Summer has arrived in Arkansas, and with the warmer weather comes a craving for outdoor eateries and food trucks. One of my favorite four-wheeled kitchens is Natural State Sandwiches, located behind Columbus House Brewery on North Street in Fayetteville. The truck itself is not ostentatious; it hides behind its North street neighbors and is only open on weekends.
Though a tad off the beaten path, Natural State Sandwiches has attracted somewhat of a cult following among food-truck lovers . The truck has an inventive seasonal menu which rotates constantly based on the availability of local produce. There’s always an array of exciting and interesting flavors. The sandwiches themselves are huge and filling thanks to a generous cheese and greenery. These gargantuan creations are a triumph of meat and vegetable Tetris, tightly bound in neat white paper that’s central to the meal’s structural integrity. Each sandwich is bagged unceremoniously with Natural State’s house-made potato chips that stain each paper sack with the satisfying reminder of their flavor’s humble and greasy origin.
Among my favorites are the Berry Love, a towering heap of greens and toppings roughly the size of my head. The Berry Love features sweet herbal goat cheese, succulent strawberries, refreshing cucumbers, surprisingly spicy and crunchy pecans, and a giant, deep-fried onion ring that sits like a crispy fried crown on a mess of fresh greens. Everything is squeezed between two slices of freshly toasted local bread. The sandwich is dense but fresh, bursting with flavors from every corner of the garden.
Another favorite is The Harvester, which tastes and looks like the contents of an entire farmers market compressed into a single sandwich. Goat cheese, local asparagus, carrots, and a hard-boiled egg accompany salad greens on toasty whole-wheat bread—and yes, there’s another onion ring. The veggies are cooked just enough to be a bit soft, but still maintain their essential veggie essence and crunch. The soft cheese melts around the onion ring and binds the components of the sandwich together for a mass of fresh veggie-goodness.
Natural State Sandwiches has a knack for combining ingredients that I wouldn’t necessarily pair (onion rings and fresh berries, for instance) into a delicious and cohesive (in taste if not in texture) lunch-time treat. Natural State’s onion rings are large enough, and fried enough to give what would otherwise be a very salad-y sandwich a satisfying, meaty heft. The golden-brown rings play up the surrounding flavors and add a crunchy bite and deep fried flair the every sandwich that they grace.
Every week, the truck offers a diverse and creative menu that showcases local breads and produce combined in interesting and delicious sandwiches like the Apple Pie Grilled Cheese, Ozark Cubano, Beet Freak, Guacamole Bird, and Salty Swine and Melon. Each gigantic sandwich is exciting and satisfying, and my only regret is that I don’t have a bigger mouth.