Plate lunch from paradise

I have been asking myself the same question all afternoon: “Why have I never been to BJ’s Market Cafe in North Little Rock prior to today?”

There’s nothing I like better than the traditional Southern meat-and-three lunch. And the one I had at BJ’s (they don’t use periods — i.e. B.J.’s — on their business cards, so I won’t use them here) was equal to anything I’ve had in Central Arkansas.

For me, it was fried pork chops with greens, squash and sliced tomatoes. All were excellent. Dining companion Bobby Tucker had the chicken and dumplings. That was my second choice. And dining companion Blake Eddins (didn’t he used to play basketball somewhere?) also had the pork chops.

No one had any complaints. And everyone had dessert. I had the egg custard pie, the piece de resistance that caused me to be sleepy all afternoon.

The place was packed. Other “vegetables” offered today included great northern beans, corn, fried potatoes, cole slaw, pasta salad and potato salad. You have to love living in a place where pasta salad is classified as a vegetable.

Desserts included coconut pie, chocolate pie, blackberry cobbler, the aforementioned egg custard pie, strawberry pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, lemon icebox pie and strawberry cake.

If you don’t order the plate lunch (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t), the menu offers a chicken fried steak, fried pork chops, chicken tenders, a hamburger steak, a ham steak, a catfish fillet dinner and a jumbo shrimp dinner. The sandwich menu ranges from hamburgers to open-faced roast beef sandwiches.

The breakfast menu includes three types of omelets, ham and eggs, salt meat and eggs (you won’t find that everywhere), pork chops and eggs and something called The Texan. It consists of a ribeye steak, two eggs, home fries and biscuits or toast.

By the way, there is not even a listing in my dictionary for salt meat. Yankees!

You also have to love a place where an order of “biscuits and gravy with ham or salt meat” is listed under “Lighter Fare.” Only in the South would that be considered light.

There’s a great mix of people, from the “suits” who drive over from downtown Little Rock to the blue-collar crowd. You might refer to it as Homer’s North. The restaurant opens at 6 a.m. and closes from 3 p.m.

To get there, take the Prothro Junction exit off Interstate 40 and head north on Arkansas Highway 161. Look for the BJ’s sign on your left about half a mile up the road. Turn left off Highway 161 onto Market Plaza at the farmers’ market. You’ll see the cars if it’s near noon.

Please send along other suggestions for best meat-and-three lunches in Arkansas. It took me far too long to find BJ’s.

A final tip: If you get there at a time when you have your choice of tables, be sure to request a table that will ensure Whitney is your waitress.

11 Responses to “Plate lunch from paradise”

  1. Rocky Fawcett says:

    Rex: Reid and I eat at BJ’s every chance we get. Try the white beans some time. They are some of the best I’ve ever had. Also, one day they had sugar-free strawberry pie. That just didn’t sound American to me but I ordered it anyway. Am I glad I did. Probably the best strawberry pie that I have ever eaten. Call me next time you are going and we’ll meet.

  2. AG says:

    Try looking in your dictionary for salt pork instead of meat. As I remember that’s what Grandpa Sims always called it.
    I won’t print what momma calls it.


  3. John P says:

    Sandy’s over on 15th St next to Golden Eagle Distributors. $6.50 all you can eat except for the chicken fried steak, which will cost you an extra dollar for the second one. Great selection of veggies, yeast rolls, various pies. Every day except Wednesday there’s a choice of chicken fried steak and another meat – Wednesday gives you hamburger steak.

    Let me know when you want to go!

  4. rexnelson says:

    AG: My grandmother always referred to salt port as “sawmill turkey.” I never could figure that one out since it was pork. Oh well. A plate of sawmill turkey and eggs sounds good right now.

    John P.: I love Sandy’s. I likely will do another blog post soon on it. I consider it a buffet, though, since it is not an order-off-the-menu meat-and-three joint. My only problem with Sandy’s is that I generally have a meat and five there — Rex

  5. […] time! Rex Nelson won a big account this week! How about some BJ’s Market Cafe to […]

  6. floyd says:

    Reading this reminded me that it had been too long since I had been to BJ’s. So I took a coworker over there today for lunch. I had meat loaf, mashed potatoes and fried squash and he had the catfish. Mighty fine. And then we got to visit with Governor Beebe on the way to the cash register. I guess I’m not the only person who was reading this blog this morning when he should have been working.

  7. David says:

    So Rex sounds like you’ve figured out a lot of great places to eat. Only thing is you’apparently limited yourself to just part of the state. I heard you on the Dave Elswick show yesterday and was appauld to never once here you mention, say Stone county or Mountain View. Here in Mountain View Tommy’s Famous Pizza and Ribs is one dandy place to put the feed bag on at. Then there is Izard and Baxter county to the north with some fine eating joints. It seems like you’ve been all over the state except north central and north east, at least from what you talked about on the Elswick show. Just wanted you and your fans to know we exist up here!

  8. Doug says:

    Huntsville, Arkansas: Granny’s Cafe. Outstanding blue plates (last Tuesday it was Roast Beef, Brown gravy or White Beans and Ham for the meat). They make their own chips. Rustic atmosphere and sassy waitresses. Plus, only a mile from the Faubus Motel!

  9. rexnelson says:

    David: I love Stone County. I hope to get back up that way soon. I was a bit to the west of you in Searcy County and Newton County recently. See the blog post on that trip — Rex

  10. neal says:

    David, you are so right Tommy’s Famous Pizza is awesome. We ordered both the ribs and the pizza one night. Only thing missing is a cold beer.

  11. Jason says:

    My personal favorites for plate lunches are Bobby’s Country Cooking on Shackleford, Homer’s on Roosevelt near the airport, the Frontier Diner along I-30 in front of the Highway Department and the Home Plate Diner in Bryant just off of Highway 5 at exit 123. I hit at least one of them each and every week.

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