It's just a few minutes past 11 a.m. on Sunday morning, Ceci's Chicken & Waffles and More has just opened for the day and there's already a line winding from the counter and out among the booths.
There was a similar scene a few days earlier. If you want a plate of Ceci's soul food, it's likely you'll have a wait.
Ceci’s Chicken & Waffles and More
Address: 6606 Colonel Glenn Road, Little Rock
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Cuisine: Soul food, with a focus on chicken and waffles
Credit cards: AE, MC, V, D
Take out: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
It's worth every minute.
Ciceley "Ceci" McDowell first offered her take on chicken and waffles and other homey dishes at 324 E. 13th St., North Little Rock, before moving to Conway a couple of years ago. She closed the Conway spot and in June reopened in what was most recently a Shark's Fish & Chicken (and a KFC before that) at 6606 Colonel Glenn Road in her hometown of Little Rock.
My wife, Lori, and I visited twice for lunch — once on a Wednesday and again on "Soul Food Sunday" — reveling in the savory-and-sweet, made-in-heaven marriage of fried chicken, fluffy waffles and home-cooking fare like Mawmaw used to make.
Ceci's customers order from a menu posted behind the counter. It includes chicken-and-waffle variations as well as entrees, Southern delicacies such as the Pork Chop Dinner ($10.99), Gizzards ($10.99 for a half pound) and the Fish Dinner ($10.99, three-piece; $13.99 five-piece). Entrees come with a pair of sides; choices include greens, cabbage, candied yams, mac & cheese, purple-hull peas, corn and more.
Chicken-only orders start at $8.99 for nine pieces and go up to $18.99 for 20 pieces, in Country Fried, Hot & Sassy, Sweet & Chili, Mango Habanero and Golden Razorback Hot options.
There are also several salads, including a Chase Cobb ($9.99), Salmon ($11.99), Charlotte's Chef ($10.99) and House ($7.99).
But let's talk chicken and waffles.
There is a dizzying array of waffle varieties, 20 in all, including Red Velvet, Oreo, Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Bun and The Baconator. On our first visit I had the Original Waffle Dinner ($11.99), five chicken wings atop a fat waffle coated with powdered sugar and drizzled with syrup. You probably gained six pounds just reading that. On the side: bowls of purple-hull peas and macaroni and cheese.
It was all perfect. Every single bite. From the moist, flavorful chicken, the sweet, cakey waffle and the creamy mac and cheese to the wonderfully cooked peas, it was all a decadent pleasure.
Just the chicken — expertly fried and seasoned with a pleasing mix of salt and pepper — would have been fine.
Just the waffle — sweet but not overly so and which somehow never got soggy — would have been fine.
Together? Well, they're like the world tag-team champions of food.
The sides were just as good. The peas were in that glorious sweet spot between undercooked and mushy and were seasoned with an intriguing sweetness. The mac & cheese, like everything else, was dreamy. It must have shown on my face when I took my first bite because a woman visiting with the couple at the table next to us said something along the lines of, "Wow, you must really like that!"
Lori, leery of the whole savory-sweet thing, went with the Jumbo Chicken Strips ($10.99), five juicy chicken planks, crispy fried and a little spicy. She got macaroni and cheese and green beans on the side and, curiously, also ended up with an order of fries.
I ended up sharing about half of my waffle with her as she suddenly became a chicken-and-waffle convert. Her green beans, like my peas, were a revelation. It says a lot about Ceci's that the sides are as tasty as the headliners.
When we returned for Soul Food Sunday, we were met with the same options. The lone waiter later told us McDowell had been out of town and didn't have time to prepare the chicken and dressing and chicken spaghetti that are normally featured on Sunday.
No worries. We had other things in mind.
Lori opted for the Original Waffle Dinner with mac & cheese and cabbage. I went with the Salmon Dinner with candied yams and okra and we split a Charlotte's Chef Salad.
Sunday was pretty much a repeat of the happiness we found on our previous visit, with the biggest difference being that the '80s R&B playing the first time was replaced with gospel music.
Lori knew her chicken and waffle would be good and was happy with her cabbage, while my salmon was moist with a delightful hint of crust — another example of spot-on cooking.
The salad was romaine lettuce, sliced ham, turkey, cheese, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and croutons, beautifully arranged on a humongous plate. It made us curious about sampling the other salads next time we go.
And, in the name of journalism and because we'd both had the Original Chicken and Waffles, we ordered a Blueberry Flavored Chicken and Waffle ($10.99), with blueberries, powdered sugar, Ceci's Drizzle and chicken to take home.
We were concerned it would turn soggy, but it warmed up nicely in the oven and we split it for supper that night.
If you haven't figured it out, Ceci's fare is heavy and the portions are generous. Bring your appetite and expect to take leftovers home.
Service was attentive, but drink selection on each visit was limited to soft drinks or water.
It also pays to be patient as it took almost an hour to get our food. Make other plans if you're in a hurry (or maybe just call ahead).
If you're not in a rush, bring some friends, enjoy some good conversation and a true soul food experience.
Weekend on 07/04/2019