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Oct 10, 2000 06:56 PM

Batesville -- Mississippi and Arkansas

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This past weekend my husband and I took a quick trip from New Orleans to Batesville, Arkansas for family reasons. On the way north we had lunch in Batesville, Mississippi at Dale's Smokehouse Cafe. More than a barbecue restaurant, there are daily plate lunch options; I had a vegetable plate with very tasty cabbage, creamed corn and rather pale but flavorful macaroni. It came with a slice of very light and fluffy tangy but not too sweet lemon chiffon pie topped with real whipped cream and a nice crunchy graham cracker crust that was obviously made quite recently on the premises. My husband had the pulled pork which he said had a good smoky flavor, and came with lots of add-your-own sauce. The restaurant is about 3/4 mile west of I-55 behind the outlet center.

In Batesville, Arkansas we tried the town's newest and most upscale offering ever, the Lockhouse. While the meal was not quite a Chowhound experience, the location by the river is gorgeous and owner Danny Dozier has done a first rate job on the renovation of the old building that at one time housed the keeper of Lock #1 on the White River. Danny has played with a number of musical groups and he usually plays guitar during dining hours. The prices are considered a little high by locals -- top entree price being around $18 -- but there are plenty of less pricy offerings. I had grilled walleye which was very moist and flavorful, and the fresh rolls were some of the best I've had with no bitter yeast flavor. My husband had a fried seafood plate and my elderly mother ordered a roasted pork loin that was only around $8, and she took most of it home. I would recommend a visit if only because the restaurant is so attractive and the view of the river and dam so spectacular, and because Danny is a nice guy. Incidentally, Batesville is in a dry county, but we took a bottle of wine and the restaurant provided glasses and corkscrew for $1.

The real Chowhound find in that area is a little place called Meacham's Fine Foods, otherwise known as BJ's, in Ash Flat, about 35 miles north of Batesville. The Meacham family owned a butcher shop for years, and they know quality meats. We went for late Saturday breakfast. I had the very thick and tender pork chop with a side of mushrooms sauteed in butter, garlic and lemon juice (apparently the mushrooms in question can vary from standard white button to portobello, depending on availability). The biscuits are rumored to be large and fluffy but they run out early so we were not able to sample those. You can even order a "side" of catfish. Other meats including veal and steaks are a house specialty. Service is cheerful but can be a little harried, but everything is cooked to order so the wait is worthwhile. I believe this place was included in one version of Jane and Michael Stern's Roadfood but don't know if it's listed in the current book.

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