• Big JJ Fish and Chicken, 1904 N. Divsion St., Davenport. 563-322-2222, bigjjfish.com.
As long as we do not have to catch the fish or raise the chicken, we love to eat them — especially if they're fried. Having enjoyed eating at the "famous" fish and chicken fast-food restaurants in Chicago, we are glad the tradition made it this far west. The expansive menu at Big JJ Fish and Chicken includes every part of the chicken, hard-to-find varieties of fish and an array of sandwiches.
Located at the corner of Division and Locust in Davenport, Big JJ serves up some of the best fast food in the Quad-Cities. It draws customers just like us who are looking for the type of fish and chicken places you can go to in Chicago without having to make the drive.
Big JJ Fish and Chicken has it roots with the JJ Fish and Chicken institution in Chicago, but it is independently owned and operated by Mo Rasoul, the son of Big J (John) and grandson of the other J (Jessie). Mo's father, John Rasoul, immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. Then he moved to Chicago and turned his passion and love for food into a restaurant that features what he loves — fish, chicken and sandwiches. In 2000, he decided to expand his restaurant business to Peoria, opening Big JJ Fish and Chicken. After graduation from college, Mo decided to enter the business and began managing the Peoria restaurant.
A lot of customers in the Quad-Cities were driving to Peoria to eat at the restaurant, and he finally told them that if they could find a place for him to rent in the Quad-Cities, he would come take a look at it. Mo had never been to the Quad-Cities and had barely heard of it, but he did know that if Quad-Citians liked Big JJ Fish and Chicken, they were his kind of people.
After taking a look at the Davenport location, he did an extensive remodel and opened for business on Feb. 20, 2012. In November 2012, he opened his second Quad-Cities restaurant in Rock Island.
One of the things we love about eating local are the people you meet. The young woman at the counter, Dana, started on Day One, and she has not missed a day of work. Jordan is the cook and has been working there for six years. They know what they are doing, and they'll make your visit both delicious and enjoyable. If you are not sure what to order, just ask them. They will not steer you wrong.
This is mainly a carryout restaurant, although there are a couple of seats at a table in front. Every dish is made when it is ordered, and there is not a warmer in site. The food is served fresh. Most customers call in their orders for quick pickup. While the restaurant is known for its fried chicken and fish, it also serves a wonderful variety of sandwiches.
The key to the chicken here is the secret marinade. All cuts of chicken are marinated for at least a day. The marinade imparts a moist and juicy texture. Chicken can be ordered as a dinner or by the piece.
All of the food is fried in vegetable oil and has a clean, not greasy taste. The recipe for the breading for the chicken and fish has been handed down since the first JJ Fish and Chicken went into business. It includes a wonderful blend of spices, and the breading is light enough to let the chicken be the star of the show.
Chicken dinners come with french fries and bread. You can choose dark meat only, white meat only or mixed. A three-piece mixed meal is only $5.99. It is cooked to order and served piping hot. Definitely better than anything we have ever had in Kentucky.
The chicken strips are truly wonderful. Each strip is hand-cut from a flattened chicken breast and weighs between 4 and 6 ounces. They are huge! For only $5.99, you can get a three-piece chicken strip meal that could serve two people. The chicken nuggets also are hand-cut and breaded, and a six-piece meal is only $4.99. You can order chicken by the piece in 20-, 50-, or 100-piece trays.
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The restaurant also serves hard-to-find fried chicken gizzards and livers. While Mo's favorite are the gizzards, most customers opt for the wings.
Many restaurants may claim to have the "best" wings, but Big JJ Fish and Chicken's wings are three-time award winners of the "Wing Champion Award" at the Davenport Rotary WingFest. They fly out of the door at the restaurant!
On Thursdays, the special is 59-cent wings. While we were waiting, a customer came in to pick up his order of 50 wings and three pans of fries. We thought about following him home.
The wings can be ordered as barbecue, mild barbecue, sweet teriyaki, garlic Parmesan, sweet chili, mango habanero or plain. We tried a variety of them and found it hard to choose a favorite. They were meaty, breaded and fried, then dipped in the sauce. On a typical Thursday night, the restaurant goes through 1,500 wings.
The fish is breaded to order. It had the same clean, not greasy taste as the chicken. The menu features catfish fillets in addition to catfish steak and nuggets. A unique feature of the menu are the hard-to-find fish varieties. You can order perch, walleye, buffalo, whiting, tilapia, smelt, red snapper and shrimp.
We ordered by the piece and tried the catfish, red snapper and shrimp. All were excellent. The shrimp were huge and were lightly breaded and fried to order.
After making it through the chicken and fish sections, we were too full to attempt a sandwich. Several customers gave their cheeseburgers rave reviews, and another one swore by the Godfather Burger. Also on the menu are Italian beef and sausage, Philly steak, a gyro or gyro burger, catfish or walleye, chicken or Buffalo chicken, Polish sausage and turkey burger.
The restaurant features specials every day and a daily lunch special. The menu includes a long list of side dishes and a delicious array of desserts. The desserts come from The Cake Factory in Chicago, which is owned by Mo's brother. We could not resist getting a piece of the lemon cake to go.
Big JJ Fish and Chicken, has easy access at the corner of Division and Locust in Davenport. It opens at 10:30 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays. It closes at 10 p.m. weekdays, midnight on weekends and 9 p.m. Sundays.
Places like this are why we love to eat local. The workers are loyal; the food is freshly cooked; and quality ingredients are used. As we close out our last column, we have to say we have been amazed at the wonderful local restaurants we have discovered over the last couple of years. Thanks for taking this journey with us.
He said: I have had many wings in my time. Hands down, these were some of the best — marinated, meaty and moist. Grab plenty of napkins and enjoy the array of sauces. My favorite was the sweet chili.
She said: The chicken strips were amazing. The chicken breast is marinated, cut into huge strips and lightly breaded. I really liked the large shrimp that were breaded and fried when ordered.