Mardis Gras Road Trip: Crispy Cajun Chicken

The crunchy batter explodes loudly and your shirt gets showered with crumbs every time you bite into the spectacular fried chicken at Chester's Place-Cypress Inn on Highway 20 in Donner, Louisiana (no relation to the Chester's Fried Chicken chain). A half chicken is the only size you can order. Sides include fries, rings, and salad, all of them unremarkable.

But the crunchy Cajun chicken is quite unique. The fryer chef slashes the breasts so that the thick white meat cooks at the same rate as the rest of the chicken and the breast absorbs more batter. Spice levels are regular, spicy and extra spicy. I tried the regular, which was golden brown, and the spicy which was a café au lait color. Cayenne is the only spice I could detect besides salt and pepper. If you judge fried chicken by the crunchiness of the batter, this place will instantly jump to the top of your fried bird life list.

Donner might seem a bit off the beaten track, but in fact it was right on the way home. Leaving New Orleans last weekend after catching a few Mardis Gras parades, a Louisiana native advised me that traffic was tied up on the I-10 causeway and I should take an alternate route. So I crossed the Huey Long Bridge to the West Bank and took Highway 90 to Lafayette before catching I-10 again. If you are on the way to New Orleans for Mardis Gras, keep this route in mind. It's takes about a half an hour longer -- unless there's a massive traffic jam on I-10, in which case its several hours faster.

I am still learning about food on this route, but I noticed the legendary Mosca's restaurant on 90 about 45 minutes out of New Orleans and the Avery Island exits for the Tabasco factory near Lafayette. My friend told me about Chester's Place, an old bar and grill shack in the swamp that's been making their awesome fried chicken for decades. The chicken takes a half an hour to fry, so he told me to call and place my order when I was 20 miles away. You exit onto Highway 20 at Gibson going east and Chacahoula going west. The phone number at Chester's Place is 985 446 6821.

-Robb Walsh

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