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Gus's birds have savory sizzle

Posted: September 4, 2014 at 2:19 a.m.

A half chicken is served with coleslaw and beans at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in west Little Rock.

Last year when Buffalo Grill closed in west Little Rock's Bowman Curve Shopping Center, the owner cited the city's westward expansion and increased competition from new restaurants as the reasons.

It might have made most restaurants chicken about considering the strip mall space.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

Address: 400 N. Bowman Road (Bowman Curve Shopping Center), Suite 9, Little Rock

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Cuisine: Spicy fried chicken, sides, pie

Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V

Alcoholic beverages: Beer, wine

Reservations: No

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Carryout: Yes

(501) 400-8745

gusfriedchicken.com

But not Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. That's where the eatery with deep-fried Memphis roots is nesting its second Arkansas location (and the chain's seventh). The first one opened in the downtown River Market District last summer.

Except for being significantly more spacious, having patio seating and offering easier, closer and free parking, the west Little Rock Gus's is not much different from the one downtown. Seating is at booths and chairs around tables with checkered cloths. Walls wear signs of the gas station and neon, beverage variety. There are real plates and real silverware -- as opposed to paper

baskets and plasticware that the downtown location used to use (it has since upgraded too).

It did take a while to be greeted and have our drink orders taken; there seemed to be some initial confusion over who was caring for us on the busy Friday that we visited. But we experienced no service snags once that was straightened out.

The western Gus's offers the same menu of "hot & spicy fried chicken" -- there is no mild, grilled or baked -- sold by the piece ($1.75-$3.25); snack with white bread ($4.55-$4.95); plate with bread, beans and slaw ($6.15-$10.95; 50 cents extra to swap sides); or family pack ($17.95-$43.95). There's also a kids meal -- two tenders, legs or wings with a side and drink -- for $4.

Beyond the aforementioned beans and slaw, side options ($1.65-$4.85) include seasoned fries, potato salad, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, greens and Mac & Cheese.

The information web page for the west Little Rock location says "Please check back from time to time for our seasonal specials." So perhaps there will be additions made occasionally (we enjoyed a fried catfish special at the downtown location months ago -- maybe lunch on Feb. 14? Yes, we heart Gus's enough that we went on Valentine's Day). But unless you like spicy fried fowl and down-home sides, go elsewhere. There is absolutely no reason for dressing-on-the-side diners go to Gus's; the closest thing to "salad" on Gus's menu is fried green tomatoes.

And speaking of them, the basket of five thick tomato slices ($5.95) arrived at the table hot and crisp in a seasoned coating that sang with a bit more salt added. A petite plastic container contained dipping sauce -- a runny, seemingly watered-down ranch. Fried pickles ($5.95) are the only other starter.

For dinner, we selected two plates: the half chicken ($10.95), featuring one of each piece, and the four tenders ($7.95).

Each piece -- whether it was a breast, wing or a boneless tender -- was fried chicken perfection, juicy without being greasy and plastered in pleasing peppery coating. My date complimented the rich baked beans (high praise; he usually turns his nose up at them) and the slightly sweet slaw.

I substituted (50 cents each) the seasoned fries and greens. The fries, while fine, were not particularly seasoned or stimulating. The greens, however, overcompensated, packing serious spice.

Also fiery was the whole jalapeno (35 cents) -- actually two small ones -- that my date ordered. The Louisiana hot sauce bottle on the table went untouched the entire visit.

Our server Xanthia was delightful. She complimented our eyes. She penned a sweet message on our receipt. And, most importantly, she steered us in the right direction for a shared sweet to soothe the heat: a slice of plush pecan pie ($2.45) with a cool scoop of vanilla ice cream (95 cents).

Other pies include sweet potato, coconut or chess, sold by the slice ($2.45) or whole pie ($13.25).

Beer options include domestic longnecks ($2.99) like Budweiser and Michelob, and 12-ounce premium beers ($3.99) like Blue Moon and Tommyknocker. Sutter Home wine ($4.75) is available in mini bottles.

Those choosing refillable soft drinks or tea ($2.20) get a memento to take home -- plastic Gus's cups double as souvenirs.

Weekend on 09/04/2014

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