AQ Chicken House
Address: Arkansas Highway 71-B, Springdale
Drive Time: 5 minutes from downtown Springdale
Turnaround Time: 5 minutes for entrees
AQ Chicken, with 50 years’ experience in the business, knows how to dish up a tasty meal with all the qualities of an old-fashioned home-cooked meal – but without the wait.
It was just five minutes from the time our hostess seated us until our waitress brought the food – piping hot from the coals. That left us with plenty of time to savor the meal instead of, as in many establishments, watching the clock nervously while we wonder whether our food will come before the lunch hour is over.
Of course, AQ’s traditional pan-fried chicken – or its fire-roasted chicken – is hardly a dieter’s dish. But, to crib a line from another well-known chicken business, the food is finger-lickin’ good, and everybody deserves a treat now and then.
This visit, we had the fire-roasted chicken dinner ($6). As long as we were splurging on the fat grams and calories, we sprung for the all-white meat dish, which adds another dollar to the cost. But for that, we got three tender pieces of chicken, a famous AQ roll and our choice of two vegetables. The variety of vegetable dishes offers the most finicky eater something to choose from, but the waitresses don’t even blink if the request is for two servings of real mashed potatoes, smothered, of course, in chicken gravy. Each table has a jar of Webster’s strawberry preserves, which enhances the bread.
‘On past visits, we’ve had the chicken and dumplings (another delight) and the roast beef (the only disappointing dish we’ve tried; based on frequent visits to AQ, that anomaly must have been the chef’s day off).
As if the dinner weren’t enough, there’s dessert, which our waitress offered promptly – a practice many other restaurants with delectable sweets should adopt. It was difficult, but we managed to find room for dessert: a chocolate ice-cream sundae ($2). If that’s too much, there’s usually cobbler as well.
The name should give some hint as to what this restaurant’s specialty is and the proof is in the menu. But be sure to check out the parking lot – spaces are marked off with small chicken designs and the usual disabled sign is replaced by a large chicken.
Speaking of the parking lot, don’t be deterred if the lot appears full. It always looks that way, but there’s seldom a wait, at least for lunch. Those hostesses can almost always find another empty table.
And if celebrity endorsements mean anything, AQ is still bragging about the time the current White House occupant visited four years ago.
“Even presidents eat at AQ!” boast the placemats. “… and vice presidents, too! Way back in 1952, Vice President Alben W. Barkley enjoyed Famous AQ Pan-Fried Chicken!”