- Kat Robinson
- LIGHT AND SPICE-FULL: Franke's Cafeteria's Cinnamon Cream Pie
If there were ever an unheralded pie place in Little Rock, I would suspect Franke’s would be it. The state’s longest continually operating family-owned restaurant (since 1919)
serves up not just all sorts of fabulous Arkansas fare, there are always at least a dozen different sorts of pie out and ready to go when you pass through the line. I can almost close my eyes and count off what’s in line in the case… almost always the same order… Lemon Meringue, Pecan, Sweet Potato, Brownie, Custard, Chocolate Pecan on top and all the cobblers and cream pies on the bottom — banana, chocolate, coconut, Key Lime, strawberry pie topped with whipped cream… sometimes there’s another sort here and there thrown in for good measure, seasonal pies like cherry or blueberry or such. Always so many pies.
But there’s one pie Franke’s offers that I have seen nowhere else, outside of the occasional family gathering. That amazing pie is the Cinnamon Cream.
Oh, certainly I have tried all the different sorts of pies. I do like the denseness of the Brownie pie with its topping of marshmallows and the almost frothy cream of the Coconut Cream. The Lemon Meringue is perfectly performed, and the pecan a smooth Karo-nut symphony of Southern delight.
But that Cinnamon Cream is a house specialty. I have missed it a time or two — coming at dinner when Franke’s has run out for the day. There was a brief time it wasn’t actually out on the bar. I choked back my emotions and made another decent yet not quite as good choice.
If you’ve had it you know what I mean. It’s impossibly light, barely cloying and yet the most perfect representation of a cinnamon roll in any other medium I have come across. There are all the flavors, the cinnamon and nutmeg and butter, all delicately balanced and layered into a housemade shell. From the bottom up it’s graham cracker, cinnamon, a sweet vanilla custard and cinnamon, a lighter custard and a frothy whipped cream and a little more cinnamon graham crumble on the top.
It might appear to be tiramisu-like. It is not. It might appear to be a cross between a banana pudding and banana cream pie. It is not. It is, in my mind, the best use of cinnamon in a pie shell. And I have yet to be able to replicate it perfectly.
That’s why there have been times I’ve dropped in and passed through the line, past the congealed salads and the entrees and peas and such, just to get a piece of pie in a Styrofoam box to take home with me. It’s a very special treat. It comes recommended.
You’ll find Franke’s Cafeteria in the Market Street Shopping Center on Rodney Parham in Little Rock — and also downtown in the bottom of the Regions Building at Broadway and Capital. For more information check out the website.