- RIGHT AT HOME: Country-fried steak at Homer's West.
Many Central Arkansans who don't work or live nearby likely have never found it convenient to eat at Homer's. Even so, most everyone knows people who flock to the iconic Roosevelt Road eatery and have heard tales of the large plates of home-cooked meat and veggies as well as the white-collar, often political crowd that provides the unique dimension that makes Homer's Homer's.
So it only made sense that Katrina Vaughn and David Connell — daughter and son of founder Homer Connell — eventually would make the Homer's experience more broadly available. And it also made sense to put it in West Little Rock — but not too far west — and to be open at night.
Homer's West is about 10 mostly interstate miles from the mother ship and is a lunch-dinner place vs. breakfast-lunch at the original. The menu is largely the same. There are the everyday selections: a fairly predictable set of appetizers, several meal-sized salads, a nice selection of sandwiches (including Frito chili pie, an unlikely sandwich option), an excellent burger and 10 desserts.
And then there are the daily specials, which appear to be the favorite of most Homer's patrons. Fried catfish, country steak, fried pork chop, hand-breaded shrimp and a shrimp/catfish combo are available every day, and those are supplemented with three choices that are day-specific, including meatloaf, fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, chicken and dressing, smothered beef liver and a stuffed bell pepper, among others.
Those choices are also available after 5 p.m., as are three West-only dinner options: a 12-ounce ribeye ($20.99 with baked potato and salad), grilled mahi mahi and grilled chicken and shrimp (both $14.99 with two sides).
We first engaged Homer's West in a traditionally un-Homer's way: happy hour. Some of our favorite waitresses from the Flying Saucer have ventured west, and we enjoyed catching up with Stephanie at the bar as we sipped a couple of frosty cold pints of Diamond Bear Pale Ale, the award-winning beer brewed just a few blocks off the route from Homer's to Homer's. They're $2.50 during happy hour and $3.50 the rest of the time, cheaper than almost anywhere else.
Cheese dip and an order of fries for a fry-loving friend seemed likely logical appetizers. The dip ($4.39 for a small) was solid but pretty standard-issue, and the chips were a bit stale. Homer's serves crinkle-cut fries, which are an OK accompaniment for a sandwich but not so distinctive as an app. (We equate crinkle cuts to a bologna sandwich on Wonder Bread — classic in a way, but kind of white trash in another.)
We returned at straight-up noon on a Tuesday and hopped right on the lead special, fried chicken. It was among the best we'd had in ages — moist with a crisp, salty, not greasy batter. With two sides and a fabulous jalapeno cornbread muffin it was $6.99 for one breast (our choice) or two thighs and a leg. Add a wing for $1 or go for the four-piece mixed for $9.39.
Homer's country-fried steak ($7.89) starts with a hamburger patty vs. the usual cubed steak. It was tender, and the crust was light and not too greasy. The foot-long chili dog was just what you'd want it to be — a plump dog topped with chili, cheese, mustard, onions and slaw, a truly satisfying gut bomb for $6.99. The chili was a fine-textured blend; you wouldn't want to plow through a bowl of it, but it's perfect on a dog.
There are more good burgers on the market these days than ever, and Homer's serves one of them — a third-pound, hand-formed patty ($5.49 for a hamburger, $5.79 for a cheeseburger with chips) liberally dosed with pepper and quickly cooked on a hot griddle. It was juicy, tasty and came with all the right condiments.
What ties together everything at either Homer's are the sides — two come with most meals, and they are available a la carte for $1.89 or four on a veggie plate for $6.59. There are 15 choices, plus a veg-o-the-day, and some are real rock stars: the real mashed potatoes with gravy; the small, salty, cooked-down purple hulls, and the tender Kentucky Wonder green beans are our favorites. We also adored the fried potatoes and onions that were the special on our Tuesday.
None of Homer's desserts are homemade, but that doesn't mean they're not good. The fried pies ($2.99) are the best we've ever eaten. Made by Letha's Fried Pies of West Fork, they feature a much higher filling-to-crust ratio than most and thus are much plumper. Both the chocolate and peach pies were outstanding, and neither really needed the ice cream accompaniment that is offered.
We've seen on-line discussions comparing the two Homer's. Yes, the original location does have a vibe and a history that distinguishes it. But if you're after that good Homer's food, go to whichever location is more convenient for you and you won't be disappointed.
9700 N. Rodney Parham
5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Full bar, all CC