Pat's Place in Stuttgart is small town dining done right | Rock Candy

Monday, January 26, 2015

Pat's Place in Stuttgart is small town dining done right

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 4:21 PM

click to enlarge LARGE AND DELICIOUS: A basket of hand-battered onion rings is a fantastic start to a meal at Pat's Place. - MICHAEL ROBERTS
  • Michael Roberts
  • LARGE AND DELICIOUS: A basket of hand-battered onion rings is a fantastic start to a meal at Pat's Place.
When the onion rings hit the table, I felt a small pang inside me. Not because of anything the huge basket of crisp, golden-fried rings was doing per se — more because there's just simply nowhere making onion rings like this in Little Rock. Stuttgart, pop. 9,241: 1, Little Rock, pop. 197,357: 0. Those onion rings would be just the start of an excellent meal at Pat's Place down in the the duck and rice capital of the world.

More about those rings: they're soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and served with some of the thickest ranch dressing I've ever seen. And the batter doesn't slide off the onion, meaning that every bite is the perfect balance of batter-to-onion. Onion rings are one of my "picky foods," so when I find really good ones, it's a fine day indeed.

Meal time brought a pretty standard patty melt, which was just fine by me — the standard patty melt is exactly what I wanted. Fresh ground beef, grilled onions, melted cheese all squeezed between two slices of marbled rye; it's heaven on bread. Even better was the pile of house-made potato chips that came to the side, they were crunchy, thick and a nice dark golden brown that is the sign, to me, of a true homemade chip.

Others at the table got an assortment of goodies: chicken spaghetti, a huge Philly cheesesteak, a bowl of pasta salad with chicken, but I had eyes for only one thing: the dessert menu. You see, Pat's Place has something on the menu that is one of my great childhood loves, Four Layer Delight. Now I don't know if this is a South Arkansas thing, or if it's just the sort of thing you know about having grown up around the pile of church potlucks I've attended, but some folks around here don't know about Four Layer Delight. Take a crust made from flour, butter, and pecans, add a layer of cream cheese mixed with powdered sugar, and another layer of chocolate pudding, then a final layer of Cool Whip, top with a few more pecans — that's basically it. And it is amazing. My mom used to make me one every year for my birthday, and I'd eat myself sick on it. My mother-in-law makes a mean version, too, so I basically have it on tap whenever I want. But I don't think I've ever ordered it in a restaurant before.

This version was just great. A thick crust the consistency of shortbread was chock full of pecans, and the rich tang of cream cheese mixed well with the sweet pudding and whipped topping layers. I think maybe I was supposed to share with some of the people at my table, but I totally didn't. I only had one huge piece of it, see, and that's not nearly enough to be giving it around willy-nilly.

It's been awhile since I've been in an honest-to-god small town diner, and Pat's is a great one. The dining room was full, and for good reason: the food is fresh, the service is quick and the handmade desserts are so good that I'm still thinking about that Four Layer Delight several hours later.

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