The Monte Ne Inn Chicken Restaurant is the only restaurant in the vicinity of the ruins of Monte Ne
and the only steady restaurant on the way out to the Horseshoe Bend recreational area on Beaver Lake (though there is a small seasonal pizza joint along the way). The menu never hits the table at the eatery — because if you go, you’re going to get the exact same thing everyone else is going to get, a filling family-style dinner of fried chicken and all the fixings, brought to your table and refilled until you are stuffed.
Grav and I are working on a piece on the ruins of the old Monte Ne resort. When we started talking about the assignment, he told me about eating there with his dad. He recalled just how good the food seemed, so I looked up the information and made reservations for a seat. Yes, reservations are recommended. No, really they are.
Within 10 minutes of our seating, several other knots of people had come in — a family of nine (including three small children) were planted in a small corner, a six-pack of silver-haired friends took a center table, three guys and their wives shared a rectangular table right by us. The routine was repeated — drink orders, delivery of beans. There was a nice hum of talk between
You know, I think Grav and I are pretty used to our routine of shooting our meals, but with so many dishes we had to do some major re-arranging. That and his large camera were drawing stares. In fact, I’m not 100 percent certain that some of the readership of this blog weren’t there. There were a few individuals that waved and pointed at us, and I saw at least one conversation rolling behind raised hands in our direction.
The creamery butter was almost impossibly yellow, and I first mistook it for margarine, but it tasted of a strongly salted fresh butter and was impossible not to smear all over the bread. I’d have been happy with just that. The cole slaw was of the
I couldn’t eat the string beans because they were full of bacon, but Grav told me he was really pleased with them, that they were nicely salted. Unfortuately the corn, potatoes and gravy were lacking in that same salt, but it only took a dash of just the salt (not even the pepper) to bring them up to a flavor we thought was appropriate.
Yes, I’m dragging this out. There’s a reason for that. When I posted on Facebook and Twitter that I was heading to Monte Ne, I had several people tell me I had to stop at this place because it’s considered the best fried chicken in the state. Having had many great examples of fried chicken, I was doubtful.
The verdict? (sighs) This is pretty hard. I mean, I like the very savory strong flavor in AQ’s chicken. I like the texture at 65th Street Diner and I enjoy the way the meat falls off the leg bones at The Old South. Comparing this chicken to any of those isn’t really right.
But if it’s not the best fried chicken in Arkansas, it’s tied. The milder flavor of the crust goes well with the thorough seasoning of the meat itself. Dip it in the gravy and it’s wonderful.
Actually, I’ll admit to this. The little bits of crust I dropped into my gravy and blended with my potatoes to eat. That was great. I think the cream gravy could best benefit from some of those “chicken rind” pieces.
There was also dessert, though it’s not included in the dinner price. We were given a long list of desserts — peach cobbler, blackberry cobbler, three
The Monte Ne Inn has been serving up its family style chicken dinners since 1971. Unless you’re going there or to Horseshoe Bend, there’s really no reason to be out that way. Yet we passed the restaurant four times while gathering information for our article that Sunday afternoon, and the parking lot was always full. That and all the testimonials I got from readers the past few days… yeah, it’s popular.