Dinner at Rogue Tavern!
In April, we finally got to have a dining adventure at Rogue's!
The sign confused me years ago. Manor or tavern? Restaurant or bar?
25 Years Ago?
We first spotted this curious property in the 1990's, when traveling in Arkansas with the kids. I believe Rouge's had just opened at that time. They offered food and lodging.
I didn't realize we had this photo of the kiddos and me, until recently. What a find!
Spring in Arkansas
This past April, Don and I booked one night in Eureka Springs.
The Rogue no longer offers lodging, but we booked a hotel across the street.
Palace Hotel & Bath House
We planned a one-night stay at the iconic Palace hotel. It was about 200 feet from the Rogue property.
What a perfect combo for a Hotel & Restaurant Adventure!
The Rogue wasn't open until 4, so Don and I wandered the grounds a bit. Like all of Eureka Springs, the property was a bit mysterious and magical, eerie and confusing.
There's a lot of mossy rock in this storybook town. We found the waters of Sweet Spring bubbling up, nearby. I believe this is the same water that feeds the hotel bathhouse.
We weren't able to make reservations by phone, so figured we'd arrive at 4 to make them in person. We paused to peek in the window and noted white tablecloths. Hopefully no dress code.
We stepped inside at 4 and had a quick look around before we were greeted by the owner.
The owner Terry Blanton, greeted us and invited us to explore. We headed towards the room with the sign "Hideaway Lounge".
Don examined some of the art, with scantily clad women. I believe a previous owner is responsible for some of the curious art.
There was actually quite a bit of artwork in the dimly lit lounge.
I wished for a little more light so I could focus on this wall mural. These characters were having a fine time in the tavern.
There was some light illuminating the cliff or rock wall outside the building. This is just one example of how the buildings in Eureka Springs, adapt to the mountain terrain!
The red drapes, dark leather chairs and redwood tables, looked extra dramatic with this window view.
Dining in the House
We checked out a few of the dining rooms for later.
I'm not sure which of these rooms are original, but Rogue Manor was once a private home. Built in the 1870's!
At some point 2 fussy sisters lived here and divided the house, so they wouldn't have to see each other.
Back in the Bar
Back in the lounge, Chad was preparing the bar for the evening.
A distributor had arrived with a special gin, that he was very enthused about. There was a little sampling and a little visiting. I loved the color of the Gray Whale Gin bottle.
We chatted with Terry (in red) about how he acquired the Rogue Tavern in recent years. Then we made our reservations for later and headed off.
Back at 6!
We came early before reservations, so we could sit at that classic bar.
We had to be careful about putting our glasses down. There was a huge knothole, just asking to swallow a glass.
Chad seemed a little serious when we first sat down. But before long we learned a lot about him, while he skillfully made our decadent drinks. A Manhattan (Chad's version) for Don and Eureka Rain for me.
He talked about growing up in the town where all my relatives are from. Springfield, Missouri! He chuckled about some other "podunk town" where he had lived as a kid. Usually I wouldn't attempt to talk to anyone in Arkansas about politics, but he had some nice things to say. Chad told a story or two about some special people he has served, when doing conferences. He talked about how very gracious Michelle Obama was and how G.W. Bush shared an understanding look with him, when he dropped a tray. Chad said he appreciated both and I appreciated his attitude. He said he didn't care about politics, just people.
I also appreciated that Chad took our photo. How often do you get to pose with drinks in a setting like this?
Dinner in the Greenhouse?
When it was time for our dinner reservations, Chad walked us through a dining room and into a glassed in room.
I'd noticed the glass room when we passed by earlier and thought it was a greenhouse. The room was quite lovely and the chairs were comfy...
High Table & Bright Menu
My cushioned chair was so large and comfy, it made me want to curl up and read my menu for a while. It was actually kind of amusing how we both sunk down like little kids at the dinner table. I was tempted to ask for a booster seat.
But the most memorable part of the menu, was that it lit up! You can't tell in the photo, but it was indeed glowing! So helpful for these old eyes.
Our server Angela did an amazing job.
We took her advice and ordered the Smoked Salmon appetizer, served with little toasts and some kind of cream cheese. The picture looks lame, but it was absolutely mouthwatering!
