Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken: A Culinary Journey Rooted in Family Traditions

Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken
Photo Courtesy: Lou Martin

By: Lennard James

Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken, a culinary institution established on April 4, 2001, is not just a restaurant; it’s a heartfelt tribute to family traditions and a testament to the resilience and passion of its founder, Lou Martin. The journey of Uncle Lou’s is intertwined with Lou’s upbringing and his unyielding dedication to creating an experience that goes beyond the delectable offerings on the menu.  

Lou’s culinary story begins in his mother’s kitchen, where, as a young boy, he took on the responsibility of feeding his two little brothers while his mother pursued her education and worked part-time. It was in his family kitchen that Lou’s love for cooking blossomed. His mother, Mary Martin, became his mentor, passing down not just a recipe but a culinary philosophy that shaped his approach to food – “I’m not a cookbook cook; I’m a mama’s cook.”  

The journey into the restaurant business was not without its challenges. Lou opened his first restaurant, Catfish Express, in 1985 at the age of 26, driven by a recipe and an idea but lacking in business savvy. Despite facing initial setbacks, Lou’s perseverance and love for the culinary arts led him to establish Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken in 2001.  

Uncle Lou’s became a culinary sensation, earning national recognition with appearances on renowned television shows such as The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives and Best Thing I Ever Ate. Lou’s genuine love for people and commitment to customer satisfaction made Uncle Lou’s a hot spot for travelers worldwide, boasting customers from over 60 countries and all six continents.  

Photo Courtesy: Lou Martin

A pivotal moment in Uncle Lou’s journey occurred when the Food Network decided to feature the restaurant on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in 2008. The exposure brought a surge in popularity, saving the business from the brink of closure. Guy Fieri, the show’s host, recognized Lou’s potential, stating, “He doesn’t understand, after this, things are gonna blow up. He’s gonna do really good.”  

Beyond the fame, Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken remains rooted in its Southern heritage. The renowned fried chicken recipe is a cherished family heirloom, passed down from Lou’s great-grandmother, Rosie Gillespie of Nesbit, Mississippi, to Lou’s mother, Mary Martin, and finally to Lou himself.  

The accolades for Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken extend beyond its doors. The restaurant has earned prestigious awards, including “Best New Food Item” at the 2001 Mid-South Fair for its Honey-Dipped Chicken, and “Best Overall Food” at the Mid-South Fair. Uncle Lou’s signature dishes, like the Monster Burger, have graced the cover of B. Visible Magazine, further solidifying its culinary legacy.  

Photo Courtesy: Lou Martin

Moreover, Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken is a staple at Liberty Bowl Stadium, serving patrons during all University of Memphis home football games. The restaurant’s impact goes beyond its physical space, leaving an enduring mark on Memphis and the hearts of those who have had the pleasure of experiencing Lou’s genuine hospitality and mouthwatering creations.  

In a world where passion meets tradition, Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken stands as a shining example of culinary excellence, perseverance, and the power of familial connections. Lou’s journey, from a humble kitchen to national acclaim, is a celebration of love for food, people, and the indomitable spirit that transforms dreams into reality. 


This article features branded content from a third party. Opinions in this article do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of CEO Weekly.