Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
We have had more than our share of conversations, arguments and general ramblings at Frontier Diner over the years. The I-30 mainstay off Baseline Road isn't the sort of place you take a first date, but we like it for a good cup of coffee and the daily lunch special, whatever it might be.
It's nothing fancy, just your average stop along the highway with a good share of road signs and local memorabilia. The place is usually packed with locals, blue collar workers and the like grabbing a bite for breakfast or lunch.
We have been many times recently. One breakfast visit brought up the idea that we should try The Hog Wild ($7.99), advertised as "Two eggs, hash browns, biscuits, gravy, all on top a large slice of smoked cured ham." We were surprised that the plate we received didn't have all the items piled up in a way we'd imagined, but that was fine. The hash browns and biscuits were average, but the cook sure knows his eggs, scrambling a couple to the perfect custardy consistency for us.
What truly shined was the ham, baked in-house and hand-cut, not so smoky as sugar-cured sweet and a good inch thick. We're glad this slab of country goodness wasn't smothered under sausage gravy and other ingredients.
We also tried the French toast ($4.99) and were overwhelmed with eight triangles of brown battered Texas toast. The batter was unsweetened and nicely browned on the bread, and was just about more than we could eat.
Dining at Frontier Diner for lunch has its own advantages. We prefer to go early before the daily lunch specials have sold out. There's a wipe board full of them each day, and on it we have found many of our favorites, including purple hull peas, tomatoes and okra, macaroni salad, fried squash and such. The lunch special runs $6.39 for an entree, a vegetable and bread. If they have the chicken spaghetti, get it — it's creamy and welcoming and we love it. We also like the meatloaf, a brick of meat topped with a marinara-style red sauce served up with some mashed potatoes. Cornbread is slightly sweet and yellow and comes with plenty of butter, or you can choose a roll instead.
Take our advice about the "World Famous lb. Cheeseburger" ($4.99): Get it with beer-battered fries or onion rings. The fries are long and crisp while the onion rings are nice and soft inside. This is a working man's burger, a two-hander with all the traditional fixings plus your choice of Swiss, American or pepper jack cheeses. We usually choose the latter; the little bit of extra spice goes well with that unseeded bun and that mess of thinly sliced white onion on the bottom. The burgers are light on the seasoning but have that flavor that can only come from a well-used grill.
If we have any complaint about the place, it's that it closes too early. Frontier Diner closes at 2 p.m. during the week and at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and it's closed Sunday.
Check out that dessert board. Desserts are $3.29 and you never know what'll be up there. We've had a mighty fine apple pie a la mode and a piece of chocolate pecan pie. Our favorite so far was the Tiramisu cheesecake, like tiramisu but with layers of the sourish cheesecake in-between. There was enough coffee in it to jumpstart our afternoons.
6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Breakfast served until 10:30 a.m. Closed Sunday.