I am generally a fairly pleasant guy. But there a few things which I absolutely loathe: Oompa loompas. Grocery carts with rickety wheels. Ke$ha…and malls. Yes, that megatropolis of merchandise and make-up, the teenage parade of hormone-powered high schoolers, the circus show of glamour, glitz, and gaudiness. I am not a big fan of malls. However, I am also bound by matrimony to a woman whose heart rejoices at the mere whisper of shopping and shoe stores. Thus, I find myself skulking around a seemingly endless stretch of one-day sale wasteland more often than I would otherwise care to do. Perhaps if one could only find that thin silver lining around an otherwise ominous and incredibly gloomy cloud. Perhaps the promise of a decent meal could act as a soothing balm to an otherwise painful and torturous existence. But eating well in most malls is extremely difficult…and central Arkansas shopping centers are no exception.
If you are doomed to spending an afternoon at a central Arkansas mall, do your best to convince your captor that all shopping can be done at the McCain Mall in NLR. For myself, this mostly involves convincing my wife that whatever she’s in need of can be found at some outlet other than The Gap…but just do what you need to do to get there. Here’s why:
The food at McCain Mall is, generally speaking, not overly impressive. This is not destination dining. But diligent and patient shoppers may find that some meals to be had here are actually quite good, perhaps even warranting a return trip when shopping is not required whatsoever.
First off, if you enjoy meat in tube form, go to Mr. Dunderbak’s. This newly resurrected, quasi-German restaurant has returned with much fanfare and excitement on the parts of long-time central Arkansas residents. Frankly, I have mixed feelings about the place. Their sausages are, without a doubt, worth scoping out. When you approach Dunderbak’s, you’ll first notice the large flat-top in the front of the house, grilling up dozens of sizzling, succulent sausages. The sounds of spattering sausage grease and searing pig flesh is music to the ears of any respectable carnivore. Apparently, they have vegetarian hot links, which I can’t speak to, but the ones filled with dead animal are fantastic. A sizable list of sausage options is listed on the board. Each comes in a soft bun and can be topped with a handful of toppings including sauerkraut, grilled or raw red onion, ketchup or mustard. As far as sausages to select, you can’t go wrong with the Italian. It’s darker in color, but is laced with fennel and oregano, the herbaceous mixes adding a lovely flavor to the tender, juicy meat. The traditional Polish dog is similarly delightful…bright red and spicy, it’s perfectly suited for a crown of kraut and mustard. Each link is grilled fresh, with a faint char on the delicate, snappy casing. If you are in the mood for something to satiate your sweet tooth, Dunderbak is importing baked goods from the lovely Silvek’s Bakery in Hillcrest. And yes, a bakery in a Kroger is shipping to a brat house in the mall…hey it works, trust me.
I’m less impressed with Dunderbak’s pretzels. Though they are made fresh during the day, too often I’ve found them to be tough, overly chewy, and rather bland. You can get the “deluxe” version, with cheese spread, summer sausage, and pickles, but I don’t feel this improves the outcome all that much. The cheese spreads are surprisingly bland, lacking much sharpness or richness. Honestly, I am much more enticed by the pretzels at Pretzelmaker around the corner. While not outrageously good, they are almost always served warm, soft, and with the right amount of salt. Have you ever walked past that place without being seduced by the smell of fresh pretzel and melted butter?