We Can Thank Arkansas For Popularizing The Iconic Fried Pickle

plate of fried pickles
plate of fried pickles - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Fried pickles are one of those dishes that haven't always been all that common on restaurant menus in many parts of America. Nowadays, it's not surprising to see them available as an appetizer across the country. Whether you're talking about fried panko-dipped pickle spears, fried sliced pickle chips, or even fish and chips with fried pickles, there's plenty of variety for fried pickle lovers. Air fryers are great for giving your pickles a delicious crunch, making the recipe easy to whip up at home. But where did fried pickles come from in the first place?

The answer is a state often overlooked for its food contributions: Arkansas. The Natural State may not be thought of as a food mecca by everyone, but it deserves more credit than it gets, and fried pickles are a perfect example. While you might have only started seeing them on bar menus in the last couple of decades, their history is much older, dating back more than half a century to the 1960s -- it all started with a guy nicknamed "Fatman" (seriously).

Read more: The Best Fried Chicken Chains Ranked By Crunch And Flavor

Fried Pickles Were Created At A Restaurant Across From A Pickle Factory

fried pickle spears
fried pickle spears - Stephen Barnes/Getty Images

The 1960s were a time of expanding opportunity for a lot of Americans, particularly in food service. Bernell "Fatman" Austin stepped into this bright new dawn, opening the Duchess Drive-In near Atkins, Arkansas, right at the start of the decade. He didn't initially serve fried pickles, but it may have been fate, as the restaurant was located directly across the street from Atkins Pickle Company, the main industrial driver of the town. When Atkins went looking for a signature idea for a dish that would make the Duchess stand out, it's not surprising he turned to pickles.

In 1963, those fried pickles finally made their debut. There may be a lively debate now about whether fried dill pickle chips or spears (or even long, thin slices) are better, but history comes down on the side of chips; Austin's original fried pickles were hamburger-sliced. They were affordable, too, as he sold them for 15 cents for an order of 15. Try finding an order of fried pickles at one cent per piece now.

Other States Claim To Have Invented Fried Pickles, But It's All Arkansas

fried pickle chips on plate
fried pickle chips on plate - Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

From there, the dish worked its way across the South. The Duchess Drive-In isn't the only restaurant declaring it created fried pickles; the Hollywood Cafe in Robinsonville, Mississippi, also claims to have come up with them. That restaurant didn't open until 1969 though, so verifiably, Austin's idea came first. There are also claims out of Texas, but those don't even predate the 1980s. Still, fried pickles seem like such an obvious concept that various restaurants may have come to the idea independently, as someone eventually discovering the joy of fried pickles was probably inevitable.

Whatever the case, not only did fried pickles definitively originate in Arkansas, but they're still wildly popular there. Though Austin got out of the restaurant business in 1978, his family still sells thousands of orders of fried pickles at Atkins' annual Picklefest under the name "Fatman's Original Fried Dill Pickles," using his original recipe.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal.