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Arkansas Delta Region

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We'll be in eastern Arkansas in November. Stopping in Dyess, Monticello, Helena, Hamburg, and points in between. Would appreciate any recommendations on great food, BBQ or otherwise.

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  1. If you are in the Monticello area on a Thurs., Fri., or Sat. evening (5 - 9 PM), I highly recommend The Village Steakhouse (formerly Layne's Steakhouse) at The Village Shopping Center approx. 15 mi. north of Monticello (5 mi. south of Star City). Reservations (870-628-5053) are good idea, but most often not essential. In my opinion this is the best steakhouse in the state. While it serves poultry, seafood, etc. I recommend staying with the beef. Any steak from hamburger to fillet is great, but if you like a smoked flavor, the smoked prime rib is the best I have ever eaten anywhere. Prices are reasonable; service is great, so are desserts. There is also a Catfish House in The Village open the same hours but I've never eaten there. Whenever I drive the 90 miles to The Village, I cannot pass up the Steak House. If you unable to make it to the Steak House, do stop by The Village (closed Sun. & Mon.). It has a great bakery (snack there, get baked goods to go), a barbecue restaurant, & a sandwich shop open for lunch & dinner. Great retail & service shops of all sorts at The Village with some of best selections & absolutely the best service you will ever find. All businesses are owned by members of this one church which is located there. I know this sounds like I have some connection with The Village, but my only relationship is that of a most satisfied customer.

    I live near Helena but really can't recommend any place there. Guess the Mexican restaurant in West Helena area or the River Road (believe its name) on Cherry St. in downtown Helena would be best bets. I'd recommend going on over into Miss. and up to Tunica to one of the casino restaurants or buffets or to The Hollywood Restaurant at Robinsonville, MS. If in that area, I highly recommend The Mississippi River Museum. Or you might want to go down to Clarksdale, MS - a number of good restaurants there. I especially recommend The Dutch Oven for weekday lunch & again as a great bakery.

    Wish you all a good trip.

    1. When in Dyess (JUST FOR A JOKE) ask for the POP SHOP:

      1. for BBQ, stop at Shadden's in Marvell, Arkansas. (a few miles West of Helena on HWY 49)

        http://flickr.com/photos/73276434@N00...

        do not be afraid. trust. Craig's BBQ in DeVall's Bluff is good, also.

        also, I've heard good things about Morgan Freeman's place over in Clarksdale, Mississippi, not too far down the road:

        http://www.madidires.com

        7 Replies
        1. re: scotter

          scotter, I agree that Shadden's BBQ just west of Marvell is good, but I think that Cypress BBQ on State Hwy. 1 about midway between Walnut Corner & Marianna (and actually closer to Helena) is really somewhat better. I was familiar with several of the old BBQ places in Helena, but really know nothing about the BBQ restaurants currently there except seems they come & go rather quickly. BBQ place in Poplar Grove is pretty good, but to me its best thing is a special take out big order of smoked chicken quarters (not on menu; have to order in advance). Not familiar with them but have been told there are two BBQ joints in Marianna which are really good - strictly walk up, take out & only open each day at noon until they run out. I think Craig's in DeVall's Bluff is good, and maybe its just me, but somehow its barbecue pork seems to be more of a barbecued ham slice rather than traditional pork barbecue. Thought of Craig's when reading pocketful's original post, but thought DeVall's Bluff likely too far off his route. It I was going over as far as DeVall's Bluff, I would go on into Little Rock to the Whole Hog Cafe, which to me currently has the best barbecue of any place in the state. I must modify that statement. To me, Whole Hog is actually one of two equally good (top) barbecue places in the state. Backyard Barbecue (NOT part of Back Yard Burger chain) in Magnolia is equally good.

          And if I was getting over to DeVall's Bluff or near Little Rock, I might forego any barbecue to run down to Scott to Cotham's for one of its 17 oz. hubcap hamburgers or plate lunches or Mississippi Mud, fried pie, or cobbler desserts. Cotham's is housed in what was old country store built on stilts out over a bayou & which still has some of the old fixtures and merchandise (especially hardware) in it as decorations. A real neat place & experience. And if they had any in stock, I'd pick up a bottle of Cotham's Hamburger Seasoning to bring home for my use. And before leaving I would take time to explore the neat little town of Scott (and if one is an "antiquer" might want to run on down the few miles to Keo to the big antique place there, plus explore some of the other neat little shops, stores there, and if not too full from Cotham's have some dessert at Keo's bakery & lunch place (can't remember name, is it Charlotte's?).

          I've never eaten at either of the Morgan Freeman co-owned restaurants in Clarksdale, MS, (evening fine dining Madidires or casual, kinda juke joint type place Ground Zero Blues Club), but have heard conflicting reports about both - some diners praising one, the other, or both; others expressing rather severe disappointment, so I really don't know. Abe's Barbecue in Clarksdale is good (but not as good as Whole Hog or Backyard in Ark.). I'm never in Clarksdale except at noon and I like The Dutch Oven (Mennonite owned restaurant & bakery) so well for lunch (especially its daily casseroles, but also soups, salads, sandwiches) that I just can't make myself go to any of the other places I used to patronize. Unfortunately for waistline, I frequently have to bring home some of Dutch Oven's delicious pie, cake, or pastries. And it has the delicious casseroles frozen which one can bring home to cook.

          As good as all these places have mentioned here are, if had a choice I would take The Village (Layne's) Steak House in The Village at Star City for one of its smoked prime ribs over any of these other restaurants.

