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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eat The City: 9 Places To Dine in West Memphis (and Marion).

Headed to a town in Arkansas but don't know the culinary terrain? Here's the first of several travel dining guides to take you to the best and sort through the rest of The Natural State's tasty towns.

When it comes to culinary destinations in Arkansas, the capital city comes tops.  You'll find plenty of locals to share Little Rock's bounty, from the Little Rock Foodcast to The Mighty Rib, Eat Arkansas and Rock City Eats.  There are a large number of amazing eateries in Hot Springs, Fort Smith and northwest Arkansas. But let's look at some other population centers around the state.

Let's start with West Memphis.  The point of entry from travelers from the east for centuries, this town over the levee got going as the place to fuel bodies and cars during the great heyday of the early interstate highway system, with US Highway 70 rolling through town as Broadway.  Elvis not only dined here (his last breakfast before heading to report for Army duty at Fort Chaffee was at the town's Coffee Cup location), he performed here alongside many of the great blues and rockabilly giants of the era.  

While Memphis and Beale Street during the 50s and 60s had a set curfew, the many diners and bars that lined Broadway often stayed open later and captured hungry dancers and music lovers who made their way across the bridge for early morning sustenance.  

Over the years, Memphis has boomed and West Memphis has busted, but there are still a good number of classic restaurants around, serving everything from doughnuts to barbecue in style.  A number of new enterprises have cropped up as well, and if you find yourself in West Memphis for business, pleasure or otherwise, you can find a pretty good bite to eat most hours of the day.

Here are my dining picks for the city.

Breakfast:  Howard's Donuts.
So much more than just your average doughnut shop, this original location now has spin-offs in Memphis proper.  Cinnamon doughnuts, German chocolate and red velvet varieties and cream-topped (rather than filled) pastries are all sinful delights.  The true specialty is the Hawaiian fritter - a pineapple-chunked pastry with heft.  Look for the daily scripture on the whiteboard.
1711 N. Missouri * West Memphis * (870) 735-2046

Barbecue:  William's Bar-B-Q.
Want a great barbecue sandwich? You won't get ribs or wings at William's, but you will get huge, fat Boston butt sandwiches with thick sauce and chunky slaw.  Hearty.  But don't wait too late in the day, or you'll just have to settle for a burger.  Oh, count all the TV sets in the restaurant, working and not, just for fun while you wait.
106 S. 14th Street * West Memphis * (870) 735-0979 * Lunch Tuesday-Saturday.

More barbecue:  Roadside Bar-B-Q.  This little shack just off I-40 is where you get ribs in West Memphis.  The pork sandwiches are celebrated, and the barbecue chicken is lauded.
196 Arkansas 147 * Bob Ward * (870) 733-9208 

Burgers/Pie:  Big John's Shake Shack.
Catfish, chicken, barbecue and country ham sandwiches all grace the menu at this dairy diner opened back in 1977, but you'll want to get the burger here, too.  And saving space for pie is not an option.  There are fried pies, baked pies, icebox pies, fruit pies, cream pies, nut pies, chocolate pies, and even a pie made with Tang.  Say hello to Ms. Loretta and enjoy all the Elvis memorabilia.  Also serves breakfast.
409 Military Road * Marion * (870) 739-3943 * Facebook * Mon, Tue, Thu 8 a.m. - 7 p.m., Wed 8 a.m. - 6 p.m, Fri 8 a.m, -  8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Bakery:  The Parsonage.
A great secret in downtown Marion, this old church facility is now a bakery and restaurant featuring great sandwiches, salads and a marvelous Saturday brunch.  The waffles are of legend.  Best spot in the area for a good vegetarian meal -- and fish dishes all through Lent.
198 Military Road * Marion * (870) 559-2133 * Facebook * Tue, Thu 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Wed, Sat 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat & Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Steak: Bourbon Street Steakhouse.
Located within Southland Gaming and Racing, this high-end steakhouse offers quiet, candlelit dining and sumptuous, almost gratuitously tender steaks and fresh seafood.  Bourbon Street holds claim to the best prime rib in the area, and the Lafayette Blue Crab Cakes are fantastic.  Date night stuff. Reservations suggested.
Inside Southland Gaming and Racing * West Memphis * (800) 467-6182 * Website * Wed & Thu 5-10 p.m., Fri & Sat 5-11 p.m., Sun 4-9 p.m.

Mexican:  Mi Pueblo.
Good, cheap, somewhat authentic Mexican fare.  Chile relleno is a hit, and burritos are ample.  I keep being told about the margaritas... take that for what it's worth.
650 West Service Road, Suite 121 * West Memphis * (870) 702-6151 * Lunch and dinner daily.

Ark-Mex:  Pancho's Mexican Restaurant.
Still kicking since the 1950s, this classic Ark-Mex lays claim to one of the first cheese dips in the state.  Unlike everywhere else, here it's served cold.  Enchiladas, tostadas, burritos and everything else you'd expect to find, plus a salad dressing people beg for.  Kids love this place.
3600 East Broadway * West Memphis * (870) 735-6466 * Website 

Italian:  Uncle John's.
A short drive from West Memphis, the Marconi family still cranks out traditional pastas, ribs ad such in an old storefront in Crawfordsville.  Go for the toasted ravioli and the lasagna.  Read more here.
5453 Main Street * Crawfordsville * (870) 823-5319 * Lunch Mon-Fri, Dinner Tue-Sat.

* * *

If you must dine the chains, here's what's available:
Lenny's Sub Shop (a sandwich chain out of Memphis) * 1806 N. Missouri Street * (870) 772-9700
Domino's Pizza * 1405 N. Missouri Street Ste. C * (870) 735-7600
Krystal * 1804 N. Missouri Street * (870) 732-3375
Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen * 1344 N. Missouri Street * (870) 735-4212
Cracker Barrel * 1600 N. 6th Street (south service road)* (870) 733-0469
McDonald's * 3901 Petro Road (in the truck hub) * (870) 735-6881
Denny's * 3000 Service Loop Road (next to Flying J) * (870) 400-2094


  1. Kat, do you remember Bill's Grill in Marion? I'm not sure when it closed, but God I'd love to relive that meal just one more time.

    1. Me, too! I dream about that BBQ, green slaw and beans.

  2. I don't believe I ever ate there, but I do have some images of memorabilia from the stop.

  3. The Parsonage Bakery&Deli has moved to Downtown Jonesboro Arkansas
    The Parsonage 322
    Is located at 322 south main st.
    Can't miss it bright tree frog green building... Same great set up and food!


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