Arkansas’ best fried chicken?

Where do you go for the best fried chicken in Arkansas?

When I think of barbecue, I tend to think of the Delta.

But when it comes to fried chicken, northwest Arkansas is the part of our state that first comes to mind.

Maybe it’s because my parents would take me to the AQ Chicken House in Springdale when I was a child whenever we were in the area. There was even an AQ at Russellville for a time, and it was the place we would stop after making the trip up Arkansas Highway 7 from Arkadelphia to Russellville to watch Ouachita take on Arkansas Tech in football and basketball.

I mentioned in the previous post that my restaurants of choice when spending two nights in northwest Arkansas are the Venesian Inn at Tontitown and the Monte Ne Inn near Rogers.

Of course, at Monte Ne there is no other choice. It’s fried chicken or nothing. You sit down in a small restaurant near the place Coin Harvey tried to make famous, and they start bringing food.

It’s all you can eat. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. I find it hard to stop when eating fried chicken.

You start with the bean soup. That’s followed by the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, coleslaw, rolls and apple butter. You should call ahead for reservations at (479) 636-5511. The restaurant serves its chicken from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. each Tuesday through Saturday and from noon until 7 p.m. each Sunday.

To get to the Monte Ne Inn, take exit 83 off Interstate 540. That will put you on New Hope Road. You’ll head east for several miles, and New Hope Road will turn into Monte Ne Road.

As far as the Venesian Inn is concerned, all of those who have ever attended the University of Arkansas (and even many of those who have simply attended Razorback football games through the years) have Venesian stories.

Sure there’s a lot more than fried chicken on the menu here. But I usually find myself going for the No. 1 — three pieces of fried chicken served with spaghetti and meat sauce. There are also what might just be the best rolls in any Arkansas restaurant.

Ordering the No. 1 is a good way to combine the Italian culture of Tontitown with the fried chicken heritage of the Ozarks.

Here’s how the restaurant’s website describes the history of this venerable place: “For more than 60 years, the Venesian Inn has been a treasured part of the northwest Arkansas community. Germano Gasparotto, an Italian by birth, opened the restaurant in 1947. A few years later, he sold the Venesian Inn to John and Mary Granata, also native Italians, who passed it on to their daughter, Alice Leatherman. Alice, the beloved prankster, served customers at the restaurant for many years with her fun-loving nature and commitment to fine Italian food always made from scratch.

“The family tradition was then passed on to her nephew, Johnny Mhoon, and his wife, Linda, in 1992. With dedication, hard work and a focus on high-quality food and service, Johnny and Linda continued to draw people from all over the area. The sense of family is also reflected in the fact that some of the restaurant’s employees have been here for more than 30 years.”

You’ll still sit at the wooden tables installed by Gasparotto in 1947. The brick walls and hardwood room dividers are original.

According to the website, “Mhoon says some of her regular customers recall the days when a Venesian Inn #9 steak cost only $1.50. As one of the restaurant’s original waitresses, Elsie Mae Pianalto, explains, the Venesian Inn charm is what keeps customers coming back again and again: ‘People who came here as children bring their children here. … They say it’s neat to see everything the same.”’

By the way, the #9 is a 16-ounce sirloin that will now set you back $18.95. I think it’s a bargain at that price. Pay the additional $2 to replace the fries with spaghetti.

The AQ Chicken House in Springdale, meanwhile, opened on July 20, 1947. The founder, Roy C. Ritter, was among the pioneers of the poultry industry in the Ozarks. He had large chicken houses and his own processing plant.

What’s does AQ stand for?

Arkansas Quality.

The company claims to serve more than 1 million customers a year at its two locations in Springdale and Fayetteville.

In 1949, half a chicken cost 65 cents and a cup of coffee cost 5 cents. In 1966, AQ shipped 400 dinners to Miss Universe contestants, and by 1972 franchises were available. The Fayetteville location was added in 1991, and an outlet was opened for football games in the expanded Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2001.

So in northwest Arkansas you have the Monte Ne Inn, the Venesian Inn and the AQ Chicken House.

What about Little Rock?

