Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fill 'er up

Posted By on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 9:29 AM

CONVENIENCE & MORE:  Cheese omelet at Red Oak Fillin Station
  • Kat Robinson
  • CONVENIENCE & MORE: Cheese omelet at Red Oak Fillin Station
I like recommendations. I’ve been asking for quite a few lately, and my Facebook fans have been very receptive and generous with theirs.

*By the way, did you know there’s now an Eat Arkansas Facebook fan page? Go check it out!

I recently asked for breakfast recommendations for Hot Springs, and several readers suggested I try out the Red Oak Fillin Station. Now, first off, it sounded like a convenience store to me. Second, I’d never been there. But I was willing to get up early-early one morning and get down to Hot Springs to check it out. And I’m kinda glad I did — because the place isn’t quite what I expected.

  • Kat Robinson
Now, yes, technically it is a filling station. There’s a couple of pumps out front. And it’s a convenience store, because you can get all those things like drinks and cigarettes and motor oil and Little Debbie snack cakes there.

But when you walk through the door it’s a little different. There are several dining room style tables and chairs set up around the south side of the room, and short bar stools at a wall counter, and a menu. And sit-down service — that surprised me.

  • Kat Robinson
As I said, I got up very early one Tuesday morning to head down to Hot Springs. The sun came up while I was out on the bypass, and I carefully found my way down Carpenter Dam Road with a blazing sunrise coming up. I pulled in and looked around a little and walked on in to the counter — where I was told to go sit down, someone would be right with me.

A young man came and brought me a menu, and I looked through the offerings. The menu claimed it was an “Old Fashioned Good Food Menu.” That’s setting a high standard. The breakfast menu contained pretty much the standards I’ve seen all over the state — flapjacks, omelets, ham and bacon and sausage and biscuits and gravy — though the listing for Pigs in a Blanket ($1.09 each) caught my eye.

I was hungry, and I just wanted something simple, so I went with the Red Oak Omelet #1, a cheese omelet with taters and toast for $5:25. My waiter brought me some iced tea and I sat down to wait.

  • Kat Robinson
There were a couple of young men sitting at the bar alongside the window, drinking sodas out of bottles and chatting away about some sort of domestic squabble one of them was having with his wife. I looked around and noticed the giant elk head above me. There’s all sorts of strange taxidermy inside, over the John Deere green and tin roof décor. It’s… well, it sets the scene.

  • Kat Robinson
Didn’t take long to get my order together. The cheese omelet was both stuffed and topped with Cheddar cheese, folded envelope-style, a little fluffy but more on the flat side. The Cheddar was overwhelming, but I like Cheddar so that was fine with me. Toast was… toast. What can you say?

  • Kat Robinson
But I really liked the taters. They were cut up home-style, irregular chunks that had been either baked or cooked without turning in a skillet. They had a nice crust to one side of them, crunchy and substantial, that was quite tasty. The liberal use of salt and pepper meant I didn’t have to add any myself. And the tea? It was strong.

I did look through the rest of the menu, and decided one of these days I’d make an afternoon of it and come back for lunch and a trip to nearby Garvan Woodland Gardens (about a mile to the north). There’s a 12 ounce Ram Burger that looks interesting, and a grilled black Angus steak sandwich. Of course there’s a Reuben. They also offer things like smothered chicken and fried catfish on their dinner menu — and there’s fried squash, corn nuggets and something called a Bosco stick on the appetizers list.

And they have a Frito chili pie — that’s worth checking out any time.

You’ll find the Red Oak Fillin Station south of Garvan Woodland Gardens on Carpenter Dam Road south of Hot Springs. (501) 262-0400. And they have a Facebook fan page.

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