Grav and I were into the early hours of our 60 hour trip spanning the center and upper end of the Arkansas Delta, searching out pies for the book I’m working on. By the time we got to Barton, we’d already been through three other pies and had the disappointment of two others. I won’t go into the one – it was flat and smelled of sawdust somehow and I pray the restaurant just had an awful day. The other restaurant had no pie, though the menu proudly proclaimed it.
The low-slung dairy bar has sat alongside US Highway 49 for better than forty, maybe fifty years. No one really remembers for certain the day the place opened, but it’s been around long enough for it to long outlive Ray. Once just a stand where you picked up your food out front, the dining room was later added for patrons to dine in rain or shine. These days, it’s of note because of its particularly good spot for diners to stop on their way to the King Biscuit Blues Festival.
A lady who appeared to be
The first story she told was about Alton Brown – or, rather, the producers who rode ahead down the road while Mr. Brown was in Helena. They were looking for a bite to eat, something that would be included in his television show (and later a book), something on the fly. Mere chance had aimed them in this general direction.
She continued on, talking about how gracious everyone was, though speedy. She was asked if it was cool to shoot a TV show at her establishment. She signed some forms. Along comes a few more motorcyclists, including the aforementioned Mr. Brown. He came in, talked with her, asked her about the pie, ate the pie, carried on.
Nana Deane was very surprised when a short while later, she was watching ABC’s morning show and saw her recipe
She’s seen a lot of folks come in just because of the show and the book, and she has always taken it in stride. And when I asked her to tell me more about the restaurant’s history, she obliged.
“You know, the recipe is out there,” Deane told us. I instantly asked her if I could have it. She went to the back, came back with a copied sheet and handed it to me.
“So would it be okay to put it in my book?” I asked.
“It’s already in a book, but you’re welcome to,” she smiled, and I carefully folded the sheet and tucked it into my bag. Then we asked for boxes.
That’s how a good dozen and a half folks ended up descending on the place for a bite. I at least called ahead, and there were a couple of tables towards the kitchen pushed together ready for us. Under the edge of one of those tables, I saw my business card.
A burger was on my agenda, because while my compadres had dined on Mr. Harold Jones’ finest, I was out the experience due to not being able to eat the pork. A burger was what I got – handsome and fine, naked white seedless bun, lettuce and tomato and a slice of American cheese thrown atop a slightly singed-on-the-bottom smashy patty that had only been spiced with salt, pepper and griddle grease. A good two-hander.
Ray’s Dairy Maid is a splendid place. And I’ve dreamed of it any time pecans come to mind. More than once I’ve found a good reason to divert my travels from wherever I was planning to go to sweep by, duck into the
which deserves its own fine story), we stopped in, parking at the business next door because there were better than three dozen cars in the lot. Again, Grav shot the interior, where there wasn’t a spare table to see, and I counted the slices. And then, greedy person I am, I ordered both of the slices left of the pecan coconut pie.
Ray’s is also a true and dedicated drive-in, with good burgers and good
But that all depends on whether you get a seat. Be patient. It’s worth it.