The Wall Street Journal did a feature this week on Arkansas cheese dip, built around the state’s claim to be the dish’s birthplace, thanks to the long-ago owner of Mexico Chiquito. I’d give you a link, but the WSJ has a hard paywall and you’ve read most of the story before anyway. It included a visit to the recent World Cheese Dip Championship, which I helped judge and whose pro winner was a version from Scott McGehee, whose family dip pedigree is blue ribbon.
Anyway, as gory as the election has been, perhaps it might be a good time for a break. Food-and-travel writer Kat Robinson suggests a listicle. She’s compiled a list of 10 things you have to try in Arkansas. The list, with some honorable mentions and lot more details, can be found at her Tie Dye Travels website. In abbreviated form:
1. Fried chicken and spaghetti. Venesian Inn in Tontitown.
2. Arkansas Delta tamales. Rhoda’s in Lake Village tops her mentions.
3. Cheese dip. She leans toward Big Orange (one of McGehee’s restaurants.)
4. Eggplant casserole. Franke’s. Amen
5. Pie. She literally wrote a book on the subject, but goes first with Charlotte’s in Keo. The caramel pie.
6. Fried pickles. First made at a drive-in near the old Atkins Pickles plant, no matter what Texans say.
7. Smoked turkey salad. Burge’s in the Heights and Lewisville. Another loud amen.
8. Smoked meats. She mentions several, particularly Coursey’s in St. Joe. She omits Petit Jean products, perhaps because the company is not a store or restaurant but a major commercial producer. For my money, there’s no better ham. Or peppered bacon.
9. Buffalo ribs. Lassis Inn. Acquired taste. If you’ve seen the bottom-dwelling fish from which they are cut for frying you might be further dissuaded. I’ve never forgotten when my Aunt Luna drove me to Moro Bay from her home in Huttig for what she called “seafood” and I was served buffalo ribs. Not a happy childhood memory for a South Louisiana boy expecting shrimp.
10. Peck Salad. A legacy of the old Hotel Sam Peck, it’s served at Trio’s by Capi Peck and this gets my triple amen. Lettuce, chicken, bacon, toasted almonds and a slightly sweet vinaigrette. Someday Peck should bake up some of the bran muffins that I always used to get alongside the salad or the good gumbo back in the hotel’s heyday.
PS: Fear not. Barbecue makes an appearance in the second 10.