NWA’s Shaq-Backed Big Chicken Restaurant Is Getting Almost As Big As Its Name Suggests


Shaquille O’Neal – yes, the 7’1 inch Hall of Fame basketball player – founded a fast food restaurant in 2018 called Big chickenAnd the chain recently expanded to Arkansas. Little Rock was apparently left out of the plan, but Fayetteville and Springdale both got a restaurant.

Certainly, the Arkansas Times staff rarely travel to the northwest corner of the state these days, and our lack of Big Chicken coverage was triggering some internal panic. And then, on a random Thursday, a friend of mine sent me this glorious text:

“I’m pretty hungry right now and about to go try this new chicken place that I think is owned by Shaq or something,” texted Memory Light, who lives in the northwest Arkansas.

Shaq’s Big Chicken is getting big. You don’t even have to visit to find out; this is evident from the restaurant’s website and social media. Take, for example, their articles on the Shaq Attack Chicken Sandwich, which is loaded with pepper jack cheese, jalapeno slaw, spicy chipotle barbecue sauce, and the option to add guacamole. Somehow this flavor combination seems to be pretty tame for some of the other sandwiches topped with mac and cheese, crispy fried onions, roasted garlic barbecue aioli, and Buffalo hot sauce.

The fries are crinkle cut and are fast becoming Light’s favorite fast food fries, she said. Other side options include dirty fries – thinly cut potatoes topped with bacon, cheese sauce and banana peppers – mac and cheese with a “cheese crust” and jalapeno slaw.

The selection of treats also seems pretty good. Ice cream sundaes and shakes are available. Regular shakes satisfy all the typical sweet cravings with peanut butter chips, salted caramel, double chocolate, cookies and cream. Classic ice cream sundaes are up for grabs, as are those topped with cookies and brownies.

Light decided to forgo a formal review of the restaurant, so enjoy this play-by-play coverage from a text perspective between two 25-year-olds, and then some final thoughts.

Light: Shaquille’s place is a little pricey but I wanted the first impression to really land so I ordered.

Me: It’s great!

Light: I think I just paid $19 for a combo with a limited time shake that they are offering.

Me: Are you eating inside / what’s the atmosphere like?

Light: There’s no one here, so I feel a little stupid coming in… it’s a special strawberry shortcake shake.

Light: I think this specific place is in a bit of a strange location because it’s literally right next to a Slim (Chickens) and a Chick-Fil-A, but I came anyway.

Me: It’s like a corridor of chickens. Are you in Fayetteville?

Light: This one is in Springdale but I think there’s a location opening in Fayetteville on (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) if it is not already open.

Light: The shake machine is unfortunately broken.

Me: Is it McDonald’s or what?

Light: The attendant told me it was really good and to come back and get it. I got the Shaq Attack because it was the only one with his name on it, so it seemed like it was probably the most recommended. The sandwich is big. I’d say it’s pretty good and I would definitely try something else from them. It doesn’t really taste like fast food, which I think is good.

Light: It was supposed to add avocado to it because they have it on the menu as a random substitution, and I thought why not, but it’s not here. It’s basically like a barbecue chicken sandwich. I just got cheese, coleslaw, peppers and barbecue on it.

Mild: This is like a solid 7.5 out of 10. But it would probably be at least one point higher if they had given me my order complete and correct.

In addition to the missed avocado and shake, Light also said she didn’t receive any dip for her fries. She said the fries were somewhere between a true crinkle cut and a steak fry and were golden brown with a “near perfect crispy-to-potato ratio.” Just lightly salted, they will definitely be great for dipping if I can actually get my hands on one of their accompanying sauces,” Light said.

Light, a born and raised Southern girl, ordered sweet tea with her meal.

“We’re in the South and people are picky about sweet tea,” she said. “Tea goes well with chicken, so that’s what I ordered when I was informed that the ‘ice cream machine was broken’ and my dreams of trying the strawberry shortcake shake for a limited period of time were wiped out. The floral, minimally sweet drink I received wasn’t my cup of tea, but it might be yours.

Her remarks about the chicken sandwich itself matched the 7.5/10 rating she gave via text message. The chicken was both crispy and juicy, and the barbecue sauce that topped it was sweet and tangy, Light said.

“The amount of sauce on the sandwich, however, surpasses any other flavor profile,” she said. “A little disappointing, but too much sauce is not surprising from a new chain that presents itself as an over-the-top scale spot.”

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