Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
A person can get a good, big, breakfast cheap at Dave and Ray’s Downtown Diner, and that puts it ahead of some eating places. You can order a la carte — eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy, cottage fries, grits, toast, pancakes, etc. And two kinds of gravy for your biscuits: cream and sausage. How many places offer that?
Ray Jones, an accommodating co-owner, explains, “Some people don’t eat pork. They don’t want pork in their gravy.” For a big breakfast eater, the $6.50 all-you-can-eat buffet is the best buy. Downtown can use another place like this.
There’s another all-you-can eat buffet at noon — $7 Monday through Thursday, $8.50 on Friday, when one of the offerings is fried catfish, which seems to be sort of a signature piece at Dave and Ray’s.
The building on West Capitol Avenue has been used as an eating place for several years. Ray and Dave Bisceglia, who’d worked at restaurants but never owned one, bought the place a month ago. “It was an opportunity to get started,” Ray said. They weren’t necessarily looking for a home-cooking place but that’s what became available. Ray does the cooking. Dave is the out-front guy. Ray is from Benton, Dave from West Virginia. They both used to work for Regas.
Dave and Ray’s does burgers and other sandwiches too, not to mention salads, but the buffet is what most people are here for. On a recent day, the weekly menu showed that the meats for Monday were beef tips and rice, smothered steak, fried chicken and lasagna; for Tuesday, Salisbury steak, liver and onions, Mexican chicken, chicken and dumplings and fried chicken; Wednesday was meat loaf, chicken livers, pork chops and fried chicken; Thursday, turkey and dressing, barbecue, chicken-fried steak and fried chicken; Friday, fried catfish, grilled Cajun fish, fried shrimp and fried chicken. Friday seems to be the busiest day. Whatever day you go, watch out for the parking meters. On that stretch of Capitol Avenue, they charge a quarter for half an hour.
The vegetables rotate daily from a list that includes mashed potatoes, fried okra, great northern beans, green beans, okra and tomatoes, pinto beans, sweet potatoes, cabbage, fried squash and more. Lunch at Dave and Ray’s is filling, and some of it’s pretty good. Dave and Ray’s is what it is, and we think there’s room for it downtown. It’s not a fruit plate kind of place.
As we said, it’s not all buffet either. Of the sandwiches, the eight-ounce patty melt and the Philly cheesesteak are among the most interesting. “We try to do a little bit of everything, to cater to all different appetites for lunch,” Jones said.
The place doesn’t look like much either inside or outside. You have to be able to overlook that if you go there. Maybe if Dave and Ray’s has success, it will spruce up a little.
Dave and Ray’s Downtown Diner
824 W. Capitol Ave.
Dive into the biscuits and gravy at the breakfast buffet.
6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Inexpensive. Beer and wine permit on the way.