HiHo Cheeseburger’s Mid-Wilshire location just made an exciting addition to its menu: “The Willie Mae,” a fried chicken sandwich created in partnership with New Orleans’ legendary Willie Mae’s Scotch House. HiHo Cheeseburger is known for being the only burger restaurant that exclusively serves 100% grass-fed Wagyu beef, and the new sandwich builds on their reputation for using high quality ingredients. It features Willie Mae’s acclaimed fried chicken, topped with HiHo’s house-made pickles, a tangy “slaw sauce,” organic honey, crunchy purple cabbage, and is served on a warm brioche bun. “The Willie Mae” is a juicy, crispy temptation you don’t want to miss.
Jerry A. Greenberg and Lowell Sharron, both part of HiHo’s founding team, said, “We are Willie Mae’s biggest fans, so bringing a small part of that legacy to Los Angeles is really special for us.”
The new chicken sandwich is now available for take-out or to eat on the patio at HiHo Mid-Wilshire. For pick-up orders at the Mid-Wilshire location, use the HiHo Mobile App. HiHo expects to offer the sandwich at HiHo Santa Monica soon. In New Orleans, “The Willie Mae” is available at Willie Mae’s Scotch House and Willie Mae’s at the Market.
“The Willie Mae” is named for the original proprietor of Willie Mae’s Scotch House, Willie Mae Seaton. Starting in the ‘70s, Seaton cooked Southern comfort food with a New Orleans twist and served it in a restaurant so homey, the regulars called her “Mama.” Seaton won a James Beard Award in 2005, shortly before Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the restaurant. After reopening in 2007, Willie Mae’s received more accolades, with the Food Network and the Travel Channel proclaiming it “America’s Best Fried Chicken.”
Today, Kerry Seaton Stewart, the great-granddaughter of Willie Mae Seaton, runs the restaurant’s two locations. Below, she answers a few questions about Willie Mae’s and how the HiHo collaboration came together.
When you were growing up, did you imagine that you’d one day run Willie Mae’s yourself?
That was never really my goal, to be honest with you, but I grew up playing in the restaurant, and I love being there. It was always my great-grandmother, Willie Mae; her daughter, Lily; and me. I went to work there for a short time when I was a teenager, and then after college, I worked there to help my [great] grandmother out, and it just turned into another year and another year.
What was your relationship with Willie Mae like?
I admire my [great] grandmother immensely, and I love the strength of her being this strong, independent woman with her own business. We would talk over coffee every morning, and she would tell me what it took for her to start a business and have a business, and my admiration grew every day. Customers were always telling her, “You should give it to your granddaughter. She’d keep it going,” and she would say stuff like, “Baby, my granddaughter went to college! She don’t want to do all this hard work.”
I looked at her one day, and said, “Well look, if it’s something you want me to do, I would do it for you.” I guess when you speak things into existence, then that’s what happens.
The pandemic has been especially hard for restaurants. After everything Willie Mae’s went through during Hurricane Katrina, do you feel better equipped to handle the events of 2020?
I definitely feel resilient. I feel like I’ve been down this road before, so it’s not unfamiliar territory. I have my concerns like anybody else that’s going through this, but the terror or the fear of someone that has never experienced anything like this? No, that’s not there. I feel confident that we’re going to get past it.
How did the collaboration with HiHo Cheeseburger come about?
We’ve been friends for many, many years. Jerry and Lo heard about Willie Mae’s from a friend and started coming to the restaurant. They loved the food, and they wanted to meet the people in the kitchen, so we met and we ended up becoming friends. We like talking about food, and I would come out there to L.A. We’ve spent birthdays together; we’ve spent Hanukkah and Christmas together. Over the years, we were always cooking for one another. The Willie Mae is really something that we’ve been playing around with for years. And here it is!
Is this the first time Willie Mae’s has served a chicken sandwich?
I made a po’boy before, and we would have that as a special every now and then. But when it was the po’boy, of course, we used the New Orleans-style French bread and chicken tenders, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mayonnaise. So this is absolutely the first chicken sandwich—and we get the flavor levels with the honey, and the slaw sauce, and the HiHo pickle, and that beautiful brioche bun, so it’s like next level and the perfect marriage. I love it.
Learn more about “The Willie Mae” at hiho.la/WillieMae.