In this week’s adventure we head out of the bustling metropolis that is Fort Smith to our quieter neighbor to the East, Barling. This little restaurant has been on my list since forever and a recent conversation with a friend brought it back to the front page. So, buckle up your best pair of Big Smiths, we’re heading out to eat catfish.
Located on Fort Street in Barling, is the long time home of Bob and Wanda’s Café. Bob and Wanda started this little food venture back in 1967 on what would become a 44-year run of serving food and fellowship to the people of the River Valley.
Bob and Wanda have since retired and left the business to be run by their many kids and grandkids. If you see anyone working at the restaurant, you can rest assured that they are more than likely relations. And when you step into the place, you’re as good as family. That just means that you’ll be treated with friendliness and more than likely leave stuffed to the gills and carrying a doggy bag (or box).
The place has the feel of a small town diner. Which is pretty much what it is. Old men meet there for coffee in the mornings. The pies are baked fresh by friends and family. And now, they serve breakfast all day. You can order a “slab of ham” if you want. Need I say more?
Now that we’ve hit the menu, let’s take a bite.
The sign out front says something about catfish. Plus, there’s a giant catfish painted on the wall above the register. So, ordering the catfish is a safe bet. From the breading down to the fresh tartar sauce, these fried fillets are friggin’ excellent. And the hushpuppies ... magical. They do something mysterious to them to make them so good. Maybe it’s the sweet cornbread. Whatever it is, pray that they don’t stop doing it.
The biscuits and rolls are top notch here as well.
Now, let’s see if you’re lucky. Do you feel lucky, punks? They have this rotating daily special menu they call the “Lucky Day Menu.” If you come in and see something on it that you want, if they have any left, it’s your lucky day. That, in and of itself, is pretty brilliant. I was lucky enough to get the chicken and dressing. Oh, my sweet lord, it was delicious. No Stove Top served here! For you out there who love to eat dressing year round, like myself, give this one a try. And it comes with some amazing mashed potatoes.
Overall, the main dishes knock it out of the park. The side dishes are just that, side dishes. Nothing too spectacular about them. The corn is just corn and the fried okra is just fried okra. Both are good, but nothing to write home about. That goes for the breakfast as well. It is solidly in the good breakfast category, but it won’t ever be the best breakfast of your life. And it doesn’t ever need to be. Being really good for 44 years beats being really great a few times.
If you’ve never ventured out to Bob and Wanda’s, give them a try. Especially if you love southern style family food. They’ve got it by the truckloads.
Until next week, good eating to you and yours.