Master: Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
Over 60 years ago in the small community of Mason, Tennessee, Napoleon “Na” Vanderbilt created something amazing – fried chicken that could unite a community. In an era of divisive racial attitudes the residents of Mason found that they could all – black and white – agree on how much they loved Na’s fried chicken.
Such an amazing feat did not occur overnight. After experimenting for several years in a local tavern, Na and his wife, Ms. Maggie, began selling their chicken, sandwiched between two slices of white bread, out of the back door of the tavern. As demand grew, Na and Maggie were encouraged by local residents to build a freestanding restaurant. Unfortunately, the Vanderbilt’s were of modest means and could not afford such an expansion; however, generous, chicken loving locals offered to supply them with the materials necessary to build their own restaurant. Na, a skilled carpenter, built the restaurant on a piece of land he and Ms. Maggie owned on Highway 70 in Mason. Maggie’s Short Orders opened its doors in 1973. The building still stands today and still serves Na and Maggie’s amazing fried chicken.
However, no matter how many Gus’s locations open or how far across the globe they expand, Wendy and the entire Gus’s family remain dedicated to the recipes and traditions originated by the Bonners. Note the slightly sweet beans and slaw served with every meal. Gus and Gertrude perfected these recipes, allowing their slight sweetness to offset the spiciness of the fried chicken. Notice too the slice of white bread that accompanies every plate, a tribute to those original chicken sandwiches Na and Maggie served their clients over 60 years ago. As Gus’s continues to grow, we will honor these traditions and serve up some of the world’s best fried chicken. And, before you ask, no, you cannot have the recipe. As Gus once quipped, “This is a dead man’s recipe [and] I ain’t telling.”