Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Walking into Tommy's Famous in Mountain View is like walking into an Arkansas Times shrine. This publication first reviewed Tommy's in 1994, and given the quality of the food (and perhaps the dearth of high-level area competition), the restaurant ever since has been a consistent winner in the Times' Readers Choice poll.
The framed certificates touting Tommy's poll successes are ubiquitous on the walls in the small, funky-in-a-cool-way restaurant, and there are issues of the Times strewn almost everywhere, some current, some a bit older. Clearly this is a Times-friendly establishment, but no one was any the wiser the Times was back for another review.
The good news is that Tommy's remains top-notch in almost every way — still very award worthy.
However, do know that Tommy's doesn't have something for everyone: Don't hope for a salad (and therefore no ranch dressing for our companion, who likes to dip her pizza crust in it). There are no appetizers. And since Stone County is a dry county, there are no alcoholic beverages, though Tommy's does tout its bounteous selection of non-alcoholic beers. (The large O'Doul's neon didn't tempt us much.)
But what Tommy's does serve is universally strong: The pizza features a hand-pressed crust of medium thickness, with a liberally applied rich tomato sauce, high-quality meats and veggies the cooks don't skimp on, and a nice, thick blanket of mozzarella. We loved our House Special (cut into squares), which includes pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions and bell pepper ($7.25 for an 8-inch to $17.50 for a 16-inch).
The menu lists only four ingredient combos for calzones ($7.50), but you can order any selection of them you want for a small add-on fee. Like Tommy's pizza, the calzones are ingredient-and-cheese rich. And the crisp crust has a garlicky, herby kick.
Barbecue is the unexpected bonus at this pizza place. But it's definitely what you smell when you walk in the joint. And it's really good, too. Or at least the baby back ribs are. Lean, smoky and tender, they come seven to a half-order ($9.40) and are served with a vinegary, thin-ish sauce that has a bit of a kick. We also enjoyed the smoky beans and moist corn muffin. The slaw was chopped too finely and nothing special. We didn't try the pork plate or sandwich.
The table-advertised caramel fudge pecan cake ($4.95) isn't homemade, but it's large, rich, a bit gooey and addictive. We tried to leave some; we couldn't.
Another big plus is that Tommy's is just a cool spot. We loved the tunes — Bob Dylan and Todd Snider, Delbert McClinton and old Fleetwood Mac, Tom Waits. The non-Times memorabilia on the walls is compelling, too — a Clinton for Governor poster and signed photos from such noted celebrities as magician Lance Burton (Wikipedia says he's a big deal; who knew?).
Tommy's Famous is a family-owned restaurant that opened in 1991. We never knew Tommy Miller, but he apparently was a larger-than-life character. He died May 6, and just inside the door is a tribute area with pictures and a book where customers can record their condolences and memories.
His family carries on. And very well.