A journey four years in the making comes home today as Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles makes its Little Rock debut and grand opening at 6606 Colonel Glenn Rd. Owner Ciceley McDowell started in a small ramshackle building in North Little Rock in 2015 and moved to Conway two years later. However, Little Rock was her home, and a homecoming was always in the back of her mind. Today is that day, and it’s sure to be a busy one for McDowell and her team.
“I am super excited,” said McDowell on the eve of grand opening. “I’m happy to be home, I’m happy to be with my friends, I’m happy to bring something new to Little Rock and bring some good energy that we have going on.
For those who have never been, Ceci’s has always been more than just her eponymous chicken and waffles dish. However, since McDowell has been away from Pulaski County, she’s added considerably to that part of the menu. At a menu tasting, McDowell brought out no fewer than 20 different varieties of chicken and waffles in a staggering display. Dishes range from the classic dry wings or tenders with syrup, to the outrageous Supreme Waffle with chicken, strawberries, pecans and cream cheese glaze. The red velvet waffle is back (and just as delicious as always), and other waffle dishes had chocolate or blueberries or golden Oreos or bananas.
And then there’s the showstopper: the Cheeseburger Waffle, which I guarantee you won’t find anywhere else in Central Arkansas. McDowell griddles up a nearly half-pound burger and uses the waffle as the bun, complete with powdered sugar and syrup. I had no idea what to expect when I tasted this, but the light, sweet notes with the salty char of the burger was a wonderful combination. It’s completely different, and it just works.
“We are proud of this,” said McDowell. “We want to make food that makes people happy, we don’t want to do anything that our customers aren’t satisfied with. We are making these fresh, we don’t want to send out food that’s not hot, so if people will just have a little patience with us while we’re crowded, we will make sure you get good food and that you’re happy as a customer.”
In addition to chicken and waffles, diners will find a selection of salads, soul food and special plates on the lunch menu tomorrow, including pork chops, salmon salad, chicken wings with onion rings, and some of the best chicken gizzards I’ve ever eaten (and do not miss the hot sauce). The menu gets a bit smaller at dinner time, with some of the specials and side items going away for a more streamlined approach. Ceci’s will feature a drive-thru, though not during opening week; there are still a few technical aspects to be worked out there. Also, the new parking lot is limited. Diners are asked not to park at the Chinese restaurant next door, but rather in the strip mall parking lot on the east side of the building.
Today will be very busy at Ceci’s, and that’s understandable. It’s the celebration of an unlikely restaurant serving up Southern comfort classics in the most humble and authentic way. It’s a homecoming for a community eager to welcome back one of its own. And it’s another remarkable chapter for an undaunted, black woman business owner who has faced down every obstacle and come out stronger for it. This is something worth celebrating. I hope we all do just that.