Once a Southwest Little Rock staple on 65th Street, Bobby’s Country Cookin’ is now a West Little Rock favorite for some of the best down home-cooking around.
A robbery and shooting that left Bobby’s owner, Terry Matyskiela, in a coma for nearly three weeks, led him when he had recuperated enough to work again to relocate the restaurant last year to West Chase Plaza, just off Shackleford Road and West Markham Street It’s also near the busy intersection of Interstates 630 and 430.
None other than KABZ-FM celebrity radio talk-show hosts Tommy Smith and Nathan Christian and their buddies swear by the place. (Interestingly, Bobby’s hasn’t gotten around to redecorating some of the signage that still advertises Smith at his former stomping ground, Magic 105.)
Now, Terry and his daughter, Chrissy, and some very friendly folks operate the cafeteria-style meat-and-two or meat-and-three joint, and a steady stream of customers come through the door over three-and-a-half hours at lunch. The room is spacious, the line moves fairly quickly, and the tables have these cute, tiny “Coca-Cola machine” napkin dispensers and the requisite hot sauces. Drinks come in wide-brim and large red plastic cups, and if you still need a refill, there are two handy stations.
When you lay out the “country cookin’ ” or “home cooking” claim in these parts, though, you’d better be good or you won’t survive long. Bobby’s does a solid-to-great job on everything dished up.
First and foremost is the fried chicken, which even near closing time is served up hot, crispy and perfectly fried. There is an art to that: Frying chicken below the prime temperature will leave it grease-soaked. Bobby’s fried chicken comes out moist and tender on the inside, fried to that perfect brown on the outside. Feel free to point us in the direction of fried chicken you think is better, because we think none will surpass this.
Another blessed discovery recently was the pot roast, which at too many home-cooking places can be tougher than an old leather shoe. The pot roast we tried here was fork tender and had a wonderful flavor, so there was no need for a heavy dousing of gravy.
Chicken fried steak with cream gravy passed muster and then some, while the sides of mashed potatoes and black-eyed peas were just as you’d expect.
Sometimes, Bobby’s may go too far to please. The meatloaf, a daily special on another visit, appeared dry at first glance, but this was mainly because the loaf was mostly meat (a big wedge of hamburger, it seemed) rather than loaf. There wasn’t the usual filling — lots of breading, onions and celery — we expect from meat loaf. There are better examples at other down-home cooking spots. But, if you like a big rectangular cut of seasoned beef, you just might be fine with this meatloaf.
Bobby’s usually begins the day with four meat choices as well as the usual vegetables favored by country-cooking fans — the list for the week is available on the restaurant’s website for those wanting to plan ahead. One of our party of three on day lucked into the last serving of cabbage, which included a piece of seasoning ham. Though the cabbage might not have been as firm as she likes it, she proclaimed it good. The green beans we tried were also seasoned nicely.
And, now, to the goodies, the absolute reason you must consider Bobby’s before most other lunch spots: the pies. On Nathan Christian’s recommendation, we gave the peanut butter cream pie a try, and were we ever glad for that. The creaminess is light enough on the light side to make you believe you’re getting away with a low-calorie dessert; so, just let us believe. The peanut butter is subtle. Bobby’s has lemon and coconut cream, too, and the lemon was just the right tartness (same level of flavoring as the peanut butter pie). We savored every forkful of cream and graham cracker crust.
Bobby’s makes all its pies, including cherry cheesecake and pecan, which are next on our list to try. And that will be very soon.
301 N. Shackleford Road
West Chase Plaza
Save room for the pie. Let’s repeat: Save room for the pie.
10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Inexpensive. Credit cards accepted.