Monday, August 9, 2010

Dinner on the Bayou

It says "Cotham Mercantile," I think.
 Saturday night we decided to have a little adventure (that is, we went somewhere we haven't been before, that was all of 30 minutes from our house) and visit the original Cotham's for dinner.  It is on the direct opposite side of Little Rock from Maumelle, but thanks to the modern invention of the freeway, it only took us about 30 minutes to get there.

Once you cross the Arkansas River, you are in an entirely different geological area - instead of hills and mountains, there are flat rolling plains and oxbow lakes, and this sort of bayou area (I checked with a native Louisianan to make sure I wasn't mischaracterizing it when I call it a bayou).  Even the trees are different down there.

It is sort of hard to tell from this picture, but that grassy area was fairly marshy, and the glint of white in the middle is water, a side branch of the river.

This doesn't capture just how wobbly the place looks in person.
Cotham's sits out over that bayou on stilts.  From the outside, it didn't look like it was stable enough to house a restaurant, and frankly, it was a place that we would have driven right past, assuming it to be an abandoned building, if we hadn't been warned. Apart from the people on the front porch and the parking lot full of cars, it really did look, umm, sketchy.  The building was a mercantile store in its past life, and was made famous by Bill Clinton and other Arkansan politicians during campaign seasons past.

Don't you just love that "paneling"?
Inside, it is all fake wood paneling, left-overs from the mercantile store, and kitsch. That hub cap burger really was the size of a dinner plate - we saw several go by, but didn't dare try it ourselves. We could have shared one, if we had so desired. The rest of the menu is pretty standard Southern - fried chicken, chicken fried steak, and fried catfish.

A rare moment when the tables weren't full.
I went with the catfish. It came with hush puppies (my first real ones, I think), corn fritters, and onion rings.  The only unfried part of the meal was the coleslaw, but since I don't really like coleslaw, I didn't eat much of that.  The catfish was really good - not dried out and over cooked or anything - and the sides were tasty. The desserts looked pretty good, and included fried pies and a Mississippi Mud Pie, but Benjamin wasn't hungry enough for dessert, and I couldn't quite tackle one on my own, so we abstained. Shame. Now we will have to go back.

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