Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.
It's been almost two years since the self-described "modern diner" @ The Corner opened just below the offices of the Arkansas Times at the corner of Markham and Scott streets. Since we're often chained to our desk, trying to decipher the latest outrage from the Arkansas legislature, and often too lazy to pack a lunch, we've happily given the diner a lot of takeout business during that time. We're big fans. But with the introduction of a new menu, we decided to dine in several times over the last couple of weeks and man, oh, man is @ The Corner hitting its stride.
Breakfast may not be cheap — two of us paid $28 — but you won't leave hungry, either. In fact, depending on what you order, you might be left with enough to make the next day's breakfast.
But quantity isn't why you would eat at @ The Corner. It would be, in our case, that the cheese grits served with the Up & @ 'Em plate ($11) were more like a fluffy cheese grits souffle, light and rich at the same time. The toast, whole grain and buttered, was delicious — and who says that about toast? It's called birdseed bread by Arkansas Fresh Bakery, which supplies it to @ The Corner (along with its Cocoa Rouge chocolates, which you can pick up at @ The Corner for last-minute Christmas stocking stuffers).
The substantial breakfast menu also includes the Wafflewich ($10), a fluffy leviathan of a sandwich: a folded egg topped with melted cheddar cheese and a meat of your choosing, ensconced between warm, golden, maple-infused waffle quarters. Rather than bacon or sausage, we went with the beef bacon. The what? We, too, didn't know such a thing existed until virtually the moment we spoke its name to our server, but it was the right choice for a sandwich of this stature — fatty, smoky and more substantial than pig belly. Our Wafflewich came accompanied by a small army of perfectly cooked hash browns (they're closer to what some call "country fried potatoes" than their shredded Waffle House kin), which meant leftovers were a foregone conclusion.
In a nod to Canadian-born Kamiya Merrick, who owns @ The Corner with sisters-in-law Helen Grace and Leila King, the menu also includes The Canuck ($10), which is authentic Canadian bacon (more like pork roast than what you get on your pizza), cheddar, arugula and maple butter topped with an egg on Arkansas Fresh ciabatta, along with hash browns. Find also omelettes, pancakes (and pennycakes for the kids), breakfast burritos, the "energy bowl" (egg whites, turkey, goat cheese, sweet potatoes, Craisins and pepitas), oatmeal, a breakfast parfait, bottomless coffee and more.
At lunch, the Turkey Burger ($11.50) has long been our go-to; there's not a better one in town. That's still the case, even though it's been overhauled and no longer comes on a thick brioche bun. That's been substituted with ciabatta, which might make burger purists balk (but why are burger purists eating turkey?), and instead of lettuce and aioli, now you get a big smear of creamy goat cheese, some delightful red pepper jelly and dijonnaise on top of a juicy and flavorful turkey patty.
The Canuck ($9.50) returns on the lunch menu; this time with arugula, caramelized onions and honey mustard on ciabatta. It favorably recalls a variation on a porchetta sandwich and will be part of our regular rotation going forward. Ditto for the new house-cured pastrami sandwich ($10), which comes piled high with meat, sauerkraut, pickles and cheddar cheese. Our colleague also had only praise for the sweet potato sandwich ($9), a veggie version of the Canuck, with roasted sweet potato instead of Canadian bacon.
It's too bad @ The Corner is not open at night, especially late at night, because Big Daddy's Fried Bologna ($9) is the ultimate decadent gut buster you crave after an evening of indulgence. The bologna is about 3/4-inch thick, fried brown and served on heavily buttered and toasted white bread. The Corner Poutine ($5 or $10) is in a similar category. Among the uninitiated, it may inspire some skepticism if described in cold, denotative terms: Take a plate of rough-cut fries, piping hot, and top with cheese curds and brown gravy. But like so many comfort foods, the magic of this Québécois roadside staple has to be experienced to be appreciated. @ The Corner's poutine is superlative, layered in a fantastically rich, hearty, homemade gravy that binds the fries and melts the cheese. A staple of @ The Corner's menu, the poutine comes in two serving sizes; the large is ample enough to stand on its own for lunch, though it's probably best not to do so every day unless you're regularly cross-cutting spruces in the Canadian taiga.
@ The Corne
201 E. Markham St.
The diner does a brisk weekend brunch business on Saturday and Sunday. Also, don't forget to pop in when you need a sweet treat. There are regularly homemade cupcakes and cakes on offer.
7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards accepted, beer available.