I would cast my vote for the Kitchen Express at 4600 Asher Ave. The fried chicken dinner there is $5.59 for one piece, $6.09 for two pieces and $6.99 for three pieces. Add an extra 79 cents for all white meat. Those prices include the choice of two vegetables, and the vegetables at Kitchen Express are excellent (don’t miss the boiled okra).

On the day fried chicken is served at lunch — if you want to go upscale — the Capital Bar & Grill at the Capital Hotel is hard to beat.

I’ve also found Franke’s to have consistently good fried chicken.

Several years ago, I was one of the judges on KABZ-FM, 103.7, for a fried chicken contest that Tommy Smith put together. I ate chicken with the famous Taz at 7 a.m. until I was about to pop.

Get this: Browning’s was the winner. I have no idea if the new incarnation of Browning’s that will soon open on Kavanaugh will offer fried chicken.

Fried chicken places I miss?

I miss Paul’s in the Park Hill area of North Little Rock. The fried chicken there was worth the wait.

I especially miss Mrs. Miller’s in Hot Springs, which was probably my father’s favorite restaurant in the state. You also could order fried quail there, a special treat on my family’s regular trips to Hot Springs when I was young.

What restaurants am I leaving out?

Who do you think serves the best fried chicken in Arkansas and why?

27 Responses to “Arkansas’ best fried chicken?”

  1. Chick Phil A says:

    Best fried chick I’ve ever had in Central Arkansas? Cock of the Walk in Maumelle. Get some throwed rolls!

  2. rexnelson says:

    I thought you had to go to Lambert’s in Sikeston, Mo., for throwed rolls!

  3. Ken says:

    I too miss Mrs. Millers in Hot springs along with Ed’s Eat Shop near the intersection of 5 & 7 in Garland county.

  4. Bubbalicious says:

    Central Arkansas-Crossroads in Cabot, only place I have found the pully bone in the pile. Brings back memories of my childhood and how my mother cut whole chickens up. Back then, I don’t recall her buying chicken parts. Just whole chickens for sale at the Piggly Wiggly.

    Overall, gotta say the Venician Inn in Tontitown.

  5. Bubbalicious says:

    Rex, here is a link to the Ashley County Ledger. The picture today (2-18) is of the center span of the Mississippi River bridge coming down.

    I thought you had a report on that bridge sometime back.

  6. Derek says:

    I’m relatively new to little rock, but I think Brownings may well have been the best fried chicken i’ve ever eaten. Lamberts wasn’t too bad either. I’m excited to try monte ne next time i’m in fayetteville area. great post.

  7. bkn says:

    The late lamented Cuz Fisher’s Steakhouse in NLR had great fried chicken, and I was a fried-chicken regular at both Browning’s and Paul’s. I don’t know of any place in the Little Rock area that still serves cooked-to-order fried chicken. At places like Kitchen Express, it’s on a cafeteria line, rather than cooked after it has been ordered from the menu, as it was at Fisher’s, Paul’s, and Browning’s. Chicken Country in Jacksonville has very good fried chicken in a cafeteria-line setting. The menu posted on the “new” Browning’s website did not include fried chicken the last time I looked at it.

  8. RWF says:

    Outside of Arkansas my favorite would be Gus’ in Memphis. Within Arkansas a real gem is Young’s in Monticello.

  9. Jeff Houser says:

    Rex, the old Anderson’s in Beebe was a favorite Sunday dinner destanation for our family years ago, they had good chicken. Also The New Green Mill, been years since I ate there, but had good large portions. I think the man’s name was Longinnitti that ran it.

  10. Jim Brewer says:

    Rex, let me add another fried chicken destination . . . Young’s Barbeque in Monticello. Outstanding fried chicken daily on their buffet. And if you happen to cross the river to Memphis, you have to go to Gus’s Fried Chicken downtown.

  11. rexnelson says:

    Thanks for all the comments. A few thoughts:

    — Fisher’s in North Little Rock did indeed have good fried chicken. But I usually found myself ordering fried chicken livers, the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant.

    — I have good memories of Anderson’s in Beebe, though we always had seafood there. We usually would make an Anderson’s stop after going to Searcy for Harding-Ouachita football games.

    — It also has been far too long for me since I’ve had lunch at New Green Mill. I need to get back out there.

