Well, I had to go and do it. I had to find out about Say McIntosh’s new place. So I went.
I’m still mourning the loss of Madea’s - it was a great place to get a reasonably priced home cooked lunch with particularly Arkansas sorts of food, like smothered rabbit and ox tails. But progress… it’s a bugger.
The latest foray into the restaurant business by Robert “Say” McIntosh and his similarly named son once again features Say’s famous sweet potato pie. If it didn’t, well, that’s inconceivable.
The place has been cleaned up and remodeled since the departure of Madea’s. New laminate has been set on the floor, the ceiling and wainscotting has been whitewashed and the walls are a deep but vibrant shade of red. Neat tables with red plastic tablecloths dot the restaurant floor. I ordered at the counter, but by the time I left orders were being taken at the door.
I was planning to order the Fried Chicken ($8.95) but when I was told the vegetables weren’t going to be ready in time to go with it, I changed my order. Dinners like the chicken, the Fried Pork Chop ($10.95) and the Fried Catfish ($10.95) come with two sides, corn bread and onions and tomato slices. I was a little disappointed -- the three vegetables offered are greens, yams and “peas & okra” and the menu proclaims all to be Arkansas farm grown.
Instead, I ordered the Sliced Beef Sandwich ($7.25) which comes with a side and a 20 ounce lemonade. I sat down and relaxed while waiting.
It did seem like everyone was waiting - but it was just 11 a.m. and the restaurant had just opened. One of the staff guys came out and offered free slices of sweet potato pie to those who were waiting. We all had our drinks. Say’s lemonade is bragged on all over the menu, and it’s pretty darn good, very smooth and just a bit tart with a couple of hunks of lemon and a maraschino cherry in the drink. Nice.
The food seemed to come out all together for the five or six orders all placed around the 11 a.m. hour. I saw a couple of other folks had gone for the barbecue. I’d gone for that beef sandwich along with some onion rings -- other choices include French fries, fried okra, potato salad, cole slaw and BBQ beans.
My order came up and I took it out to the table. Boy. Those slices of beef brisket were tender -- not so tender as to fall apart but just enough to feel the texture, and soaking wet. The sauce itself doesn’t seem spicy at all at first, just good and hearty and savory and not too sweet.
The onion rings are nice and crisp, thickly battered with a cornmeal-based batter. Maybe a little too much batter but that’s okay.
So, I can’t get away without talking about the pie. Most long-time readers have probably had a chance to sample what many consider to be Say’s greatest achievement. The pie has not changed. It’s still strangely and impossibly decadent. There are notes of what could be orange juice and Karo syrup in the pie, a tartness that goes well with the mild flavor those yams bring to the table in the first place. Unlike store-bought pies, Say’s pie is almost unnaturally orange and smooth as pudding. It almost glows in sunlight. Is that an odd thing to say about pie? Perhaps. Sweet potato pie is the only pie on the menu and it’s $1.95 a slice or $9.95 for a whole pie. It doesn’t come with whipped cream or ice cream or anything else. And that’s fine, since it holds its own so well.
Along with the barbecue and dinners, three burgers are listed on the menu -- the Lil’ Robin ($6.75), the Big Robert ($7.75) and the Big Bad Say ($14.95). I didn’t see any burgers ordered while I was there. But the Big Bad Say may be the new big burger in town. From what I’m told, it’s served up on a 6 ½” wide bun, is over a pound of meat and takes four slices of tomato to span the patty. Anyone interested in trying it out? Take a photo and send it along. I want to see that.
While I was there I did notice there was a big wipeboard on an easel -- the sort that specials are written on. But it’s blank. Then again, the restaurant did just open up and I’m sure they’re still working out the kinks. It’ll be interesting to see how this particular enterprise goes.
You’ll find Say McIntosh’s place over at 2801 West 7th Street. They’re open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. I saw a good number of people come through and pick up phone in orders while I was there. You can call one in to (501) 664-6656 or fax it to (501) 664-6612 if that’s your druthers.