Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Waking up to Frontier Diner

Posted By on Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 10:09 AM

Walking into Frontier Diner early on a Saturday morning, you're greeted by the affable, seasoned waitresses hefting large plates of food and pots of coffee. "Sit wherever you'd like," you'll likely hear, so you'll make yourself comfortable at one of the many padded booths or tables within this small antique of a diner. Maybe you'd prefer to sip your morning beverage from the comfort of a bar stool where you can easily chat up the other solitary diners eating, reading their papers, and complaining about some atrocities enacted by the government. Look around and you'll likely notice a large number of silver-haired regulars, spreading butter over browned toast, eating large amounts of bacon and sausage and doing things their cardiologists would generally advise against. The tables are stamped with advertisements from local salons, doggy daycares, car tires, they're all there for your viewing pleasure while you enjoy your breakfast. Frontier Diner is a slice of Americana, the kind of place you feel like you belong even if it's your first visit. The waitresses may or may not be named "Flo" or "Lou Ann," but you wouldn't be surprised if they were. They wear their smiles as proudly as they wear their grease stains.

On my last visit, I was feeling like a hearty breakfast, the stick-to-your ribs kinda plates that can leave you feeling satisfied well into the afternoon. The breakfast menu lists a few house specialties, the like the grilled “breakfast” pork chop platter, breakfast croissant sandwich, French toast, or eggs and smoked, cured ham. But the chicken fried steak and egg breakfast really spoke to me. I think the best time to eat chicken fried steak is in the morning, especially when it's served with a runny, golden egg to help finish off an already solid dish. This breakfast included a hearty-sized portion of breaded chicken fried steak, two over-easy eggs, hash browns, and a biscuit with sausage gravy. My dining companion was pining for pancakes so he had the short-stack with whipped cream.

The chicken fried steak was a decent representation of this classic southern favorite. The breading was crispy and golden brown, the underlying steak was sufficiently tender to easily be sliced through with the edge of a fork. It's not a mind-altering chicken fried steak (which I don't believe I ever had before) but it was tasty enough to warrant a repeat order. The eggs were done perfectly, likely the result of Frontier's veteran cooks spending countless hours at the flattop, turning out hundreds of eggs a day. The whites were soft and tender and when cut into, the yolks ran like a golden river released from the confines of an inhibitory dam. The hash browns were crisp but a little under-seasoned, nothing a sprinkle of salt didn't help. The biscuits are well done, fluffy and golden, with flaky insides that are rich with butter. Some may prefer to enjoy each item separately, but I tend to mix each part with its neighbor...steak and egg, egg and biscuit. They love each other, let them play together.

The buttermilk pancakes arrived piping hot, screaming for a dollop of whipped butter to grace their steaming surface. The two manhole-sized flapjacks were simply adorned with a swirl of whipped cream and we topped them off with maple syrup and butter available at the tableside. They weren't decorated with blueberries, chocolate chips, or nuts...they were simple mixtures of flour and water, but they were wonderful.

I don't have the time or the coronary arteries to eat breakfast like this every morning. But every once in a while, it's nice to mosey into your morning slow and easy, enjoying casual conversation over a warm plate of food. It will take you a bit longer than that value-menu Egg McMuffin, but it's certainly time and money well spent.

Frontier Diner
10424 Interstate 30
Little Rock

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