Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Country time at the Ozark Family Restaurant.

PINEAPPLE PANCAKES:  Unusual but tasty
  • PINEAPPLE PANCAKES: Unusual but tasty
I don’t believe I could have survived a confrontation unscathed if I’d missed checking out the Ozark Country Restaurant in my quest for a great breakfast. Any breakfast conversation in Central Arkansas has started with a volley of suggestions to try the famed smokehouse off Cantrell Road. I knew, though, that I’d have to bring a friend to save me from what I worried would be an all-pork bistro of dining.
I’m glad to say I was wrong. I found exactly what I wanted right off the bat — and it didn’t involve bacon, ham, pork chops or sausage. It did involve the only pineapple pancakes I’ve found on my state-wide search, though, which didn’t bother me at all.
Grav and I went over there on a Sunday morning with Hunter in tow. It was early enough we were able to get a table right away. One look at the menu, and we both grinned — among the drink selections are Post Concord Grape and Muscadine juices. We chose the muscadine, of course.
I saw the list of pancake types, and mentally ran through places where I’d had each variety: buttermilk (Momma’s Kitchen in Clarksville), pecan (Jack’s Pancake and Steak House in Hot Springs), sweet potato (Benson’s Grill in Ft. Smith), chocolate chip (Front Page Café in Jonesboro), blueberry (Myrtie Mae’s and Mud Street Café in Eureka Springs) and banana (Pancake Shop in Hot Springs) — but not pineapple. I don’t think I’ve ever seen pineapple pancakes, anywhere. Yeah, I had to try them.
Grav didn’t have a choice. I’d already told him he was getting the Ozark Country Breakfast ($8.99) and that was final. So he ordered his with eggs over easy and with peppered bacon. And when it all came out, he had himself a biscuit on one end of the plate, a bowl of gravy on the other, his eggs in the center and his bacon on the side, perched on top of a big pile of home fries. It looked pretty spectacular.
Thing is, there was something missing — salt. Everything he tried that morning seemed to be under-salted. Not that he was complaining — he just reached for the salt shaker time and time again with the gravy and the eggs and the potatoes. I even tried a little of his biscuit, and it seemed just a tiny bit flat. Strange.

But the item the smokehouse is known for, was done quite well. Grav raved on the bacon, even offered some to me before hurriedly taking back the offer with an apology. Said he was sad I couldn’t try it. And it looked good, with lots of bacon and brine to it. He said it was somewhat sweet and nicely salted and peppered. Very nice.
So, back to those pineapple pancakes (all pancakes, by the way, are $4.99). They were huge, three of them, turned second-side-down so you saw the pineapple chunks instead of the nice uniform brown side. They were… well, my first impression without any butter or syrup was that they were just like biting into a pineapple upside down cake, just a bit less sweet. I could eat them by themselves. Hunter did — reaching over and stabbing my stack with a fork and ripping away a bite before I could stop her. I watched her reaction closely, but all she gave me as far as a clue 
was to reach over and stab me in the hand as she reached for more pancake. Well, I guess she liked them.
As much as I liked them separately, I loved them with butter and a little real butter on them. They were very good, very filling, and even though Hunter and I (and even Grav, spurred by his own curiosity) tackled the stack with gusto we still left half a pancake behind.
We didn’t stick around too long — as we ate, the place had really filled up around us and there was a line at the door. Ozark Country Restaurant has a reputation that precedes it, and people come out religiously to eat there. And I can see why. But I do wonder if some items are seasoned for an older, less-sodium-tolerant crowd. Then again, how could I not like a place that serves muscadine juice with breakfast?
You’ll find Ozark Country Smokehouse right behind the strip mall on the northeast corner of Cantrell and Mississippi. It’s open every day at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast and stays open until 1:30 p.m. during the week and 2 p.m. on the weekends. (501) 663-7319.

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