          1. re: foodisgreat

            I live in Little Rock and am from Magnolia. Whole Hog rules the earth. Their franchises are even good. I hope Mr. Blasingame takes over the planet.

            I work a block away from Cotham's in the City. Not as good as the one in Scott, but Hubcap burgers for sure.

            I've known David from Backyard since I was born. I eat there EVERY time I go home. His ribs are my favorite and if you ever need a whole smoked ham on the bone (Thanksgiving & Christmas, you have to reserve one), his are the best I've ever had. Smoked turkey with Jezebell sauce! FRIED BROCCOLI!! ok, i'm going to lunch now...I don't get down to Star City much, but I'll try the Village next time I do. Thanks!

            1. re: scotter

              Thanks so much, scotter, for your so interesting & informative post re Backyard Barbecue; so much more to it than I ever knew, realized. Always such a line to place order there at noon, I hate to hold up line with my indecision. Plus, its one of those places, like so many, when hit on a meal which don't feel can be surpassed, just stay with it, reluctant to try anything different, especially when get there only few times a year. My standard order is either a large brisket or pork sandwich plate. Guess only other thing I've ever ordered is BBQ stuffed potato. Also have occasionally tried one of those pies or the banana pudding. Have heard the ribs & onion rings praised; from looks of them at others' tables, can understand why. In fact, can't imagine anything there not being just great. But I wasn't aware of its custom cooking - the holiday smoked hams & turkeys. Can just imagine how good they are! Familiar with many fried veggies, but not broccoli. Will surely have to try it on next visit. I'd really be hard pressed to say which I like the best - Magnolia's Backyard or LR's Whole Hog. Like said initially, guess it's a tie with me, but those definitely my two favorite barbecues of all I've ever tried anywhere. Surely have never found any in Memphis to equal either. I've never eaten at any of the Whole Hogs other than original but knew of the one in NLR. Was shocked recently, tho, to learn of the great number of franchise operations which now exist. Surely glad to hear you say they are good. When learned of the many franchise spots, wrote friends in Illinois and Alabama who I've made Whole Hog, Backyard, and Village Steak House fans that hoped such wide expansion didn't bring damage to Whole Hog's overall reputation & quality.

              Absolutely agree with you that Cotham's in the City is not as good as Scott Cotham's. Think, tho, "the City" comes closer to Scott with its hubcaps than it does with its plate lunches. And am sure Scott Cotham's housing & location are part of its PLUS as well as any food differences. Good thing I don't live near either. If did, fear too many hubcap lunches would have my middle even more expanded than it already is.

              Hope you can get down to The Village near Star City soon, scotter, for a The Village (Layne's) Steak House meal. Anything is wonderful, but I alway stick with beef. And if you like a smoked flavor, I strongly recommend the smaller smoked prime rib, but if don't like smoked flavor, then go with a steak. And hope you have time to explore the shops while there. All are great - excellent selections and even better customer service; best of that I've ever seen. And I'd surely be interested to hear of any other LR or Arkansas recommendations which you have. Thanks.

              1. re: foodisgreat

                scotter, I was in LIttle Rock Tuesday & had lunch at original Whole Hog on Cantrell. Guess first time I've eaten there in about a year. While good, it definitely was not up to its usual standard. For first time ever I would say that when comparing July & August Magnolia Backyard Barbecue meals with this week's meal at Whole Hog that Backyard comes out significantly better on all counts (meat & sides). Always previously rated the two places as about equal (best in state). Hope I just got an "off plate" or caught Whole Hog on an "off day" - that its overall quality is not deteriorating. Just wondered what your recent experience had been.

                1. re: foodisgreat

                  scotter, on way home from Little Rock yesterday I detoured by Scott for a hubcap at Cotham's. So good!!! Definitely better than the ones at Cotham's in the City in Little Rock (tho those aren't bad). There's a barbecue restaurant coming into Scott at which I'd never before seen more than 2 or 3 cars. Yesterday there were as many or more cars at it than were at Cotham's (which had customers to point there was a wait for tables). And I noticed a sign advertising a new restaurant in Scott, tho never saw it. Hard to imagine Scott & surrounding area having enough population to support three restaurants, altho people come from all over the state & from out of state to Cotham's. Yesterday's hubcap was especially good, more than making up for recent disappointment at Whole Hog. Hope you are getting to have some good eating adventures.

          2. re: scotter

            Craig's is worth a stop, even if it's out of your way. The food is amazing and so is the decor. I was held speechless by how awesome the food was and how totally rednecky and weird the place was. That pie shop across the street is killer-an apricot fried pie to die for. It's pretty funky, too. Look for a spray-painted house marked "Pie Shop". Incredible!!
            During the same trip, a large group of us went to Morgan Freeman's place. It was spotty, with some people loving the pork chop and others gagging on the tuna. Neat place, but I don't think it's worth the trip.
            I love Whole Hog. I have to agree that it's the best BBQ in the state.

            1. re: LauraMick

              Hi, LauraMick. I agree with you that Craig's is good but it doesn't do quite as much for me as it does for you. Know to me, it's just not at the Whole Hog or Backyard level. Is the "Pie Shop" across US 70 now open? Know it used to be, then for a while they were still making the pies, but you had to buy them from Craig's. Can you now get them again from the shop itself? Did you eat at both Morgan Freeman's Clarksdale restaurants? I've not tried either, but your comments re experiences of your group are exactly same as those I've heard from all others who have ever eaten at either - very spotty, some good, some bad. I do recommend The Dutch Oven for lunch in Clarksdale. And you might well like Abe's Barbecue there. Not the building but the barbecue has to me always seemed somewhat similar to Craig's.