Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Temple To Comfort Food - Anne's Country Cafe in Pine Bluff.

There are some restaurants that have kitchy relics of the past plastered on the walls. There are some that claim to have good Southern food. There are even those that claim they’re down home good.

Ann’s Country Café doesn’t say any of that. It doesn’t have to.

The tucked back eatery on 79 in Pine Bluff is across the street from two other eateries -- Leon’s Catfish and El Sol. In comparison, it appears from the street to just be older. But inside, you’ll find something else.

Not that there are high dollar amenities. When you hear “country café” you might think of calico and gingham and curtains in the window. Here, it’s country -- as in crossing the country. The décor is classic highway -- gas station signs, cola signs, and more. And it works here.

Take your seat in any of the red and yellow booths that line the walls or the green tables for four -- and you’ll find out more about this place -- namely, the prices. As in, they’re pretty darn low.

My traveling companion and I stopped in one afternoon in October for dinner on the road. He was looking for something light -- I wanted comfort food. We both got what we wanted. Right off the bat, we had ourselves a couple of thirstquenching drinks -- hefty servings of cola and iced tea in big tumblers. Our waitress and hostess sat down club crackers and butter while we waited for our food. I noticed one of the older men at another table dutifully buttering his crackers as he waited -- maybe it’s a local thing.

Our food came out much quicker than I expected. My $5.75 plate dinner special included country fried steak, creamed potatoes with white gravy, corn, macaroni and cheese, and a hot roll. Other choices available this day included catfish, chicken strips, green beans, and baked beans.

I didn’t realize the size of the endeavor I was undertaking at first. But after a while, I realized that my chicken fried steak took up far more room on the plate than anything else. Part of it was artfully concealed under the mashed potatoes. We’re taking about a slab of steak larger than my hand. Good eatin’. And it was tasty, too. The macaroni and cheese was tender, the corn buttery, and the potatoes seasoned (it bothers me when there’s absolutely no salt in potatoes, the way it bothers me to see a dog without a collar roamin' about in the city).

My traveling companion’s light salad choice from the Dieter’s Menu was also a surprise. For a dieter -- there’s a big old hunk of chicken salad, tangy and slightly smoky -- a welcome surprise. It was served on a bed of lettuce and tomato with hard boiled eggs.

I must say -- while he was able to consume all of his meal, I left far more of my dinner than I would have liked. This was a meal for a big man, and it got me good.

While we ate, we listened in around us. No need for music here. There was a TV turned on in the corner, but most of the people in the restaurant were engaged in a bright conversation about who did this and that. This is certainly a local favorite. Our hostess asked if we were from out of town,
and was surprised to find we’d come down from Little Rock for this treat.

If you get a chance to go, block out some time. You’re going to want to check out all the neat memorabilia on the walls. And if you have a group -- there’s a private sitting area there for you too.

On a separate visit, I did try the Reuben -- a pretty decent Reuben for a good price. It comes with big thick fries meant for dipping.

Ann’s Country Café also celebrates the fact that you can order breakfast any time -- and its nine different omelets. They also make a mean eight ounce burger (that’s half a pound for the unawares).

And don’t worry about saving up too much. With my rather large repast, the salad plate and drinks, our meal came to less than $14.

You’ll find Ann’s Country Café at 3714 Camden Road, just off I-530 on Highway 79, west of the interstate and east of the high school -- right over from the Holiday Inn Express. Open 6am to 8pm Monday through Friday and 6am to 2pm Saturday and Sunday. The number is (501) 879-0057.

UPDATE: 11/20/2011

Breakfast at Anne’s is about the best way I can imagine starting out a road trip heading southeast. I know the coffee is always going to be good and the food filling.

Stopped in a few weeks ago on my way to New Orleans. We needed fuel for the road, and there it was, right off Exit 39 in Pine Bluff. You take a right off I-530 onto Highway 79 and turn right again a block later into the parking lot of the green and white building. Convenient.

Mind you, breakfast is not spiffy or fancy. It’s decent and filling and cheap, which is all it has to be. Plus, you get to eat that breakfast in the restaurant that, I believe, has more working thermometers in it than any other dining establishment in the state.

The décor at Anne’s is nostalgia eclectic. Old pop signs, gas signs, tin signs of really any sort and all those different thermometers — even in the brand new bathrooms (they recently remodeled the place). It’s kinda cool.

Breakfast items range from pancakes and waffles and French toast to omelets and breakfast plates. I’ve enjoyed the New York omelet before — a cheeseburger omelet with a broken up hamburger patty and American cheese in it.

This time around, I had myself the Chopped Sirloin and Two Eggs ($6.25). I was expecting a regular ground beef patty, sure — but what I got was a nice hand patted chopped sirloin “steak” that had been cooked with onions, nicely peppered with a touch of tasted to be Worchestershire sauce. It was served up with toast (you can also have a biscuit), hash browns (grits are the other option) and two eggs — which I had over easy. A substantial breakfast to go along with my coffee — enough to get me down the road.

My companion actually chose the BD Breakfast Sandwich ($5.25), a bacon egg and cheese combination on a bun. And at first, it looked very disappointing. I mean, it looked pretty flat — that is, until the bun was lifted and the veritable nest of bacon was discovered. We’re talking four strips of bacon perched on top of two over-hard eggs. Beware — it comes bedecked with mayo.

So, you’re headed to Pine Bluff? Even if you get there in the afternoon you can still have breakfast. And if not, you can enjoy a smoked meat platter or a salad. I dig the patty melt.

You’ll find Anne’s Country Café at 3714 Camden Road. There’s no website, but the phone number is (870) 879-0057. It’s open Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 6 a.m .-2 p.m.

UPDATE 8/26/17
There's an Anne's Country Cafe Facebook page now.

Anne's Country Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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