Friday, January 21, 2011

The Country Village Cafe – Eating BBQ in a Southern Baptist commune.

Approx. four miles south of Star City, Arkansas, on U.S. 425

My companion had heard of “a great bakery and restaurant in Star City” from some friends, and was interested in trying them. Neither of us had ever had the pleasure of visiting Star City, Arkansas (I mean, really, how bad could it be?) So, with the theme song of “Gilligan’s Island” faintly playing in the background, we set off.

About an hour and twenty minutes later, we drove into Star City: population a little less than three thousand souls. And, now the disclaimer: this is a town that would be very, very easy to make fun of, and that seems a tad unfair. So, I’m going to try to resist. Let’s just say that we drove around looking for the “great bakery and restaurant,” and it didn’t take long (five minutes?) to circumnavigate the entire town and decide that my companion’s friends were obviously delusional. By the way, if you’re looking for great deals on thoroughly used house trailers (not the fancier “mobile homes”), Star City is your place.

Confused and frustrated, we stopped at a gas/”convenience” store, and “Lois” solved the mystery for us. “You’re looking (I’m not going to get into dialect) for the ‘Country Village,’” she said. “Go about four miles south toward Monticello, and you’ll see a sign on the right. Turn there, and then look for the lawnmowers.” She wasn’t kidding.

Fast forward: we find the place (and the lawnmowers), and step into an alternate reality akin to the Village of “The Prisoner” episodes from the Seventies. The Country Village is a collection of shops and restaurants owned and operated by families who all attend the same church – originally Southern Baptist, but now non-denominational and fundamentalist. There is a Country Village Steakhouse, Country Village Catfish house and Country Village BBQ place, along with a leather shop, watch repair, furniture store, toy shop, barber shop and, yes, bakery.

The steakhouse and catfish restaurant are open only in evenings, so our choice was made for us: BBQ. We went in, and I quickly noticed that all three of the waiters bore a striking (eerie?) resemblance to one another. So, I (acting the Gomer Pyle role) mentioned that fact to our waiter, and he said, “Yeah, those are my brothers.” Whew! No, Stepford Waiters in the Country Village, after all. The BBQ sandwich, beans and fries were just fine. Not great, but good. (A digression: my companion was less picky than I was. In fact, she thought the BBQ was quite good, but what does she know? She's originally from Wisconsin!) Worth a trip by themselves, no. But, as part of a Country Village experience, perhaps. And, the service from the three brothers was the nicest and most polite I’ve had in … maybe ever.

Our waiter worked four jobs at various places in the Country Village, and his parents own and operate the Catfish house. I was truly sorry that they didn’t open until 5p, but the siren song of Star City really wasn’t strong enough to keep us around that long. However, the bakery was open and doing quite a business. Again, another family-owned operation with parents and kids doing everything in the place. The baked items were high-quality and quite good, and we both came home with bags full of bread, blueberry streusel, homemade blueberry jelly, etc.

The Country Village is an interesting place. The folks there are exceedingly polite and seem to be happy with the choices they've made. And, it’s a popular destination in that region of South Arkansas. Almost worth a trip from Little Rock, but the operative word there is “almost.” However, if you find yourself needing a decrepit house trailer and decide to go to Star City, you could do a lot worse than head south of town four miles and look for the lawnmowers.


At 3:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have gotten something other than the B-B-Q sandwich. Their skillets are awesome. The Seafood Alfredo is the bomb. Also their Kajun Sausage is worth a try. THe Village Steakhouse is also worth a trip back from Little Rock. Their prime Rib is delicious, have that along with the Loaded Mashed Potatos and salad with their house dressing. And their service is the best.


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