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Where Y’Eat: A Returning Fest Gets Fired Up for Fried Chicken

A fried chicken sandwich at the National Fried Chicken Festival in New Orleans.
Ian McNulty
A fried chicken sandwich at the National Fried Chicken Festival in New Orleans.

Fried chicken gets people fired up, and I don’t just mean hungry.

Fried chicken is top of mind right now because this weekend the National Fried Chicken Festival returns for the first time since the pandemic, with a new location on the New Orleans lakefront. Through the years this fest has been a gathering of fried chicken lovers. They are many, and, I believe, some common themes unite them.

One: The appeal of fried chicken is universal, but the particulars are highly personal. Saying you love fried chicken isn't enough. It's like saying you’re into rock and roll. Who’s chicken? Which style? Name names.

Before New Orleans had much of a barbecue scene, there was already fierce pride and rivalry around fried chicken.
Recipes, techniques, seasoning -- people talked about their fried chicken the way others approach their brisket and ribs, or just as importantly, they refuse to talk about them at all.

Our second storyline: Fried chicken is a Southern classic, but it’s also open for interpretation on a global level. Different traditions have their own versions, and you can get creative and not get laughed out of the room. Make it a sandwich, pair it with waffles, with bacon, with fries or nachos or tacos. It all remains compelling, and all of that plays out through the diverse vendors at Fried Chicken Fest.

And finally: Fried chicken is an indulgence, but one that feels as down home as a hug from a loving aunt.

It isn’t just comfort food -- fried chicken is social food. Made in big batches, it’s portable with no utensils required. You probably shouldn’t eat it daily, but at family events, on parade routes and at game day gatherings fried chicken feels right at home.

At its best, its food for good times. Put that all together in one box, and it’s no wonder New Orleans is ready to throw a party for fried chicken.

National Fried Chicken Festival
Oct. 1 and 2
Lakefront Drive at Franklin Avenue
Details at

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.