Lunch at the dairy bar

We tackled the subject of dairy bars last July.

Well, it’s almost the middle of May, it’s getting hot and I needed a trip to a classic dairy bar.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of them left in our state.

For lunch today, I drove from my downtown Little Rock office to the Dairyland Drive-In. You cross the Arkansas River bridge on Interstate 30 and then head east toward Lonoke on Interstate 40. Take the Prothro Junction exit. Turn right onto Highway 161 at what’s without a doubt one of the tackiest interstate exits in Arkansas. Leave the cut-rate motels and and fast-food joints behind.

Look to your left. You’ll see Dairyland sitting there, like some vestige from the 1960s (which it is, having opened in 1963).

The lunch special — a hamburger, a bunch of the finest fries in Arkansas and a drink — will set you back all of $3.95 plus tax.

I sat at one of the four picnic tables on this sunny day and enjoyed my lunch as a solid line of loud trucks snaked down the road behind me. And because I felt like splurging, I ordered a medium vanilla milkshake for dessert.

The fast-food chains have cost us many of our independent dairy bars around Arkansas. I’m old enough to remember when there weren’t many chains outside of Dairy Queen. Growing up in Arkadelphia, an exotic road trip was to go to the Kmart in Hot Springs and then eat next door at the Burger Chef. It was a fast-food hamburger chain and, yes, that was indeed something worth driving to see.

My dairy bar of choice in Arkadelphia was a Dairy Queen that became the Daisy Queen when the owners presumably tired of paying franchise fees. It’s long gone.

These days, I make the short trip east to Dairyland for my dairy bar fix.

When we discussed this issue last summer:

– Dennis Byrd said the Fros-T-Treat at 1020 E. Grand Ave. in Hot Springs is worth a road trip. I’m hoping they still have the milkshake flavor of the month. If you’re in Hot Springs, please let us know what the flavor for May is.

– Kay Brockwell sang the praises of the Shake Shack in Marion, which has homemade pimento cheese (my mouth waters) along with excellent catfish on Fridays.

– State Sen. Shane Broadway put in a vote from the Kream Kastle Drive Inn between Benton and Hot Springs on U.S. Highway 70. Paul Johnson seconded the motion. And it gets my vote, having stopped there recently. Once things get even warmer, note that it’s near a great creek swimming hole. How can you visit a old-fashioned swimming hole without going to a dairy bar afterward?

– Searcy’s Frozen Delite received a couple of votes.

– I also put in a vote for the Salem Dairy Bar in Saline County. Dennis Byrd chimed in that they have a fudge fried pie at Salem along with fried pickles that make folks flock there.

There’s also a pretty good dairy bar in Marshall. It’s on the right as you head north on U.S. Highway 65.

And we can’t end this post without pointing out that my favorite dessert in Arkansas is now in season — the strawberry shortcake at the Bulldog in Bald Knob. I made the stop there several weeks ago on my way to Jonesboro for the annual meeting of the Arkansas Historical Association.

What favorite dairy bars of yours are we leaving out?

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15 Responses to “Lunch at the dairy bar”

  1. Rocky says:

    Rex: Can’t remember the names but there is a good one in Sheridan on the corner of the highway and another one in Monticello. Can anyone help me out with the names? Also, my all time favorite was the Tastee Inn in Arkadelphia.

  2. Gene Gates says:

    Ray’s Drive Inn in Monticello

  3. Ron Oliver says:

    Bulldog Drive Inn in Hampton. Try the chocolate milkshake.

  4. Dennis Byrd says:

    Don’t know what the shake of the month is for May, but I know peach is coming up in either June or July, and I promise you don’t want to miss that! Meanwhile, the peanut butter shake at the Fros-T-Treat ain’t half bad …

  5. Dennis Byrd says:

    A little off subject, but I just got distressing news that the Pig Pit Bar-B-Que at Caddo Valley outside Arkadelphia is no more. It’s now called “Fat Boy’s.” I once stopped at the Pig Pit on a trip from Nashville, Tenn., on the way back to my then-home in Texarkana to buy a couple of pounds of chopped pork (no beef served, of course). My son, en route to Dallas today, delivered the shocking news via cell. He decided against trying Fat Boy’s and went for the near-pedestrian cuisine at Cracker Barrel instead. Anybody know if Fat Boy’s can come close to the Pig Pit? Do they use the same sauce, etc. Inquiring minds want to know …

  6. rexnelson says:

    Dr. Byrd: I hate to lose the name Pig Pit, but the food at Fat Boy’s is good.

    Menu has expanded — catfish, smoked sausage, etc.

    I recommend you give it a try the next time you are down that way. Sam, who ran the Pig Pit for many years, still works most days.

    And it is owned by a Clark County boy, Tony Bell, who knows his way around a table.

  7. Burt says:

    The Yellow Jacket dairy bar is great in Sheridan. There is another good one in Mt. Ida on Highway 270 right across from Bob’s Food City.

  8. Kay Brockwell says:

    I will make a special trip out and see what the flavor is. Also, while you’re in Hot Springs, a trip to the King Kone on Malvern is not a bad idea.

  9. Lance says:

    Asher Dairy Bar in Little Rock!

  10. Milton says:

    Rex–Nice shout-out to the Daisy Queen in Marshall. I stopped at the Bulldog this week and brought a shortcake back to my better half. I had to have one bite, though–just as good as ever!

  11. AllenK says:

    I’m seeing a lot of my favorites mentioned on here! I’m proud to say I’ve eaten at most of the places mentioned. I worked at Daisy Queen here in Arkadelphia for Mr. Doyle Huff for several years in high school and college. I miss eating there and working there. My parents went there for many years before I was born too! I have a fondness in my heart for mom-and-pop burger joints as a result. My wife and I just ate at the King Kone on Saturday night,and it was the best burger I’ve ever had from there! We’re going to have to try the joint in Prothro Junction for sure,and the Frost-T-Treat.

    I’ll make a mention of Big Red in Russellville,and Mel’s Drive-In right on US 67 in Malvern. Sabrena’s Drive-In out on US 270 was my favorite anywhere,but it appears to have fallen by the wayside. Someone was going to re-open it as the Piney Pit Stop,but either it never got off the ground or is only open for lunch. The Pleasant Plains Drive-In is great as well. The same little old lady has been working there at least since ’95,but I haven’t been there since ’07. Gary’s on Highway 35 in Benton is good also. I could talk all day on this subject!

    I sure do miss the old Pig Pit from when Mr. Sam owned it. Fat Boy’s is good,but they cleaned the place up too much IMO. The classic old sign is gone from out front now also. It used to be a “joint”,but now it’s just a restaurant. A lot of the character of the place is gone now,but I do like their food.

  12. AllenK says:

    Rex,

    I guess you saw that Ms. Beverly Huff who owned the Daisy Queen with her husband Doyle passed away two weeks ago. I sure miss that place!

    The Dairyland would’ve gotten some business yesterday if it would’ve been open. I’m very intrigued.

  13. Roxanne says:

    What are the hours of operation for Fat Boys? I heard that it is a wonderful place to eat, and we may go there after the race this month. Hopefully, it will be open on Sunday.

  14. Roxanne says:

    Could someone please tell me the hours of operation for Fat Boys? Are they open on Sunday?

  15. AllenK says:

    Rex,
    My Dad and I finally tried the DairyLand a couple of weeks ago,and it is every bit as good as you described it. I would have to rate the burger way up on my list! Great atmosphere as well. The total for both of us to eat was a whopping $9.72. I just hate my wife missed out.

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