Grav and I were in Batesville for a shopping expedition to the lovely not-so-secret fabric funland of Marshall Dry Goods. We wanted a light but delectable lunch, but found that Elizabeth's downtown ws closed since it was a Monday. We went wandering.
That driving about took us by a few places we'll revisit, including the adorable Batesville Diner housed in a shiny Streamliner-style rail car on the east side of town. It was closed, though, and while we briefly considered Mama's, a quick Google search popped up a Louisiana-style eatery not far away.
The moment we walked in the doors at Natalie's, I knew I would not be disappointed. The restaurant's mix-and-match tables and chairs, eclectic art and such was plenty - and it's all covered in throws (beads) here and there. The ordering counter was at the back. It smelled like fresh baked bread and jambalaya. I knew we were going to get something special.
Restraint, I kept telling myself, as I pored over the menu board. Honestly, though, despite the initiative to eat more meat and nuts, I knew the moment I laid eyes on the board I was having some cheesy chicken spaghetti. There was no doubt about it.
There were a lot of other options - so many, in fact, that I did see one diner after another pause to collect their thoughts at the register. After all, having one of four sandwich salads to choose from is enough - but adding in the complexity of bready wrapping (wheat or white bread, sourdough bread or croissant, a variety of wraps, Ritz crackers or gluten-free crackers) and the side was dizzying. And that was just the combo. There were also the options of paninis - chicken salad, chicken club, a hot-and-spicy, a Reuben, turkey, veggie-Swiss and one called Smokey - and even a BLT. There was a Frito chili pie and then the three daily lunch specials, which in addition to the aforementioned spaghetti were an open faced pork tenderloin sandwich and a meatloaf sandwich. Whew.
Oh, there were also salads - and I briefly entertained the shrimp and avocado salad. There were also garden salads with turkey or ham, and a tomato stuffed with either chicken or tuna salad anyway you totally get the point and I should just get on about our experience.
After we ordered, Grav and I filled our cups and found a table, where I hoisted the little numeric card onto its stand. I've missed our more relaxed trips and it was a great chance to catch up over our experienced unshared as of late.
While we waited, I noticed a couple going through a consult for what may have been a family reunion or a wedding - I wasn't certain which - that Natalie's would be providing the food for. The restaurant, from what I gather, is just as popular for its takeaway food as for what's offered in-house.
Our dishes arrived, and Grav started to grumble that I'd chosen better. This is a normal thing for us, so don't worry. I snuck a bit of his chicken salad after shooting his plate - said salad included in a tomato-basil wrap served up with tomato basil pasta. The pasta was surprisingly light - but the better wow was the chicken salad itself - the Cajun chicken salad, as it were. I'm used to this name for a dish being accompanied by red-spiced chicken but here that wasn't evident at all, not until that snatched bite which had its own bark to it in the form of the pepper jelly included in its makeup. In fact, the building heat was particularly welcome on a day where the temperature huddled in the 40s.
Mind you, I didn't have much chance to shoot Grav's cake. Once I'd shot it in the plastic he was into it before I could grab a shot. I did manage a pinch of my own and appreciated the cream cheese frosting, the ample amount of pecans and coconut and the sheer moist delight of the slice.
But I still had to deal with that pumpkin roll.
I was full. I really didn't have room for it and I was trying oh so hard to be good.
When we returned to Little Rock in the afternoon and picked Hunter up from school, she argued with me over the pumpkin roll's fate. She felt it belonged in HER belly. We ended up splitting it later that night. I'm kinda glad Natalie's isn't closer, or I'd have had several slices by now and would be all the worse for it.
You'll find Natalie's at 3050 Harrison - Arkansas Highway 69 - on the east side of Batesville. It's only open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but if you're out and about those hours it's worth a drop-in. For more information, call (870) 698-0200 or check out the restaurant's website or Facebook page.