At the risk of turning into the house fried chicken connoisseur, here I am reviewing Wilma Jean, a.k.a. “Root & Bone, the hip-hop era.” No, Lil’ Bow Wow and Mos Def are unfortunately not working the counter here. But Wilma Jean is much more casual and straight-talking than Root & Bone, and the vibe in this place makes me feel just as at home as watching anything that appeared on MTV before 2002 would. So the reference stands.
Wilma Jean is the new Southern restaurant from previous Southern restaurant owners, Robert Newton and Kerry Diamond of Seersucker. As you might remember, we were never crazy about Seersucker, mostly because the menu just didn't deliver on comfort food flavors like we hoped it would. But with this new restaurant, that problem has been rectified. Wilma Jean is far less stylish than Seersucker, but infinitely more appealing, thanks to one simple thing: really good food. From fried chicken, to fried pickles, to all the other fried things you want from a meal like this, Wilma Jean dominates all the Southern favorites. And it does so without leaning on the easy Brooklyn restaurant trademarks, i.e. some guy in a vest serving gin and somethings.
Then again, simple Southern restaurants in Brooklyn aren't exactly a new thing (see, Pies 'n' Thighs, The Commodore), and even though Wilma Jean is a new restaurant, there's nothing all that new going on here. So don't come here expecting to see something you haven't seen before, unless, that is, the last piece of chicken you saw was from Seersucker. Then maybe you will be seeing something entirely new.
We've encountered many attempts at fried pickles in this city that fall apart after one bite. But Wilma Jean executes them flawlessly. The breaded exterior sticks to the pickle with every crunchy bite. Testify.
Wilma Jean churns out really legit fried chicken in nearly every form possible. They have chicken on a potato roll. They have chicken on a stick. They have a half chicken dinner. Then you can order a la carte, allowing you to mix and match however many breasts, thighs, and drum sticks you want with some sides. We recommend drum sticks because we're hands-on like that. But this is America - do what feels right.
We aren't going to say we don't recommend Wilma Jean's 1/3 pound or double burger with cheese or bacon. But you didn't come out here for beef. You came for Southern food, which means unless it's steak fried chicken fried steak, save that red meat fix for another day. Go chicken all the way.
Wilma Jean owns the mac and cheese game. I can't tell you how many times we've seen a restaurant destroy the most basic dish in the history of man. Sure, the S'macs of the world are free to get weird with it. That's their reason for being. But if you're tryna give me legit Southern macaroni, don't put buffalo seasoning, truffle, or 17 different cheeses in it. Stick to the basics just like Wilma Jean does - they deliver the perfect,simple combo of fat macaronis, creamy cheese, and toasted bread crumbs on top. Every other variation of mac and cheese in this universe is theater.
My love for tater tots is real, and Wilma Jean gets them right. Crunchy and flavorful thanks to the seasoning and pimento cheese on top. Order them.
For our veggie friends, we recommend this Southern response to the Northern kale salad craze. The collard greens are fresh and not too bitter thanks some lime-hinted dressing. And the roasted peanuts add some crunch that make this a worthy order. Don't expect it to be your whole meal, though. Then again, you probably had a juice yesterday. You'll be fine.