and other favorite chicken eateries...
Or -Man does not live by BBQ alone!
After reading an article that originally appeared in Southern Living in November of 1999, we went "south" (for us anyway) and visited the original AQ Chicken House in Springdale, Arkansas, located on old US Highway 71 in Northwest Arkansas, also known as Thompson Avenue.
AQ stands for "Arkansas Quality" and is a very apt name. The place has been in business since 1947, so they obviously have done a lot of things right!! Seeing photographs of the AQ waitresses alongside Bill Clinton on his visits to AQ tells me that this is Presidential chicken, too!!
A pretty girl with a platter full of fried chicken; now what more could you want?!
Talk about bringing back memories... This is my grandma's fried chicken reincarnated, no doubt about it!
As a young boy growing up, my Grandma would have iron skillet pan-fried chicken ready for me when I got home from church. The same chicken then reposing on my plate had been running around in the yard just a couple of hours earlier! That was some wonderful stuff, and so is this chicken from AQ Chicken House. In respect of my Grandma, I won't dare say it is better than hers, but it is close, real darn close...
Although most of us will go there for their to-die-for old-fashioned pan-fried chicken (fried in cast-iron skillets) and rightfully so, their barbeque is nothing to scoff at, either. The baby back ribs looked wonderful and the folks around me were obviously enjoying them! I may have to try them next! As of July 4th, 2000, a plate of 3 pieces of chicken was $7.49 and worth every cent; I received a wing, a leg and a wishbone and I savored every morsel of it. For a buck more you can get all white meat. The mashed potatoes have the skins mashed in with them and they come with a creamy gravy. The green beans (which we all know is the standard side dish to have with fried chicken) were respectably southern: nicely seasoned and far from "al dente." They have a nice selection of side dishes, including a sweet potato casserole. They have a wonderful variety of main dishes on the menu including chicken fried chicken, chicken fried steak, fried chicken salad and so on. They also have some grilled chicken if you are watching your cholesterol.
We stopped back by there in April of 2001, and it was every bit as good as before. The homemade cloverleaf yeast rolls were wonderful, and my table had strawberry preserves to put on them. Some tables have honey, some have various fruit preserves; just depends on which table you get seated at... The chicken seemed to have had just a bit more spices in the crust than I remembered from last year's visit, but it was delicious and I think it is worth it to pay a bit extra and get all white meat. I got a keel, a breast and a wing. No wishbones, though!
If you haven't been there, you owe it to yourself to stop in at any three of the AQ locations in Northwest Arkansas; the original one in Springdale; Fayetteville (home of the Arkansas Razorbacks) or their newest one in Bentonville, and experience the ultimate fried chicken experience.
Southeast Kansas: A Fried Chicken Mecca
(The only chicken places I know of that still serve wishbones [aka "pulley-bones"]- are Chicken Mary's and Chicken Annie's chicken houses of Pittsburg/Girard, Kansas; and Barto's) These are several of my favorite chicken places and they are a bit closer for me than AQ. There is a great discussion about the unique history of these two Kansas chicken houses found at http://www.orst.edu/food-resource/f/chicken_harris.html#top
Both Chicken Mary's and Chicken Annie's were mentioned in an article in Midwest Living from a couple of years ago, and they caught a little flak for referring to Pittsburg, Kansas, as a horse and buggy town or something along that line; actually a totally undeserved depiction. Pittsburg is the home of the Gorillas at Pittsburg State University, which has turned out several NFL players!
In the nearby town of Frontenac, Kansas, you will find another fine chicken institution in Barto's Idle Hour. Barto's was opened in 1951, and I don't know that it has changed much since then. The chicken and the french fries are (if you can believe this!) still fried in lard, according to what I am told. Just like the fries at Arthur Bryant's in KC, it adds a unique taste to the finished product. The chicken is not cooked until you order it and it always arrives piping hot. Barto's also serves wishbones for a slight additional charge, when they are available, and they are well worth it. After I had a wishbone dinner from Barto's, it made the ones from the two mentioned above pale in comparison sizewise; the ones from those other two look like they are from Cornish hens in relation to Barto's large pieces. These are the largest and juiciest wishbones I have ever had from anywhere, and they are just wonderful. As with the others, German Cole slaw and German Potato salad are the normal side dishes unless you tell them American. Also, you cannot go without having a large order of their onion rings, and I can also highly recommend their chicken gizzards and livers as well! You have to give Barto's a try.
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This page last updated 11 August 2009 0228Z
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