If you travel much outside of the “big city” (Little Rock). I’m sure you’ve heard of Oark Cafe in Ozone, AR. Everybody loves it, a “must stop” if you’re in the area. But have you ever heard of Catalpa Cafe in Ozone? Just a few short miles from Oark Cafe? Me neither…until recently. There isn’t too much about it online (only two Yelp reviews, before I add my own, for example) However, everything I found online looked and sounded delicious, and way more fancy than what you get a regular cafe/ country restaurant. So, Drew and I are camping in Ozone on a rainy, cold day and decided to go give it a try since hiking was out of the picture. Spoiler alert: Oark Cafe has nothing on this place.
Here’s the breakdown:
Tucked away down a lengthy dirt road between Hwy 21 and the “Pig Trail” (Hwy 23), it is not the easiest to come across. However, they do have signs leading the way. Catalpa Cafe may be off the beaten path, but it is very worth it.
The inside is small, with only about 5 tables. The owner, Randy, cooks everything behind the counter. So, you can see, hear, and smell your meal making it’s way…which I always enjoy. At the time we arrived (a Sunday at 1:00), it was not crowded at all. However, Randy let us know that on Friday nights and Saturdays, there may be a small wait.
The first thing you notice when you walk in is the dessert display. Today, there were only 3 pies: Apple, Coconut Cream, and Sugar-Free Cherry, $3.50 a slice (all completely made from scratch, of course). However, things are quite different in the summer season when more people are traveling the area. Usually, this dessert display is full of at least 6 pies.
It is important to know that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Catalpa Cafe is closed. They are open Thursdays 11-4. Fridays 8-7 (8-8 during Spring and Summer) Saturdays 8-4, and Sundays 8-4.
They serve breakfast each day they are open and lunch. Dinner (special entrees and sides that vary each week) only served on Fridays.
The menu changes constantly here. Randy says he cooks what looks good on his shopping outings. Love that! However, on this “lunch only” Sunday, there were a few burger options (ex: the most basic 1/2 lb burger with one side is $7.75. Other option examples include a Ghost Pepper Burger with bacon and pepperjack cheese for $8 or a Patty Melt for $8)
Other options are sandwiches other than burgers. (examples include: a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, swiss, avocado, tomatoes and red onion on a toasted ciabatta roll, called the Catalpa Clucker; or the B.L.T.C.A.: a bacon, lettuce, tomato, swiss, ,and avacado on toasted sourdough)
However, on Fridays, there are no sandwiches or burgers. Instead, a fancier fare is offered where you choose an entree (things such as spaghetti carbonara, ribeye steaks, fried catfish, salmon, shrimp, frog legs, meatloaf, and Korean beef have been offered) and three sides (grilled asparagus, side salads, rosemary roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower, and so much more are some offerings you may choose from)
Smoked Brisket Sandwich, $9
Description: With sauteed mushrooms and onions and pepper jack cheese on a toasted ciabatta roll. Comes with one side.
*Noted: I got no cheese on this sandwich
I was nervous to try a brisket sandwich, because I have been burned by dried-out brisket all too-often. Luckily, this was no where near the case here. My enormous sandwich had THREE very thick pieces of juicy, tender, peppery brisket. Topped off with a few grilled onions, though they were out of mushrooms for the time. (Didn’t bother me, the sandwich was fantastic without it.) I was offered bbq sauce, so asked for it on the side. The sweet bbq sauce did taste wonderful with the sandwich, so I will go ahead and get that added next time. While the ciabatta roll was very large, it perfectly soaked up all the juices and still held the sandwich together until the end. Great choice of bread here. While the sandwich was so tasty, I knew I could finish it off….I couldn’t. It really was a lot of food for $9. I had to take about 1/3 of it home. Happily, it tastes just as good, if not better, cold.
For my side, I got the homemade coleslaw, which was delicious! Not too much mayonaise, and a good flavor to balance out the smoked meat. I even added some to my sandwich, which I enjoyed.
Pulled Pork Sandwich, $9
Description: With bbq sauce, coleslaw, and cheddar on a toasted ciabatta roll. Comes with one side.
Drew got this sandwich, and as delicious as mine was, his was even better! The heaping pile of pork, just barely sauced in bbq, contained crispy ends that were still juicy as well as plenty non-fatty, but absolutely juicy, tender, delicious pork. The pork laid on a bed of that tasty coleslaw. And the ciabatta roll held up just as well with his sandwich as it did with mine. This was probably the juiciest sandwich I have had….in the best way. I may have to get this one again on our next visit.
Drew got the pinto beans for his side, which include some meat, and were very tasty.
Needless to say, he/we finished off his sandwich.
We spent an entire hour here, not just eating, but talking with the owner/ cook/ waiter, Randy. And this guy is amazing. Not only is his food creative and delicious, he is about as genuine as they come. In fact, he even gives a completely free, Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving day each year (with dessert included). Why? He wants to encourage community. And he really enjoys helping people and making people happy.
If you want a very filling, very scrumptious meal, served by a great person, come visit Catalpa Cafe.