Bread Pot and Salad!
Our entrees came with a luscious little salad and special treat in a crock!
I love bread and I especially love bread when it looks like it's exploding out of a little ceramic crock! Delicious!
Pan Fried Oysters
I chose an oyster dish, which is most unlike me. I was happy with my crispy oysters and homemade tarter sauce.
The oysters were served with glazed Brussels sprouts and heavenly paprika potatoes! I was happy.
Don's smile is almost as big as the smiling Walleye Filet on Don's plate.
Don really gets tired of my camera intrusions, but he was more than happy to pose. He was so excited about his plate that he made me take another photo.
Don was more than pleased with the breading, seasoning and his Canadian catch. He's not a Brussels sprouts guy, so I got double for the night!
It was dark by the time we finished. We headed back to our hotel happy.
We've had our eye on this place for many years. So glad it was an entertaining and delicious adventure!
Father's Day Breakfast
So many of Don's 35 Father's Day celebrations, have been spent on the road.
This year, we woke up on Sunday morning in a small Arkansas town. Our grown kids were far away and there wasn't much happening in Mena, but we found a mighty fine diner to start the day.
We spotted The Skyline Diner, the day before.
It was a warm afternoon in June, when we arrived in Mena. We had a fun time wandering to town from our Airbnb. I've never seen such a quiet downtown, on a Saturday evening.
By dinnertime, we spotted the little cafe with a Closed sign on the door. It looked like our favorite kind of diner, with a red bench in front and a newspaper vending machine.
Skyline had closed at 2 that day, but if we'd been able to hold off for 11 hours, we could have enjoyed some eggs and coffee, when they opened in the morning!
We didn't arrive when the doors opened at 5:30 a.m.
But, we were there about 3 hours later. The sign said Open and there was no line out the door.
Dad Day Busy
Who knows if that morning was a typical Sunday at Skyline, but it was full. At 8:30 a.m., we could have been looking at the usual pre-church crowd. Or maybe all the dads in Mena chose Skyline breakfast over church, on Father's Day.
We were happy to wait for a table and enjoy some people watching.
While I studied the dining room, I sensed that we were the only non-locals in the restaurant.
Then, I studied the map by the cash register and realized travelers have come to Skyline, from places a lot further away than Texas! We didn't bother to add a pin.
There were so many old photographs in the cafe. I wanted to study them all. But that would have been awkward, leaning over folks, as they tried to eat their biscuits or omelets.
One table cleared and I dashed over to get a look at this old photo of Mena Street, from about 90 years ago. A man at a nearby table chuckled to see me take this photo.
Mena Street Today
I could spot the cafe and Mercantile, in the vintage photo. Mena Street looked similar in 2021, except fewer cars. In fact we saw no cars at all, on Saturday night.
I wish I'd spotted a photo of the cafe from 2009, when a tornado came through and destroyed much of the town. I didn't see a photo, but I saw a framed news clipping, telling how the town pulled together to rebuild the cafe.
Don and I were finally seated. I took a look at the menu cover, before checking out the food options. You know you're in a small town cafe, when you have to pay cash.
I wondered how many photos they went through, before they decided this one should be featured on their menu.
No Church Clothes
The diners in the cafe didn't seem to be dressed in church clothes or motorcycle clothes. It was a casual crowd that kept the 3 servers very busy. Too busy for my small talk or silly questions.
What would I have asked a server or diner, if I'd had the nerve to interrupt? Maybe I would have asked, "How many times would you guess that you've eaten in this cafe?" If I'd added up the answers, I'm guessing it would be 1,000.
I read this little sign, back near the kitchen.
I'm guessing this was a little joke. But who knows. It's hard to tell.
This Old Dad had one of his favorite breakfasts.
He had an omelet and taters and a big slice of ham. No it was not the best breakfast in all the world, but he was quite satisfied.
I don't love grits or gravy, but I always feel like I have to order them when I'm in a small town cafe at breakfast. Again, it wasn't the best breakfast ever, but I appreciated the simplicity of my plate. Look at that nice little oval plate with all those round things.
