Think about all those warm, fuzzy memories you have around food, those flavor associations with family and home and tradition. How often does a whiff of 87 octane from the gas pumps figure into them, with a hint of hot grease in the background?
Turns out in New Orleans, that combination is not so uncommon, especially around Carnival time. The gas station is part of a vast network of fried chicken purveyors around New Orleans that can prove clutch as we keep driving toward Mardi Gras.
It’s a season of parades family gatherings and party hopping, and fried chicken fits the bill. It’s quick, easy to serve from the box, durable enough to travel and survive a parade route and affordable for sharing with whoever turns up.
So the fryers are raging, from the national chicken brands to mom-and-pop wing shops. Gas station fried chicken occupies its own niche.
Louisiana has a track record for legit gas station food. You don’t need to ramble around Cajun country long before figuring out that gas station butcher shops produce some of the best boudin (and boudin balls, and boudin eggrolls, and boudin everything).
Still, gas station chicken is not your mama’s skillet fried chicken. It won’t win any culinary awards or make those best-of lists that populate the Internet. But when you actually ask New Orleans people for their favorite fried chicken, particular gas stations often rise to the top.
All gas station fried chicken is quick and inexpensive. It is not all created equal. In fact, you can eat a lot of bad gas station chicken before you find really good gas station fried chicken. Trust me, I’ve had more than my share, all in the name of research for my people.
But when it’s good, it can be a lifesaver, especially during Mardi Gras. After all, making it to the parade is one thing, making it through the parade is another. It’s Carnival time, people! It’s a marathon, and we all need some fuel. In this town, sometimes you find it just past the gas pumps.
Here are some of my own top picks for gas station fried chicken around New Orleans:
3415 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-482-8823
2707 Orleans Ave., 504-484-3485
Key’s Fuel Mart
1167 N. Rampart St., 504-301-4598
Brother’s Food Mart
Brother’s has more than 30 locations across the metro area.
3101 Elysian Fields Ave.
Louisiana Super Saver
1641 Louisiana Ave., 504-891-6670