    — I must give Young’s in Monticello a try — Rex

  12. Rocky says:

    Rex, I too miss Mrs. Millers. What was the little place in Kirby that we stopped at on the way to an OBU game in Oklahoma. The chicken was awfully good that day.

  13. rexnelson says:

    The Kirby Cafe is a special place if you happen to be in that area of southwest Arkansas. Their fried catfish night on Fridays used to be worth the drive from Arkadelphia. I also always enjoyed the chance to walk into Ernie Dunlap’s store in Kirby. Maybe it’s time for a road trip, Rocky — Rex

  14. JMF says:

    You had to get to the Kirby Cafe early on Friday not only for the catfish but the fried pies would go quick and when they were gone there were no more. Great fish and fried pies, chicken had to be good.

  15. Buckley O'Mell says:

    I’m a fan of the chicken at “Your Mama’s Good Food” in the Tower Building, “David Family Kitchen” on S. Broadway (close to Sim’s), and “Say McIntosh’s” on 7th near Woodrow.

  16. NudeH2OWarrior says:

    Chicken joint I miss which is no longer around in Central AR is Ma Tuckers in Conway. Just a short walk down Tyler from Hendrix College. Choice of brown or navy beans and a big bowl of greens. Today here in LR I love the chicken at Bobby’s Country Cooking in the shopping center off Markham and Shackelford. Really miss you on Sunday mornings with Bill on the Buzz. Can’t wait for September for your return to the airways and your blog on the opening of the 2011 Dove Season (printed a hard copy of this years for the cork board at our hunting club).

  17. rexnelson says:

    Thanks so much. Bill will have me in for guest appearances from time to time and then the regular football gig will begin the final Sunday in August.

    Then will come that magic Labor Day weekend when college football and dove season begin — Rex

  18. Rocky says:

    Ah yes, the Kirby Cafe. I’m absolutely up for the road trip and I do agree with RWF. Young’s in Monticello is VERY good.

  19. AllenK says:

    I gotta go with AQ in Fayettville. What an institution!

    I think I’ve eaten at the Kirby Cafe maybe once or twice,but it has been awhile. I’ve been to Dunlap’s for ice cream many,many,many times though.

  20. Doc Dave says:

    I cant wait to try the Venecian/Venesian/(Venetian?) when I’m next up in the Upper Left corner. But so far, the best fried chicken I’ve had since moving to Arkansas (coming up on twelve years now) came from Browning’s–and I can only hope that the new owners will have the sense to offer it, pan-fried and glorious, when the (newly and nicely fixed-up)old place reopens. Fisher’s was almost as good–but I only had theirs a couple of times before they closed. Sic transit gloria poultry…

  21. Great info Rex!! I love me some Arkansas fried chicken.

    Used to eat at Paul’s in Park Hill all the time. Tis a pity, it was delicious.

    If you’re ever out west we’ll have to go pack it in at Roscoe’s – their fried chicken and everything else is right up there.

  22. Brian says:

    I’ve ways been disappointed with the fried chicken in Little
    rock. We always drive to Gus’s fried chicken in Memphis

    When I need a quick fix, Ferneau has a very good fried boneless breast served on mashed sweet potatoes.

  23. bkn says:

    I ate lunch at the new Browning’s today and was surprised to see “fried chicken” listed on the menu. Alas, the description said it was a boneless chicken breast — not the real McCoy.

  24. Tom says:

    I know this post is old, but I have to add my vote for N & N Family Restaurant in Cabot. This is some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten outside of my mom’s kitchen! This is also a great place to go if you like good fried catfish.

  25. bkn says:

    I went to Lindsey’s Hospitality House in NLR today for the first time in several years. The lady at the counter told me they now do cooked-to-order fried chicken that takes about 25 mintues to cook. (They formerly had fried chicken on a cafeteria-like line.) I didn’t have that much time today, but she told me to call in an order in the future so the wait won’t be so long after I arrive there. She assured me that they do chicken right. Can’t wait to find out.

  26. Barb Rowe says:

    Whst happened to Mrs A’s?

  27. Jim Brewer says:

    Went to the Venesian Inn Saturday night with family. Still great. Anytime I’m in NW Arkansas, I’m looking for an excuse to go to Tontitown or the Monte Ne Inn.

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