Joes' Fried Chicken (CLOSED)

Simply Awesome!

For a long time, my opinion of the top restaurants for fried chicken were (in descending order) Gus's, Uncle Lou's and The Four Way, although many Memphians might substitute Jack Pirtle's as its third choice (or Alcenia's, although I wasn't impressed during the one time I ate there). However, according to the results of The Memphis Flyer's 2020 Best of Memphis Awards survey, Gus's and Uncle Lou's were ranked first and third respectively, with second place going to a restaurant that wasn't on my radar until recently. On my last birthday, I had a hard time deciding where to celebrate. I wanted to try something new that wasn't expensive while having a bit of class. Fortunately, I found what I was looking for in Joe's Fried Chicken (aka "Joes' on Highland" (street) or simply "Joes'"), a small restaurant that's attached to an antique shop in East Memphis. Formerly known as The Elegant Farmer, Joes' (named after the owners who are both named "Joe") is a quaint little place that serves chicken and seafood (along with a "crispy" hamburger) in a dining room that is somewhat "elegant" in its rustic decor. Although I had never eaten there, Joes' reputation made its way among my friends who sung its praises. So to see what the hubbub was about, I decided to pay Joes' a visit.

2 Pieces Dark from Joes' Fried Chicken

For my first entrée, I got the "2 pieces dark" (thigh and leg) with an extra thigh and two sides. It didn't take long for my dinner to arrive, and it was nearly perfect. The fried chicken was, to steal a quote from Jennifer Biggs' Commercial Appeal review, "crisp, hot and simple." The seasoning was flavorful in a tantalizing way while not being too spicy. If there is such a thing as "textbook" fried chicken that isn't complicated while perfect in taste, Joe's has it nailed. By the way, the crust itself was thin and not overly flaky, which didn't create a mess. To sum it up, Joes' Fried Chicken is as good as advertised, making an impression that I won't soon forget.

Chicken Fried Steak from Joes' Fried Chicken

On a follow-up visit, I had one of my favorite dishes, the chicken fried steak. It's something that I've loved for a long time and is irresistible whenever I see it on a menu. Naturally, I wanted to see how an excellent fried chicken restaurant would make this, so I went back to Joes' for another meal. In terms of taste, the chicken fried steak seemed a little spicier than the fried chicken in a good way. While it had a lot of flaky breading that sprinkled on my plate as I ate it, the steak itself was a bit on the thin side. Although it was tender and tasty, I expected something meatier to balance the flavorful breading. Compared to the chicken, I will give the chicken fried steak a "B" for good flavor while lacking substance on the inside. Fortunately, the sweet turnip greens made up for the lack of meat in terms of fulfillment (the greens were the best I had since my last visit to the recently departed Hog and Hominy). The dry mashed potatoes and gravy were decent, contributing to a meal that was good overall.
My takeaway from Joes' is that the restaurant  is in the upper echelon of fried chicken joints in Memphis. While I slightly disagree with the voters in this year's "Best of Memphis" poll, I will put Joes' just behind Gus's and Uncle Lou's in terms of rank (tying with The Four Way, although it doesn't have the same historical significance). While my two favorites both have unique flavor that sets them apart from the rest, I appreciate the simplicity and perfection of fried chicken made with perfect execution. Joes' is the epitome of that, which is why I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates a good Southern meal.

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