Hunter and I are starting out on our epic road trip, a research tour of US Highway 71 for an upcoming series of articles covering the route (follow us on Instagram with the hashtag #SpringBreakOn71). Because of our weird hours, we didn't get to dinner Sunday night in Texarkana until eight in the evening, at which point just about every locally created joint in the city had closed up and gone to bed.
In fact, you can listen to me and Rex Nelson and others rattle on about it on the latest issue of the Gravy podcast.
But that's not the Arkansas connection of which I speak.
Hunter and I ordered our food and had to make the mandatory sidetrip to the restroom, as all little seven year old travelers are wont to do. And coming out, we noticed a series of black and white photographs on the wall that immediately made me stop. Yep, that jarred a memory, something I should share with you.
This photo here?
Should remind you of this photo here.
And for good reason. The former is the El Chico in Shreveport, Louisiana, along US Highway 80. I believed it was opened in the early 1950s, though I am having a hard time placing the opening date since the original restaurant building is no longer there (or at least, the restaurant isn't in it any more).
The latter is our very own Old South Restaurant, the last of a great chain, situated on US Highway 64 in Russellville, Arkansas.
So, what happened?
I've mentioned this story before, talking about the Old South. But the kicker is this. William E. Stell of the National Glass Manufacturing in Fort Smith came up with this idea for a chain of restaurants where the entire restaurant - from the menu and concept to the furniture and the
But how does El Chico figure into this?
I suspect along the way, the two may have worked together to get both restaurants out the door and onto new locations. Both certainly seemed to spread quickly.
|Mexican Pizza kids meal at El Chico.|
Now I'm wondering whether that El Chico was originally part of the design, and when I get back home I'm going to go take a closer look. Because unlike many of the other original El Chico restaurants, this one's been operating in the same place along Interstate 30 for at least the past 40 years. I know... I remember!
|Old Fashioned Tacos dinner at El Chico.|
You'll find the El Chico we visited on the south service road of I-30 about a quarter of a mile from the Texas border.