Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The biggest burger I've ever sampled at Ed Walker's.

As seen in the February issue of the Little Rock Free Press in the Tie Dye Travels column.

And sampled is the correct term. Because there was no consuming this one in a single sitting.

I've seen big burgers in my life. I've taken a couple of meals to consume one of the Super Cheeseburgers from the Morrilton Family Restaurant (a pound of meat -- two if you get the double), carried home three quarters of a Transylvania Double Dare Outrageous Burger, and wallowed in a Cotham's Hubcap Burger. And I thought I'd eaten the biggest burger in Arkansas.

Well, I was wrong.

A couple of friends of mine who regularly read Tie Dye Travels - George, Beth and Grav - encouraged me to come up to Fort Smith... they had something to show me.

Driving up to Ed Walker's, I noticed all the mentions of the French Dip sandwich. I was told it was good, but that I shouldn't even bother ordering. The tales I was hearing about this burger were starting to scare me.

The second thing I noticed were the painted windows that said "Flash Lights for Service." I was told that this '50s style diner still does car service -- and even serves beer. Beer! At your car! Later I found out that Ed Walker's has been doing this forever, and was grandfathered in on the liquor license... so this is definitely the only place you will find beer-to-car service in Arkansas.

We entered and quickly started to consume the sights -- six of us (two kids, four adults -- three of us with cameras!) and the story behind the place. The red and white decor has its share of Razorback memorabilia, but there are also bits of Coca-Cola logoed material, news articles carefully matted and framed, and lots of TVs. This is apparently a great place to watch football games.

There's also one of those old quarter ride machines -- this one in the shape of a Razorback. From what I understand, there are many regulars who have pictures of themselves as children on the old red hog.

We sat down and perused the menu. I started asking about the cakes and pies... and was told there was no need to even look at that part of the menu. The burger would be enough. Well, we'd see.

I did end up trying out a sampler basket. There are a lot of choices for your sampler basket, including jalapeno poppers and wings. We chose a selection of Texas toothpicks (strips of onion and jalapeno Julienne sliced, battered, and deep fried), fried mushrooms and fried pickles. And we ordered the Giant Cheeseburger. Just one -- for the six of us. We were told it'd take about 20 minutes to cook, but that was okay. We had plenty of liquid refreshment and our appetizers were on the way.

We talked about the restaurant. How it'd been around for-practically-ever. Later I'd call up and find out the establishment had once allegedly been a shady place where moonshine had been sold... and how Ed Walker had bought the place and made it into a two-window drive-in. How in the '50s it was expanded, and that Ed himself used to live in the center dining room -- it was his bedroom. How neat.

Our sampler basket came out -- and that was a pretty nice surprise in itself. The ample basket came with big servings of ranch dressing to dip with. The fried mushrooms were pretty good -- not that different from what I'd been served elsewhere. The Texas toothpicks were delicious -- just a little bit of heat, but mild enough for the kids to enjoy. The fried pickles? I'm not big on fried pickles, but these developed a nice tart wallop that went well with the ample breading. The kids especially liked them.

Our waitress was very attentive, checking with us ever couple of minutes to make sure we had full glasses and the condiments we needed. She brought out piles of plates for us to share with. I asked her if it was unusual for people to take pictures of the food there -- and she told me no -- it happens all the time!

And then the big moment came -- and in rounds, our waitress delivered the humongous burger, a generous baskets of fries, and a large plate of veggie accoutrements.

And now I saw why I didn't need to order anything else. This burger was massive -- five pounds of meat on a bun the size of a medium pizza. It nearly obliterated the bun with its weight. We all stared at it a few moments, then started to photograph the
monstrosity before us.

Five pounds. FIVE POUNDS of meat on this more than ample offering. The meat even overwhelmed the sides of the bun, jutting out into space on either side. The glue of cheese held the top bun on tight. How does one go about eating something of this size?

Apparently, it's in the cutting. We sliced it into eighths and started sharing around portions. As the inside was revealed, I was greeted with the sight of well
cooked beef -- completely cooked through. The smell was intoxicating.

As I doctored up my portion with a little mayo and ketchup (the wait staff knows you're going to share, so all of your add-ons come on the side), I marveled at the lack of grease. For such a thick burger, there was very little residue. Just the juiciness of a lovely thick burger. I stumbled into it with curiosity.

The meat of the burger itself is very lightly spiced, but it's not lacking in flavor. The choice of bun works well for the top, but I found myself consuming it with a fork. The sheer weight of the meat had made a job of the bottom bun.

We joked around about the circumstances, and helped ourselves to a little more each. But soon we all found ourselves full -- and still more burger to eat.

I was told about the fantastic cakes served here, too... especially the delicate and sweet confetti cake that's a local favorite. But there was no denying the fact that I couldn't eat another bite.

Ed Walker's isn't the kind of place you're going to find in a magazine about fine eating establishments. There's no dress code and no one cares if you're in your t-shirt or Keds. But it is one place where you can bring a whole party and feed them on a single dish. Amazing.

The Giant Cheeseburger is $24.99 -- a dollar more if you want fries with that, or $1.50 for onion rings. There are more moderately sized offerings, too -- including the Razorback burger (topped with bacon) and a patty melt. You can also find a smattering of Tex Mex items like the Chili Relleno. There are salads, and the aforementioned legendary French Dip (which I must try next time, especially with the Swiss cheese and grilled onions).

You can find Ed Walker's on Towson Road (Business Route 71) at N Street in Fort Smith. It's open from six in the morning until midnight -- and they serve breakfast until 11am. For more information, call (479) 783-3352.

UPDATE 9/5/17. So you read all of it, right? December 2007?

Yep, that's the same Grav.

Check out the Ed Walker's Facebook page.

Ed Walker's Drive-In & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


  1. HOWDY Kat!
    I live in Germany but my ex-bf and his family are living in Ft.Smith. This year in Sept it will be my 4th time that I'll be there and I always try to find NEW things in my "second home" :)
    THIS article made me put a reminder in my cell so I'll go there with my Arkie-family and order the same u guys did!!!! haha

    Thanks for sharing!
    Lots of greets from Bavaria/Germany to ya!

  2. I am so gonna check this place out when the motorcycle riding weather gets here.

  3. Good 'ol Eddie Walker's....I grew up in Ft. Smith and have many a fond memories of gping to eat with my family at that place. Glad to know it is still there.


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