In between our blasts of wintery weather, I recently made the drive over to one of my all-time favorite places for fried and baked and smothered and “everything-else’d” chicken – the AQ Chicken House in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Although there was a large menu of mouth-watering choices, I stuck with my usual: a special bit of goodness called chicken over the coals. This super flavorful, little bit spicy, and very juicy dish bills itself as “pan fried chicken with that grilled in the backyard charcoal flavor [and] seasoned with our famous lemon pepper seasoning.” In other words, YUM! Just like a lot of people before me, I once again got to experience tasty chicken with that unbeatable Arkansas Quality (AQ).
The first AQ Chicken House opened in Springdale in 1947, followed by its second location in Fayetteville in 1991. And right from the start, the company has become a local institution, feeding generations of hungry diners and even several celebrities and politicians.
In fact, AQ’s website reports that it shipped 400 dinners to Miss Universe contestants back in 1966 and that President Bush ordered some of its chicken when Air Force One touched down in Benton County in 1999. At the same time, Barbara Bush broke with tradition and ordered catfish from the restaurant. And President Clinton has reportedly been a fan since back when he was governor of the state.
Driving up to the Fayetteville location today, you’ll see a big yellow, Southern-style house with white trim and pillars, a cute series of immaculate dormer windows jutting out of the roof, and a big ol’ welcoming porch.
That homey style extends inside, with warm colors, antique furniture, and lighting and decorations that give a timeless feeling throughout the entry and dining area. But the star of any visit is, of course, the food.
During my recent visit, I ordered the chicken over the coals along with sides of fried okra and warm cinnamon-spiced apples. You know, comfort food! Giant, warm-from-the-oven rolls were also served for free, along with strawberry preserves from the House of Webster in Rogers, AR.
Unfortunately, I was too stuffed for one of AQ’s signature desserts, such as fresh cobbler, battered and fried peaches over ice cream, or their hot chocolate cake with ice cream called “Ozark Chocolate Mess.” But I’ve had each of these before and they are all wonderful. In fact, it’s worth dropping by some afternoon just for one of these desserts. My favorite has always been those sweet peaches with sugar and cinnamon…
Other specialties at AQ Chicken House include batter dipped dill pickles, mushrooms, or onion rings, BBQ chicken, chicken and dumplings, hickory smoked ribs, homemade spaghetti, and Barbara Bush’s favorite – Southern style fried catfish.
In other words, I’ll be back. And soon! AQ bills itself as “The Best Little Chicken House in Arkansas.” And trust me when I say there’s truth in their advertising.
NOTE: AQ is located at 1925 N. College Avenue in Fayetteville and at 1207 N. Thompson Street in Springdale. Price range: $10-$15.