The first time I scooted up on Shorty's, I was on a whirlwind tour of the state, trying to shoot as many amazing pies as I possibly could. It was February 2nd - Groundhog's Day - and Shorty's was the sixth of 19 restaurants I'd visit that day (18 of which I shot pies at; the 19th, the Lavada Sale Barn Cafe, had no pie out when I dropped in). I'd just left KJ's in Judsonia and was set to head to Searcy for six shoots before the end of lunch. I was flying.
I'd never been to Providence before. I've skirted all around it but the quick shot up Arkansas Highway 157 was an area I'd somehow missed. It was cool and crisp - a mere 33 degrees (better than the 17 I'd woken up to in Hardy a few hours earlier) and lunch was just getting underway.
Because I was covering so much ground, I needed to work fast. My normal anonymous efforts were already out the window. I walked in, stepped over to the register and asked the lady if I could shoot the pies. Just like that. She went and got the owner, who said absolutely! and invited me into the back to see what she had. As I said. Just like that.
This lovely petit lady, Terry Treece, showed me what they had for the day - meringue pies, in particular chocolate and coconut and peanut butter meringues.
I could not have gone without noting one particularly different thing about Terry. See, people are people to me, and we all come in vastly different shapes and sizes. I for one happen to be a bit on the mammothian side, standing five feet nine and with a more than ample amount on my frame. Terry on the other hand is the reason the restaurant has its name. She's just four feet, ten inches tall. It's even mentioned on the menu. She started the restaurant in 2007. She's always there - sometimes her husband helps, sometimes her children, and sometimes her friends. Just something that seems relevant to this story.
Because of the speed at which I put together Another Slice of Arkansas Pie, I didn't get much of a chance to go back and enjoy or absorb many of the restaurants I visited. Indeed, the only reason I had found Shorty's is because the week after Christmas I spent a great deal of time compiling the list of places I needed to try to visit, mostly from recommendations but some from poring over Google maps, looking for restaurants, making phone calls and searching the internet to see if there were pies to be had. Shorty's was one of those places. I added it to my list of must-revisit places.
It took me a few months. I found I had about an hour of floating time between one stop and another on my most recent trip to Cherokee Village, and I had Grav along. We needed lunch, and I knew just a place.
Terry spotted me right off the bat and asked "you're the pie lady, right?" before we even sat down. I grinned.
This time I had more than ample time to view the menu and make decisions. Like many other single restaurant communities, Shorty's offers a wide spread that includes breakfast, burgers and dinners. I was fiddling with the idea of a salad, actually (I have wanted produce so much this summer, and have probably eaten my weight in tomatoes, avocadoes and watermelon) but then I caught sight of the pizza burger and had to have one.
Grav, though, fixated on two things. I told him to go ahead and get both. We'd have leftovers, sure, and that was all right.
I noted a basket of wildflowers on the kitchenette.
It took a little while to get everything together, as it should when you're dining in, but soon our plates came to table. And here was my pizza burger.
Now if you haven't had a pizza burger before, that's all right - they're not very common any more. I've noticed them quite a bit in the Arkansas Delta region - which is about 20 miles from the rolling plateau on which Providence sits - and I've usually encountered them at restaurants in small towns. They were created in Muskego, Wisconsin by Paul M. DeAngelis Sr. in 1953. Unlike the pizza burgers of today, which are usually burgers with marinara sauce sometimes sandwiched between pizza buns, these are breaded beef patties with a blend of Italian spices that give the patty the flavor of a pizza. Some come with a bit of marinara between the crust and breading. This version did not. Terry offered me whatever I wanted on my burger - I chose tomato, lettuce and a little mayo.
I got my order with onion rings, and just look at these delectable, gnarly rings. Nice.
My lunch was good - but Grav's was phenomenal, as he kept repeating. He had ordered a fried bologna sandwich, and this one came with two slices of fried bologna on white bread, the way God intended.
He liked it. But what he really loved were the beans.
"Too many places are afraid to salt their beans," he said between bitefulls. "Or they don't put a good salt pork in them, or they're sweet. This has a really good flavor of salty ham."
Terry told us the beans are put on to simmer and they're always made in a huge batch. They're very popular with customers, even during the hot of summer like this particular visit.
The beans came with a square of just barely sweet yellow cornbread, which some might have crumbled into their beans but which Grav enjoyed on the side, breaking off bit by bit and pulling each through the top of a packet of margarine. He kept expounding to me how extraordinary the beans were, and I pretty much consider him an expert. I have to live with him; I understand how the man enjoys his beans.
We didn't pick up pie this time, just to keep from falling into the post-lunch drowzy, but Grav's made me promise we'll come back next time we're through. He says he'll only get the big order of beans.
Me? I'm wanting to come back for breakfast. Shorty's pancakes are eight to ten inches in size, and the menu advertises - I kid you not - a pancake smothered in chocolate gravy. I mean, I have to try that, right?
You'll find Shorty's on the west side of Arkansas Highway 157 north of White County Central Schoos and just south of Providence Road. It's open Monday through Saturday 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except Wednesdays, when it closes at 6 p.m.) and is closed on Sunday. Check out the Facebook page or call (501) 729-4777 for more information.
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