by Kat Robinson
*Okay, honestly, I meant to go try their breakfast — and I will, eventually. I just couldn’t get motivated enough to get out of the house this morning to make it happen.
In passing, Belwood Diner doesn’t look like it’s open. It’s in a small beige building with a drive-thru window. From the outside, there’s very little going on. If it hadn’t been for the cars in the lot, I would have probably just driven on past.
Inside, it’s a restaurant that time forgot… or, more likely, that everyone else forgot while time marched on. The drop ceiling has issues. The climate control is provided by a couple of somewhat noisy window unit air conditioners. The floor is concrete. That being said… well, read on.
There’s a specials board on the far wall that’s easy to spot when you come in. Today it boasted Chicken Fried Steak as an entrée, along with a “cold special” of taco salad and sides that included mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pinto beans, buttered carrots, salad and slaw. I did notice that coconut cake was mentioned, as were apple and coconut pies. Considering that I just gorged myself on a couple of days in the Ft. Smith area (I’ll be talking about that later, too), I knew pie was not an option. So I went for the other big good-looking special on the wallboard — the stuffed green bell pepper.
My waitress was an older lady, almost silent in her approach and mild of voice. She asked me what I wanted and I told her coffee. I needed a pick-me-up. She shuffled to the kitchen, procured a cup of coffee and a cup of iced water and brought them to me. I gave her my order and she shuffled back off.
The crowd… well, it wasn’t much of a crowd. The lunch rush may have passed. It was around one in the afternoon and there were two tables full of people and a couple of one-sies like me there, too. The tables were bantering back and forth about things. I listened to a conversation about a trip to Branson that included lake activities, the Baldknobbers and a little wonder at the better-than-expected show at the New Shanghai Theater.
“We didn’t think they’d be any good,” one lady was saying, her voice rising and falling in that typical rural Pulaski County dialect that sounded like a four beat metronome and a kick on the third. Tat tat tat-tat tat. “All of ‘em, a bunch of kids. But they were good.”
I took a stab at the sweet potatoes. I wasn’t very impressed, but I didn’t need to be. They were from a can in their own syrup and they were hot enough, just not spectacular.
The cornbread muffins, though, were pure Arkansas cornbread — white, no sugar, a little pliant and a lot mealy. They cried out for margarine and they had their piece of soaking time with the juices from the bell pepper.
I paid $5.05 for the meat-and-one-veg, but could have had two veggies on it for $5.85 or three for $6.50. My coffee cup never got past half-empty. And I had great entertainment listening to customers talk.
Can’t find much of a listing out there for the place, but that’s fine. I surmise the constituency of such a diner comes from regulars who tell other people where it’s at; that’s how I ended up darkening the door. And I do plan to go back. I’ve been told it’s a great place to grab pancakes or an omelet.
You can find Belwood Diner north of I-40 about half a mile on the left on MacArthur Drive. It’s only open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Breakfast ends at 11 a.m. They do take call in orders, too at (501) 753-1012.