This time of year, lots of us think back to our memories of McKenzie's king cakes. When did they get into the fried chicken business? Is the store in Gentilly the only one that sold chicken?
The name McKenzie has been associated with sweet things to eat in New Orleans since the 1920s. The pastry "shoppes," as the retail outlets were known, really should have been called Entringer's, since Daniel Entringer founded the business in 1923 in Biloxi, Mississippi. According to a 1962 newspaper ad, Entringer hired Henry McKenzie when he opened a bakery on Canal Street in 1925. McKenzie then opened his own bakery in the 4900 block of Prytania Street, which he later sold to Entringer. The new owner kept McKenzie's name on the business because of his reputation. There may have been another reason, according to Entringer's son. "My mother wanted to change the name of the store to Entringer's, but my father said no one could pronounce that damn name here," Donald Entringer told The Times-Picayune in 1990. He and his brother Gerald eventually took over the business for their father.
The McKenzie name spread to more than 50 retail outlets around town, offering more than 200 products. King cake became its most popular item in the 1930s. Fried chicken came along in the 1950s, but only at the store at 3839 Frenchmen St., which was named McKenzie's Chicken-In-A-Box.
The bakery chain closed in 2000, although new owners tried to revive the name and eventually sold some of the recipes to Tastee Donuts. The chicken business was owned separately from the bakery, so it remained open. "It's the same secret recipe my father and uncle had here since day one," owner Gerald Entringer Jr. told Ian McNulty for a 2008 Gambit article. Entringer said that while the family intended for the chicken business to expand, plans never materialized and it is the only Chicken-In-A-Box location.