Our check arrived and I had to smile. Two breakfasts for less than $10!
Well, we didn't get coffee for 75 cents like the sign said. Oh well.
We were headed towards the door by 9:30. Would this go down as a memorable Father's Day breakfast adventure? Would I remember this place at all in 10 years?
I guess I can't call it an adventure when we didn't have a good chat with a stranger. We didn't try any daring foods. We didn't see any outlandish decor or happenings. But we had a meal at a cafe that survived the Great Depression. It narrowly survived a tornado. The cafe also survived the pandemic. So for that I offer, "3 Cheers for Skyline Cafe!"
Don and I finally got to sample some special Arkansas BBQ.
We've heard about this place for years!
The New Building
As we headed into Hot Springs, we spotted the neon sign and building, totally surrounded by cars.
This oasis of white washed stucco and neon has been the home of McClard's BBQ since 1942. The original business opened just down the road, in 1928.
A Packed House
We headed through the lot, towards the corner door, under the metal awning.
We stepped inside to find the 3-room restaurant packed. It was a seat yourself place with others waiting. At least the bustling staff did help point out tables as they opened.
We thought about sitting at the counter, which might have given us a more authentic experience.
But there was no room there either.
Locals or Tourists?
We didn't have to wait long before we were seated in a booth, surrounded by diners, feasting on bbq!
We noticed a lot of talking between tables, but determined they were not all chatty locals. Many of the dining folk belonged to the same club... of Corvette drivers who were enjoying the annual Corvette Arkansas Weekend.
Alex and Alice McClard
Alex and Alice began business down the road with a motor court and diner. They turned their focus to BBQ, after an encounter with a motel guest who couldn't pay his bill.
The cashless guest offered up a family BBQ recipe for payment. The McClards accepted and before long their BBQ diner was a big hit... especially the BBQ goat!
There were lots of photos on display, showing Alex and Alice in their white aprons and posing in front of their building. I'll bet back in the day, when things got really hopping and orders were being hollered, those nearly matching names could have been a problem.
Alex's great grandson, Scott McClard is now running the business. Hopefully Scott doesn't have a wife named Scout or he could have the same issues.
More Stuff on the Walls
The walls were pretty well covered with photos and news clippings and awards. There was a nice pair of hat/coat racks. I've never seen anything quite like that. And there were a few photos of famous people who have eaten at McClard's.
The most obvious might be President Clinton, since he once lived in Hot Springs. Most of the celebs would not impress anyone under the age of 50... Jerry Van Dyke for example.
Don and I shared a few goodies. The chopped pork sandwich came with a finely ground slaw and the special McClard's sauce. In case we needed more, there was a bottle of that special sauce on the table.
I read that the recipe is under lock and key at a bank in Hot Springs.
The hickory smoked, pork ribs were pretty amazing with a crispy outside and a moist & meaty inside.
There were 5 big & yummy ones! The beans were full of flavor and mystery. There was almost a mashed texture, with hidden flavor bursts of...? I'm not sure. The chopped slaw had lots of flavor without being mayo-soupy. Very yum.
I figured I'd just show a picture of my tamale so I didn't have to find words to describe the appearance. Let me just say, it tasted a lot better than it looked. I passed on the crackers and enjoyed it just fine without sauce.
If I'd been able to handle more food, I would have ordered the old McClard's tradition, Tamale Spread. I spotted an order nearby and it was quite a sight, with 2 tamales, fritos, chopped beef, onion, beans, cheese and sauce. The recipe was created by Alex years ago, when he needed something hearty to sober up his dishwasher.
By the time we paid up at the counter, there were a few empty chairs and the staff was getting to slow down a bit.
There is no purple in my photo, but I spotted a little of the royal color on almost every server and cook. A few had purple shirts, but I also saw a purple arm band and a purple band-aide, displayed on a pocket. It took me a while, but I'm guessing this was in honor of Prince, of Purple Rain fame. He had died just the day before.
A Retro Exit
As Don and I headed out the corner door, we noticed a cute Chevy Nova parked nearby.
That added a nice touch to the retro image, as we pulled out of the lot. Fun little place and pretty amazing BBQ!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.