There is, among other things, an actual pie buffet at Grandma's House
See, back in 1991, Ernestine Shepherd opened the Blue Bird House Café right next to a scenic overlook on US Highway 71. Being on the east side of the road, its clientele often included Razorback fans heading north on game days. After all, Highway 71 was the busiest way to get from Little Rock to Fayetteville back in those days.
The richly blue painted building drew drivers off the road for good country-style vittles. For ten years it was a staple, but bad health forced Mrs. Ernestine to close the place down in 2001. The traffic drawn away by I-540 when it opened in 1999 didn’t help matters.
Eventually Mrs. Ernestine decided to put the Blue Bird House Café up for sale – and she had a buyer right off the bat – her own daughter, Elaine Bowlin. Elaine and her husband Jerry renamed it Grandma’s House Café, under the idea that Elaine wanted the place to feel like eating at your grandparent’s home. They painted it gray and they've had to expand it a couple of times.
It's very overwhelming to decide on what to eat at Grandma's House Cafe. Much like the family dinner at Thanksgiving, the choices are widely varied and there are big spoons everywhere, and what is one to choose? Unlike at commercial big buffet operations, the setting here with all its ancient china cabinets, linens, mismatched chairs and quaint family heirlooms encourages one not to waste food. Maybe it gives one the idea that someone will admonish them for not cleaning their plate?
To be honest with you, the variety of foods is not what I recall encountering at either of my grandmothers' houses, except on holidays and the occasional Sunday lunch when a preacher had been invited to dine. I suspect if I had been exposed to so much food at that point in my life, that I might not have exited adolescence and have died happy from too much amazing and rich food.
This food's the sort of stuff you should be getting from time to time at home, or at your parents' or grandparents' home. If you are deficient in such vittles, a visit to Grandma's House Cafe is in order. The fried chicken had that great buttermilk and flour flavor, where someone actually took the time to carefully place each piece in a hot skillet and turned it when it should be turned. The meatloaf was nice, compact and with the proper amount of ketchup on it (it may not have been my favored honey-cumin-brown sugar-ketchup combination, but I can live with that). And oh golly, I really needed the buttery fried cabbage -- it's been so long. I should fry cabbage at home, but it tastes far better than it smells sometime.
And here's where I have to get onto Grandma's House Cafe. See, there's the chicken dressing. My grandmothers, neither one of them, made dressing like this -- but my mom does, and I have never, never, NEVER encountered it elsewhere. I want to know who coerced the recipe out of my mother, because dang it, that was my birthright to have it FIRST, right?
The chicken dressing would never be mistaken for that strange Yankee concoction called "stuffing." This is a proper dressing with bits of sage and parsley and other herbs amongst the cornbread crumbled into its liquid base. Okay, so maybe Grandma's House Cafe isn't using grits like my mom does, but it's DANG close.
My kind hostess actually came by as I was daintily trying not to eat both half-slices of pie and suggested I try the chocolate cake, since it had come out very good that day. I had to resist. It was so hard, but I did.
The buffet is $7.75 during the week, $8.75 on Saturday and $9.45 on Sunday... and the breakfast buffet is $6.95. Do be sure to take cash, since Grandma's House Cafe does not take plastic. And do give yourself plenty of time to eat, because there's no rush at this lovely little place.
Hunter and I decided Grandma's House Cafe was the perfect place to dine on Thursday on our epic road trip along US Highway 71 from the Louisiana border to the Missouri State Line.
Now, most kids would be thrilled to have some ham or a chicken leg or the like for lunch. Not Hunter. She balked at all the meat choices and pouted until I started filling her plate with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and pickles, fresh tomatoes and stewed green beans. She turned her nose up at mashed potatoes with gravy and shook her head at macaroni and cheese. This Arkansas girl just wanted some vegetables, and she got them in force at Grandma's House Cafe.
She napped all the way to Terra Studios.
21588 South US Highway 71
Winslow, AR 72959