Stick with breakfast at Ozark 

Ozark shines in the a.m., but shadows fall over dinner.

We love the local joints, those little tucked-back places that only the townies know about. Finding one of those restaurants — full of work-a-day Joes rubbing elbows with judges, insurance agents and funeral home directors — is one of the great joys of visiting small town Arkansas. Even if the food isn't to die for, it's the only way to really feel like you've truly been to a place: by supping where the people who live there sup. There aren't many of that breed to be had anymore in Little Rock — those places where everybody knows everybody and the frycook knows your name if you visit more than twice. Life moves fast in the big city; too fast for waitresses who call you "hun" and want to chat about last Friday night's football game at the high school, anyway.

There are still a handful of places like that in Little Rock, though, and Ozark Country Restaurant is one. Snuggled just a half-block off Cantrell (which might well qualify as the Main Drag of Little Rock these days), it's still surprisingly unknown to many.

Kind of a non-chain Cracker Barrel, Ozark's breakfast is popular. Weekend mornings usually mean waiting for a table. On a recent Sunday morning visit, after the obligatory wait, the reviewer tried a short stack of their sweet potato pancakes ($5.59), while our companion sampled the Ozark Country Breakfast ($8.99), featuring a big biscuit, diced potatoes (which they inexplicably call hash browns), white gravy, two eggs and a choice of bacon, sausage or ham. Companion's breakfast was hearty and stick-to the-ribs good, with a nice-sized helping of thick-cut bacon, but it's admittedly hard to mess up breakfast food. Pancakes, though, are tougher to get right, and the ones we had at Ozark were a real treat. We've had the sweet potato variety elsewhere before and weren't impressed. These, on the other hand, were excellent: sweet, light, with a fine flavor of yams and a little cinnamon. Slathered with some butter and maple syrup, they started the day off right.

The restaurant now serves dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 5-9 p.m. The dinner menu (which is actually available for lunch, too, beginning at 10:30 a.m. every day) is fairly small, with just six meat-and-two entrees (all $9.59 each) and a spaghetti-and-Italian sausage offering ($8.59). From the dinner slate, we chose our tried-and-true choice whenever we see it on a menu anywhere: the chicken fried steak ($9.59), pairing it with black-eyed peas and steak fries. Our companion, meanwhile, tried the bacon cheddar burger ($6.59) with fries.

Our friend's burger was fine: big, meaty, with a generous slice of sharp cheddar, all served on a buttery Kaiser roll. With a squirt of ketchup on the side, it and the fries were soon devoured. The chicken fried steak, however, was a sadder story. What we were served turned out to be the cardinal sin in this foodie's book: the dreaded pre-formed patty, slathered in white gravy.

If you're thinking it sounds like Ozark managed to step on this reviewer's personal pet-peeve landmine, it did. It's more than just a quirk, though. The reason we always try the chicken fried steak when we see it on a menu is because that dish, by our way of thinking, is the canary in the coal mine of down-home restaurants. Everything you need to evaluate a restaurant (from care in preparation, to recipes, to the quality of ingredients, to how long since the grease in the fryer has been changed, to whether the service is fast enough to get it to you before it turns into a cold mess) is handily encapsulated in the humble chicken fried steak. Get a good one, and it's heaven. Get a bad one — burnt, tough, under-seasoned or over-cooked to the point of being like shoe leather — and you probably have a pretty good snapshot of what's going on behind the kitchen door.

All that said, in our experience, any place that sells you a "chicken fried steak" but can't even spend a couple of bucks on a cube steak to bread and fry just isn't gastronomically trustworthy enough to rate a second look. As an added affront, the black-eyed peas — a lowly legume which can rise far above its station if done right — were so bland that we might as well have been eating waterlogged lumps of Play-Doh. Even the chunks of ham floating amongst the peas seemed as flavorless as chunks of rubber. The steak fries were better, but were also devoid of any seasoning: no salt, no pepper. A friend who sampled the mashed potatoes and gravy recently said they were bland and no better.

In short: while the breakfast at Ozark Country Restaurant deserves a good bit of the praise it has received over the years, our advice is to stick with The Most Important Meal of the Day or their burgers if you visit. While our sample of their plate dinner offerings was admittedly limited, the coal mine canary croaked early, and a little of that particular bird's swan song goes a long way.

Go here for address and hours.

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Ozark Country Restaurant

  • Sad breakfast at Ozark Country Restaurant

    February 13, 2014
    Let down in every way. /more/
  • The 3 Best: Pancakes

    December 19, 2013
    Until it becomes socially acceptable to eat actual cake for breakfast, we’ll just have to settle for pancakes instead. Here are our favorites. /more/
  • The best restaurants in Arkansas

    February 15, 2012
    That rumbling sound? That'd be your stomach. Even if you've just eaten. After 31 years of running this poll, we can attest: It is impossible to read the list of restaurants Arkansas Times readers have selected as the best in the state and look at pictures of food at those restaurants and not feel hungry. /more/
  • Country time

    September 22, 2010
    Ask anyone who's been around Little Rock for a while where to go for breakfast, and chances are they'll send you to the Ozark Country Restaurant. Kat Robinson goes to see whether it's stood the test of time. /more/
  • More »

Related Locations


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Dining Review

  • Right at the corner

    The Restaurant at the Market dishes up date-night deliciousness.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Tastes right

    But Brave New needs a tune-up.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • La Ha forever

    The newly spiffed-up Mexican favorite still warms hearts, bellies.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Right at the corner

    • Your review matches our experiences. Eric, LouAnn, and occasionally Bubba all truly make one feel…

    • on September 21, 2017
  • Re: Tastes right

    • 'Diogenes - I'm glad you've had good meals there. However on Saturday May 28th 2011…

    • on September 20, 2017
  • Re: Tastes right

    • Big Fun you seem to be suffering from Pteronarcophobia :-)

    • on September 20, 2017

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation