Roadside Lunch in Arkansas
Last November Don and I stopped for lunch on our way through Arkansas.
Plus, the name Billy Gail's sounded perfect for Arkansas. It sounded like something from the old sitcom, Petticoat Junction.
We pulled right off the road and headed for the red door.
There were lots of signs, besides the big one on the roof. The bear held an Open sign. There were 3 signs and a dozen stickers on the door glass. There was a Come On In sign and a Happy Holidays sign and a Let It Snow announcement, painted on the window.
Once inside, there was lots to see in the front room.
There were shelves and cases, filled with well-loved toys. This was very entertaining for the Baby Boomer in me. It's scary to see how many toys I recognized.
There were also things for sale, like jams and hats and leopard skin purses. And there was another sign. Huggin" Place. Now that was a mighty sweet sign.
There was a little kitchen-corner with coffee and mugs. That must have been set up for busy times, when folks have to wait a while for a table.
During touristy summer months, you might have to wait a while on one of the red benches. The only one we saw waiting, was the Grinch.
Our Dining Room
There was a bit of a maze of rooms. The 50+ year old building has probably seen some additions and alterations over the years.
We were given a table in a cozy room, filled with lots antique what-nots and locals, who greeted the servers by name.
Our server was energetic and pleasant when she handed us menus. She introduced herself with a helpful tip, so we wouldn't forget her name. "Just remember the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's!"
Besides the menu I saw another sign worth reading. It was a poem, by Trey. I read the poem and got another hint. I should try the pancakes... as big as hubcaps!
Checks of All Colors
Don and I decided to go all breakfast for lunch.
Tiffany brought our plates and offered to snap a photo. Wow! I had no idea how fantastic we looked, with all our checks!
Don's ham and cheese omelet was covered with crispy hash browns. He was in heaven.
My pancake was ridiculously fun!
The buttermilk circle hung about an inch off the edge of my plate. I had to stare at the other diners to figure out how to approach the beast! Folding was the only way. Hopefully I put on more syrup than this photo! My mouth feels dry just looking at it!
After we finished our feast, the rush was over. I was able to peek around a little more.
I of course found more signs. Prayers go up, Blessings come down. That sign was beneath the carousel horse. I kind of liked the rusty egg sign.
My eyes were drawn to some old games that I remember from my childhood. So many hours of croquet, in so many yards! I spotted a wooden Carrom board! Whatever happened to the one my family owned?
More Toys at Checkout
We headed to the front room to check out. I got to admire more of the toys.
The man at the register, I believe was a member of Billy and Gail's family. Billy Gail was not one person, but two. They bought the building in the 1995 and named the restaurant with both their names. As I looked around the place, I overheard a phone conversation. Someone said that Gail hadn't been well. I detected real worry in the tone.
Sit a Spell
We took our leftovers and headed outside to have another look at the curious property and the rambling building.
I wondered about Billy and Gail, who created their own cafe along the highway 25 years ago. As we drove away, I looked it up on my phone and read that Billy had passed away in 2012.
Billy Gail's a Few Months Later
As usual, I'm behind on blog posts. It's been 4 months since Don and I had our fabulous breakfast feast.
I looked up Billy Gail's just moments ago and learned that Gail passed away just weeks after our visit. That made me sad. I hope Billy and Gail's kids can hold onto the sweet place.
I could sure use one of those gigantic pancakes right now.
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
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 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.
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.
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.