It was 6pm Sunday night when the fried chicken craving hit hard. But it was a little too late to drive to Chateau Marmont in Hollywood for their amazing fried chicken Sunday dinner (sad face). So I jumped online and started doing some research with the hopes of finding an alluring Orange County restaurant serving up this classic Southern dish.
It didn’t take too long before I stumbled upon Memphis Café in Costa Mesa in north Orange County. I made my reservation, jumped in the beach mobile and headed north.
About 30 minutes later, we landed in Memphis. I would’ve gone right past it had I not been carefully following the Maps app. The restaurant is in a discreet, non-distinct building and I began questioning whether I had made the right decision for dinner.
We decided to sit in the backyard patio to enjoy the beautiful cool evening weather. I felt like we were in Memphis sitting in someone’s backyard – plastic chairs and all. Yeah, it was pretty cool. (sidenote: those empty tables were packed when we arrived).
We were stoked to learn that Happy Hour was still going on when we arrived so we immediately ordered their $5 margaritas to start the evening off right.
After ordering, we were served their homemade cornbread. It was hearty, moist and flavorful. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but trust me, no butter is needed on these delicious treats. I LOVE butter so you gotta know that this cornbread must have been THAT good.
We decided to start with two items off their Happy Hour menu: fried okra and Dungeness crab cakes. The fried okra passed with flying colors. The corn meal coating was super crispy and the accompanying spicy aioli took this dish over the top. Hands down, the best fried okra I’ve had to date.
Regarding the crab cakes: a valiant effort, but if you want to get blown away, head to Wildfish in Newport Beach.
Now for the reason I came: Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The chicken was moist and the skin super crispy. It is served practically deboned which makes eating it somewhat less authentic. I wanted to get my hands greasy, folks! The collard greens had a nice vinegary tang. That huge fried round thang you see is a hush puppy. They were good although a little too large for my liking.
If you feel like you need a little more something-something to fill your tummy, order a side order of Hoppin’ John. It’s a classic Southern dish of rice and black-eyed peas with a hit of tabasco.
Must’ve been a pretty darn good meal since I ate everything on my plate.
I will be going back to Memphis Café for sure. It had a welcoming laid back atmosphere, friendly attentive service and delicious food.
Oh and in case you were wondering, we left PK on the car roof while we ate so he could watch the planes take off from John Wayne Airport.