Friday, November 23, 2007

Highway to Hazen.

That'd be U.S. 70, a reliable two lane route that's been taking people from Little Rock to Memphis for decades. After crossing over into North Little Rock and gracing Rose City, U.S. 70 dips under I-440 and slinks up against cypress studded swamps before stretching out along Arkansas' prairieland for a long yawn to the Delta.

Slide past Carlisle and Screeton and roll through Hazen. Just before you leave town, you'll find the Hurley House on the right.

This particular November Friday afternoon, trucks lollygagged in the parking lot, while their owners shot the bull inside.

The Hurley House is a big ol' house with friendly chairs and windows, a buffet and a fireplace sharing the front room.
This afternoon I shared the restaurant with an everchanging bunch of people who shared one of the big tables in the center of the room. At any one time, six to eight people sat around the big wheel of food, trading stories and sipping iced tea.

The menu at the Hurley House carries all the favorites you'd find at any family restaurant in the area -- lots of catfish and burgers and fried pies. But it also has some unusual entries -- like the Hot Cheeseburger (covered in Colby, Monterrey, and Pepper Jack cheeses and jalapenos), the Big Joe (the Hot Cheeseburger plus bacon, grilled onions, and mushrooms) and the ubiquitous Fried Bologna on Toast (I've noticed a whole lot of Fried Bologna on the menu at Arkansas restaurants lately).

But it was the BBQ Burger that caught my attention. So I ordered it up with a side of spicy fries.

As I waited, I walked around and checked things out. Besides the front room, there are two generously larger rooms on back in the store, perfect for family dining. The bathrooms are spic and span, and there are all sorts of neat items on the wall, including classic wooden checkers and Chinese checkers set. As I clicked away at the picture, I heard one of the cooks in the back yell "Cheese!" good-naturedly.

My waitress brought me a mammoth glass of cold iced tea to sip on while I waited. I listened to the tales being shared. One of the gents at the table seemed to be able to remember the exact dates each of the group's former fellows had passed away, and another joshed with the waitress about how she needed to settle down in the area. There were fish stories and deer stories and chiding over how much pie one of the regulars could put away.

And then my food arrived, and I was greeted with a symphony in orange and brown. The gooey cheese emphasized the saucy burger like a sturdy coat. The spicy fries were crispy and not the least bit overdone, though the dark spice fooled me at first into thinking they were a bit well cooked. The whole mess was served with an ice cold dill pickle spear, a perfect palate cleanser.

It's clear from what I overheard, that the Hurley House is the place to be if you want to spin tall tales and share good food. Out of the two dozen or so people who passed through while I sat there that afternoon, I was the only one who wasn't from around those parts, and I was never treated like a stranger.

My one regret was that I didn't have room for dessert. There are a wide selection of fried pies to choose from -- apple, apricot, chocolate, cherry, peach, blackberry, and coconut -- and other delights like apple sticks to try. The Hurley House also serves a variety of dinners (catfish, shrimp, pork chops and more) and a buffet, too. The buffet runs $7.50. My BBQ burger was $4, and the generous portion of fries ran $1.75. And that humongous tumbler of tea never came close to being empty.

Right before I left, one of the regulars informed me that I had missed out on one of the best treats this place has to offer -- homemade cheese dip and salsa. Another mentioned I should try the Frito pie next time I drop in.

You can find the friendly people at the Hurley House on U.S. 70 just east of town, at the highway's intersection with Arkansas Highway 11. I bet they'd pick up the phone, too (870) 255-4679. And be sure to listen -- you're bound to hear some great stories.

1 comment:

  1. Hurley House also has the greatest catfish sandwich! Terrifically seasoned and cooked fish, and dressed perfectly. Order it with slaw and maybe some fried okra. Sublime!

    ReplyDelete

Be kind.