It’s one of the unique truisms about Central Arkansas that its breweries are responsible for some of the best food in the area. One of the leaders in this trend has been Flyway Brewing, which started its food menu with sliders, pretzels and nachos before expanding to incorporate wild game sausages. Now, Flyway is adding a fifth category to its menu thanks to a new deep fryer in the kitchen. Several styles of smothered fries are now available, as well as a few new treats in other areas of the menu.
“We asked ourselves what fifth ‘food group’ we were going to add,” said owner Jess McMullen. “We discussed what piece of equipment that would add to our kitchen, and we bought a big fryer to add fried food as our fifth menu item. It works for us, it’s perfect beer food.”
The first plate that came out from the kitchen was the new Buffalo Chicken Cheese Fries. The kitchen crew smartly saved its chunkiest toppings for these waffle-cut sweet potato fries, which are wide and hefty enough to carry a pretty big haul to your pie hole. Flyway uses chicken thigh meat, cheddar cheese and Buffalo sauce made with Frank’s Red Hot for an authentic flavor. A Buffalo ranch dressing and some candied jalapenos round out a dish that has just enough sweetness to keep the spicy flavors from being too much. McMullen says this one was made to go with Early Bird IPA.
You’ll need a fork on hand for Gina’s Gumbo Cheese Fries, which has become one of the most popular items on the new menu, and for good reason. This dish is flat out fantastic, topped with a bold Louisiana gumbo that is one of the best I’ve had in Arkansas. Crawfish, chicken and smoked sausage all mingle together in a powerful black pepper roux. Flyway uses steak fries for a little more texture here, but fork-and-knife is absolutely still the way to go.
“The gumbo is absolutely where we want it,” said McMullen. “This one here, I end up using a fork and scraping the dish down. It’s fun. We wanted to do fries our way, and this one ended up really working for us.”
Of course, the new fryer isn’t just for making French fry dishes. Flyway is putting it to use for a couple of new slider plates. Dylan’s Catfish Po’ Boy is an ultra-simple addition, featuring little more than two fried catfish filets with shredded lettuce and Flyway’s “swamp sauce.” But the catfish is really tasty, with a generous amount of Creole seasonings and a fish that flakes apart beautifully. As someone who doesn’t usually care for catfish, I found this one quite good and would certainly order it again.
But it’s the other new slider that will really turn heads when it comes out into the dining room. Flyway’s Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders feature two fried chicken tenders pressed with a fatty spice paste when they first come up from the oil. The kitchen serves these with sweet pickles on pimento cheese waffle quarters. There’s a lot going on here, both in flavor and regional heritage, but it all works wonderfully. This is a spicy dish that dances on the edge of being too hot without ever actually getting there.
“You’ve got the pimento cheese from the Carolinas and the chicken from Nashville, and of course chicken and waffles is found pretty much everywhere. We’ve tried this a number of ways, like Parmesan waffles with chicken Parmesan. It took us a while to dial this in, to get the heat where we wanted it and get the size manageable. But it’s fun, probably the most fun dish on the menu.”
All of these items are on the menu every day, but if you get there early enough on Wednesday, you can try out Flyway’s new chicken wings. Every week, Flyway will serve Buffalo-style wings and one other style that will rotate. These are truly terrific wings. The Buffalo sauce is on the milder side, and the housemade blue cheese dressing matches it wonderfully. But my goodness, if you’re there when the teriyaki wings are on, don’t even look at the rest of the menu. These were by far the best teriyaki wings I’ve ever had. The glaze is what all other teriyaki sauces want to be when they grow up. Bold, thick and rich, it’s a sauce that clings to the chicken and your fingers. You’ll be licking them clean, I predict.
More than anything, the new fried dishes at Flyway just make sense. Flyway Brewing is a brewery and restaurant that has a sharp sense of its own identity. It knows what it wants to do, and the focus can be tasted in every bite and every drop. These dishes fit right in. Like everything else about Flyway, you’ll feel like they’ve been there from day one.