You can’t miss the bright yellow exterior of Ma Lou’s Fried Chicken in downtown Ypsilanti. Although small in size, the restaurant offers big flavor.
Frank Fejeran, whom local foodies may recognize as founder of the popular Ricewood barbeque food truck, is behind Ma Lou’s. The restaurant is named partly as a nod to Fejeran’s Grandma Louise, who loved fried chicken.
The casual, counter-service restaurant opened earlier this year. Past the bright exterior, the interior boasts bold red and white picnic tables, a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game and four booths.
All about the chicken
The menu centers on fried chicken, which comes in three varieties: southern, with a traditional flavor; Nashville or medium hot; and Spicy AF or very hot. You can select breast, dark meat or jumbo wings and one side ($8-10). A half chicken is available ($14) as is a big box with 10 pieces and two sides ($25) or the family box with 15 pieces and two sides ($30). All include white bread and pickles. Ma Lou’s made-from-scratch sides include potato salad, fries, coleslaw and real baked beans.
There is also a chicken “sammy” on an onion roll, with Gouda and cheddar cheeses, pickles and coleslaw ($10). The lone kid’s meal consists of three house tenders and one small side ($6). Drinks include fresh sweet tea, horchata, and assorted sodas ($1.75).
For dessert, there is a biscuit donut ($2). Yup, it’s biscuit dough fried and dipped in sweet glaze.
I chose the southern “sammy” and coleslaw while my husband picked two pieces of breast meat, one Nashville and one Spicy, with potato salad. My son, 13, picked jumbo wings, southern style, and baked beans. My daughter, 10, and her friend, 9, went with the kid’s meal, southern-style, and coleslaw and fries, respectively.
The chicken is fried-to-order, meaning it’s not fast food. But with a little bit of a wait—about 15 minutes in our case—came a lot of reward in terms of flavor and quality.
“Crazy hot!” my husband exclaimed dining on his Spicy piece. “Man, I thought I was getting a break,” he commented after switching to the Nashville piece. He likes spicy food, so it was telling that the heat from Ma Lou’s chicken impressed him.
My sandwich was delicious: the chicken was moist on the inside with just enough crunch on the outside. The pickles, cheeses and coleslaw added hints of sweetness and texture.
My daughter and her friend could not finish their sizeable tenders, but enjoyed their flavor. My son’s jumbo wings were gigantic and he wolfed them down.
As for the sides, we found the coleslaw to be perfectly crunchy, lightly dressed and slightly sweet. The baked beans were smoky with a hint of sweetness; the red skin potato salad flavorful. Even the fries were tasty with generous portions.
And the biscuit donut? We split two and declared the unique dessert to be sweet. “It tastes more biscuity,” my daughter chimed in.
This summer Ma Lou’s expanded its hours to Sunday, offering chicken and waffles ($8) along with the regular menu. Ma Lou’s does a robust take-out business, too.
The Short Course
To avoid wait: It’s counter service, but you can call ahead to order or order online to save some wait time.
Noise level: Moderate
Bathroom amenities: No changing station in sole restroom
High chairs? Yes, but you have to ask for it at the counter
Got milk? No.
Kids’ menu? Yes
Anything healthy for kids? It’s a fried chicken restaurant.
Allergy info: Definitely call ahead to discuss your specific concern. They use soybean oil to fry food.