In fine dining restaurants, chicken often plays second fiddle—usually outshone by an expensive cut of beef, an imported fish, or the mighty lobster. I’m just as guilty as most diners in my tendency to brush off these chicken dishes in such locations. Anthony Bourdain once wrote, “Chicken is boring…chefs see it as a menu item for people who don’t know what they want to eat.” But in the right hands, when given the proper attention, chicken takes on a more dignified role. It’s often the lower-end restaurants that place chicken at the forefront of their menus, and it’s these joints that often prove that chicken is far from inferior. One such restaurant recently arrived on the Little Rock dining scene—a cozy little chicken shack just south of downtown called Jerky’s Spicy Chicken and More.
As advertised, Jerky’s specializes in jerk chicken and features it in a number of settings on their menu. We started with the chicken and ribs combo plate. The chicken is seasoned with a proprietary blend of spices that give the chicken a wonderful herbaceous and spicy flavor. Then it’s smoked over hickory. The white meat chicken was tender, juicy and easily sliced through with the edge of a fork. Our meal came with a few slices of bread and we proceeded to stuff a few forkfuls of jerk chicken between the stuff, creating wonderful make-shift sandwiches (you can also order the chicken chopped on a sandwich if you prefer to take the easy route). It was clear to us why the smoked jerk chicken is the star of this establishment.
The accompanying pork ribs were fair, but had some textural issue. These are smoked a little too quickly and tended to be a bit tough and chewy, requiring a bit too much force to rip from the bone. But they were, at least, juicy with a decent flavor, being seasoned with that same house jerk seasoning. We were quite pleased with the provided barbecue sauce, however. This was a thin, vinegar-based concoction, that added a nice slightly sweet and tangy note to the spicy chicken and ribs. We would have gladly taken a bottle home for later.
The “jerk fried chicken” plate featured bird was less successful than its regular smoked variety. This fried version was given an excessively thick and chunky coating that was reminiscent of chicken dipped in a boxed stovetop stuffing mixture. The underlying meat was good, but we preferred it without the crust.
Our meals were accompanied by a number of side-dishes, all of them passable but none that deserve particular mention here. We did enjoy the spicy paprika flavored fries, even if they were clearly of the bagged and frozen variety. We were pleased when we were provided with a small sample of their bourbon glazed bread pudding off the dessert menu. It was sweet, creamy and laced with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Jerky’s features both a sit-down dining room for those wanting to take their time at lunch and a take out window for those on the run. And while our experience was rather hit or miss overall, heading back to Jerky’s to nab a quick chopped jerk chicken sandwich would not be such a far-fetched idea.
Jerky’s Chicken and More is located at 2501 S. Arch Street, Little Rock. 501-246-3096. Currently open for lunch Tues to Sun.