For whatever reason, whether it’s a restaurant’s small size, out-of-the-way location, or just a lack of publicity, some places tend to fall under the radar with a larger audience. This Rock City Eats series takes a look at these Underrated Places.
The restaurant: You’ll have to leave the beaten path a little bit to find this tiny North Little Rock soul food eatery Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles is somewhat out of the way, but trust me, this is food worth seeking out. Of course, the restaurant’s name gives away the signature dish, but don’t go thinking this is a one-trick pony. There’s a lot to love at Ceci’s.
The atmosphere: Ceci’s is in a weathered duplex of a building that has clearly been around for quite some time. It’s the kind of place you would imagine has a story to tell behind its steel door and through its split dining room. This is down-home cooking, and so the atmosphere is relaxed and casual. Ceci’s does its best to make everyone feel at home, and it works.
The service: That homey feel comes through in the service, with uber-friendly employees taking your order and delivering your food. In the four visits I’ve paid Ceci’s, my food has come out on time and with a smile, even during the busiest lunch rush. Taking care of customers is clearly a big part of Ceci’s philosophy.
The food: We have to start with the eponymous chicken and waffles. Those of you still mourning the closing of Waffle Wagon will be happy to learn that Ceci’s more than fills that gap in Arkansas’ food scene. The waffle itself is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, with just enough butter in the batter to make the waffle light and delicious. The chicken is also a standout, with brined wings that are quickly fried until crispy, seasoned with salt and served naked. These wings are really excellent; juicy and full of flavor. Ceci’s adds both syrup and powdered sugar to the dish, which might make it too sweet if it weren’t for the bottle of the best homemade hot sauce in Central Arkansas sitting at the table for you to enjoy. Yeah, I said the best. Ceci’s takes an existing hot sauce and doctors it up, adding butter, cayenne pepper and red wine vinegar for a bright heat that stays silky smooth. The hot sauce balances out the waffle perfectly; don’t pass it up when you’re there.
You can order the chicken and waffles with a caramel waffle, red velvet waffle and some other options. All are very good. Also delicious are the chicken gizzards, which are light and creamy, flash-fried and seasoned to perfection. There’s not a tough or chewy gizzard in the bunch, which is really impressive. And if waffles aren’t your thing, be sure to check out the pork chop, which again is seasoned well and cooked until just done. Ceci’s also boasts plenty of Southern sides, like yams, greens, macaroni and cheese and other favorites. Everything I’ve tasted is prepared with love and care.
The price: Entrees are priced reasonably, anywhere from $8 to $12 per main dish. Sides are a little expensive, but nothing offensive. Getting in an out for lunch on $10 is certainly possible.
The verdict: I found Ceci’s back in February, a few months after it opened, and have been telling everyone about it since. This is fun food made with passion, as enjoyable a lunch as you’re likely to have. Make lunchtime plans for Ceci’s as soon as you can.
Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles
324 E. 13th St.
North Little Rock
Hours: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.