Making the Grade: Ponko Chicken

PHOTOS BY Mike Wallace / for the observer


Before I begin this week’s review, I want to give a shout out to East Alabama Ambulatory Surgery Center, which opened at the end of 2021 at 900 Camp Auburn Road, Suite 200 in Auburn. About a month ago, I had an ultrasound performed there. Also, last week, Mike had a procedure performed at the facility.

 Let me say, both the building and its staff are state of the art. All doctors, nurses and techs are very professional, compassionate and patient. What a blessing to have East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika and East Alabama Ambulatory Surgery Center in Auburn. Mike and I have been treated in both facilities, and each of them gets an A+ from this retired English teacher. Mike and I are also blessed to live between these two exceptional health care facilities.

To the staff of both, thanks for taking such great care of the people of Lee County.

 Now, back to my review. Recently, Ryan, my amazing hair stylist whom I’ve mentioned before, recommended a restaurant to try … Ponko Chicken.

“It’s the only chicken fingers I’ve eaten which didn’t need a dipping sauce; it was really good,” Ryan said.

 Therefore, last week, Mike and I went to Ponko Chicken at 2111 S. College St. in Auburn. The interior of the restaurant was bright and inviting. I loved the restaurant’s motto: “Eats meets West.” Also, on the wall, Rachel on Facebook declared: “Literally the best chicken on the ENTIRE planet!”

Last, I learned that Auburn, Alabama, is located at 32.60800 North and 85.48010 West on the map. It’s good to learn something new each day, no matter your age.

 Shelby, who took our order, was delightful. She was very willing and patient to answer all of our questions. She told us that Ponko Chicken opened about two months ago. She also said that Walker Styron, the restaurant’s owner, lives in Auburn and that this is the first Ponko Chicken in Alabama.

 Now, you know I’m a fried chicken freak, so I was intrigued by Ponko Chicken. According to Kylie, another great employee at the restaurant (All the employees were fabulous.), they bread the chicken fingers with Ponko bread crumbs. Then the breaded fingers are fried in rice bran oil. Last, the chicken fingers are dipped in the sauce of your choice: sweet sesame, walnut cilantro, spicy sauce, jalapeno crema, buttermilk ranch, OG and BBQ sauce.

 Mike and I both chose BBQ sauce chicken fingers with French fries and coleslaw. Ryan, my hairstylist, spoke the truth. Ponko Chicken fingers are terrific just the way they’re cooked; no additional sauce is needed.

 Mike and I really enjoyed our meal and topped it off with dessert … a chocolate cakecup. Oh, my two times. The cup contained recurring layers of chocolate frosting and cake. It was delicious! Yes, I know; I shouldn’t have. I can see Lynn Hudson, my diabetic specialist, shaking her head. I promise not to get the dessert next time, Lynn.

 Besides our delicious BBQ chicken fingers, Ponko Chicken also offers diners: salads and sandwiches (including grilled, vegan and tofu choices), tacos, the Ponko dog (I want that one next time; again, without the dessert.) and numerous sides.

 Besides our oh, my two times dessert, the restaurant also serves the Betty cookie and red velvet and carrot cakecups. Citizens of Lee County, there’s a new chicken in town. You should really give this place a try.

 Ponko Chicken is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

 Ponko Chicken makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!

 Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in The Observer. Stacey may be reached at


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