam table for the baked beans, a refrigerator for the cold sides and another fryer for the fries and the Biscuit Donuts.
The cold storage for the chicken was behind the guys working the finishing table. The other side of the room had the sinks and drying space for the dishwasher. The entire prepping, cooking and cleaning space of the operation occupied a room of about 150 square feet.
I got my order and took it home, since I ordered the Biscuit Donuts to share with my family. The chicken smelled so good, it took everything I had to not dig in on the 20 minute drive home. My patience was definitely rewarded though.
As anyone who knows me understands, I like things spicy. I wasn’t taking Frank’s spicyAF as a challenge, but I was hoping it would worthy of its name. It was. The level of spicy was hot, but not so hot that all it did was burn. There was a good amount of flavor in the heat, and the meat was extremely juicy as well.
The sides provided a good balance to the spicyAF chicken. The baked beans had a thick, viscous sauce, and the beans themselves were cooked to perfection. The spices in the sauce complemented the spice on my chicken, just with less intensity. The potato salad had a creaminess from the potatoes (not a mayo-based dressing) with crunchy texture from bits of carrot and red onion. My favorite part of the potato salad was the delicate essence of dill. It is easy to do bad potato salad, but Frank has really brought his A game with this one. This was easily the best potato salad I have had at a restaurant.
Finally, I have to say something about the Biscuit Donut. Think the flaky layers of a biscuit encased in the texture of a donut that has been fried to golden perfection and lightly coated with a simple glaze. It is the marriage of two things you wouldn’t expect to go together, but they match one another to exceed expectations.
I have no doubt that I will go to Ma Lou’s again. Next time, I may take my family and try to brave the crowds and get my order to stay.