40before40: a visit to the original gus’s.

it is no secret that gus’s fried chicken is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. the skin is the perfect amount of crispy, the chicken is the right level of spicy, and all of the sides are delicious. it’s where my mother and i eat before orpheum shows, it’s where i take anyone visiting from out of town, and it’s where my family goes for christmas eve lunch. in short, it is my happy place.

in recent years gus’s has begun franchising outside the memphis area and across the country, but i am a gus’s purist: for me it is the downtown location or none at all. i make maybe one exception a year and go to the one in east memphis [mostly because of its proximity to gibson’s], but in general it is front street or bust.

with that being said, i have long wanted to pay a visit to the original location in mason, tennessee. i managed to convince christina and then ryan that it would be a fun, low-key summer adventure, and when dejaun and i also talked about it i knew it needed to happen sooner rather than later. as we neared the end of the summer, we picked a saturday afternoon and set our course east to mason.

the original gus’s sits in an unassuming house on the side of highway 70 about a 45-minute drive from my house. the menu is almost the same as the memphis locations, but it feels like a different universe. there’s an open kitchen, maybe three people working, and everything is made fresh-to-order. the walls are mostly bare, there’s no jukebox, and people come to sit awhile and share a meal and a chat. things move a little slower, but it offers a chance to people-watch and gossip.

as for the food, i ordered my usual, a 2-piece dark meat plate with beans and mac-and-cheese. it came out piping hot, it was delicious, and i ate every single bite.

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a visit to the original gus’s. mason, tennessee. july 2018.
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my happy meal. mason, tennessee. july 2018.
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a look in the kitchen. mason, tennessee. july 2018.
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the story of gus’s. mason, tennessee. july 2018.
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going strong for 60 years. mason, tennessee. july 2018.

i think i might still prefer the downtown location, but i am happy to return to mason anytime someone is up for a visit.

xx

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