Thursday, March 12, 2015

Surprisingly Large Burgers at Red River Cafe in Fulton.

The rain came down in sheets.  Outside, the green sky oozed over the windshield.  We were doing our best to get the hell out of Arkansas before the storm came, but we couldn't beat the rain.  The rain was beating us.

I'd been squinting through the wipers for two hours straight, and the strain was enough.  Other motorists who either couldn't deal with the rain or who thought they needn't drop their speed jockeyed past each other on Interstate 30.  We missed the Hope exit, our intended put-in, and white-knuckled on, hungry and already tired with five more hours of drive-time to go.

I spotted the big blue sign right before the Fulton exit, saw something red and white under the heading of FOOD and decided to take the exit.  Following the signs, we pulled up outside a long red bricked building next door to an austere old gas station.  I tried to dodge the deeper puddles for a spot where we could drag the least of the storm inside with us.  And then I shot this image with my phone, marveling at what appeared to be a still-working payphone on the outside wall.

Rushing in, cameras tucked under our arms, we stepped inside and found ourselves a table next to the window.  Thinking we were actually going to make it to Texarkana or further along before we actually had a full meal, we looked over the little wrinkled menus on the table for something quick to eat.

Now, I've been a little bit of everywhere, and I am used to burgers being flat from a griddle or round from a fancier restaurant... there was no indication one way or another here.  We both talked about what to order, and decided if we had leftovers, we'd take them with us.  I went for a simple double cheeseburger, and Grav
chose the Fulton Mafia Combo -- essentially the same thing with bacon, seasoned fries and a beverage.  Sounded good enough to me.

The rain continued to smother the lot outside the door.  A trio of kids, likely related to a member of the staff, played an old game console on the other
side of the restaurant, something that sounded remarkably like Galaga.  When a big wrecker truck came onto the lot, one of them shouted, and the three of them went to the glass-paned door and waved, eliciting a honk from the incoming vehicle.  Another wrecker passed on its way out.

I overheard our waitress talking with the cook a bit about the pie.  She'd come out, pull a pie from the case next to the register, cut a slice and put it in a clamshell box and take it to the back.  She did this again, and then a third time, this with the final admonition "well why don't you just bring the pan back here?"  I wasn't sure if the pie was being packaged for customers to come, or what, but I did note it was a chocolate meringue pie, and once that was gone there was a single pie left in the case.

The rain kept flowing on and on, pressing waves towards the building.  Grav reached across and touched my hand as we stared out into the gray.  A UPS truck pulled up, first with its passenger door to the cafe, then turning around and placing same doorway under the eve for the gas station next door.  A pair of tandem-trailer trucks performed a pas de deux in the mud by the road, carefully lining up where the drivers could converse through open windows without having to brave the soaking waters.

There was giggling in the back, that grew louder.  We sipped on our beverages, which had been provided to us in car holder-friendly 32 ounce Styrofoam cups, and kept looking out the window, until our waitress got our attention by setting plates down in front of us.

Well, golly.

Here were two burgers, each enough for two, standing tall on steak knives.  The patties were fat and moist, with bits of char on their flat faces.  Mine sat between its seedless buns, a ring of pickles and a single slice of tomato evident under
its cap.  A leaf of iceberg lettuce had been glued to the top bun with mustard, while mayo oozed from underneath the bottom patty. Those patties wore deep yellow slices of American cheese like tight trousers, all melty together.

And completely impossible to eat, due to the sheer height of the creations.

Grav's burger was much the same, except under his bottom patty was a layer of curly bacon, adding even more height to his creation.

After our round of photos and astonishment, I attempted to smush my burger flat enough to manage into my mouth.  This wasn't happening.  I pressed hard, but only succeeded in pushing some of the moisture out of the patties and imprinting my fingers into the bun top.  Our waitress provided us with forks.

And I'll tell you, rainy day blues
aside, these were awesome burgers with a nice flavor of black pepper and a little seasoning, some onion in there as well.  Our waitress claimed the patties weren't measured but they were easily half a pound each, leaving us with hefty amounts of beef to make it through.  We did not succeed.  

I might have, and I likely would have put myself at risk for rupture, had I not got to thinking about that pie.  So a slice was ordered, and we shot the pie before we closed the lid and slid it into the offered sack along with our leftovers.

Our beverages topped off and capped, we left, me going and jumping in the car and unlocking the doors for Grav to rush out and slide in.

That pie I ate about six hours later in a hotel room in Livingston, TX, exhausted from the trip and needing sugar in my system before we were to venture to our next destination, a restaurant called the Blue Duck.  The custard of the pie was rich, a dark chocolate custard with substantial heft, and the meringue was caramelized and sweet.

The Red River Cafe was a surprise to us, and that's a good thing.  We don't get a whole lot of surprises these days, so being able to pull out of the rain and into a table in a friendly restaurant is a real blessing.  We'll be back for breakfast at some point.

Red River Cafe
5279 Highway 67 West (I-30 Exit 18)
Fulton, AR 71838
(870) 896-2590

Red River Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. I drive past this place several times a week and have always wondered how the food was. OHMYYUM!! look at those burgers. I'm gonna HAVE to stop there now!! Did you see the Transformers Truck. I think it's Megatron, from the movie. (Not sure of the name, didn't see the movie) It's parked there, too. They own it.

    1. That would be Optimus Prime, I went to show with the guy who owns the truck stops son. It is from the movie, he has paperwork on the truck and all, it is pretty neat.

    2. That would be Optimus Prime, I went to school with the guy who owns the truck stops son. It is an actual truck from the movie, he has paperwork on it and all, it is pretty neat.

  2. Jessica Cowley AkinApril 6, 2015 at 2:19 PM

    The truck is Optimus Prime. They bought him from Universal Studios in Florida. Red River Wrecker and Towing AND Red River Cafe is a family affair owned by the Akin family. They also have a repair shop/impound yard in Texarkana at exit 7 just north of the Flying J truck stop.


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