Franke’s — an Arkansas institution since 1919
Franke’s is one of the oldest restaurants in this state and is still going strong.
With two full locations in Little Rock and a carryout facility downtown, the cafeteria-style restaurant is alive in well in 2011. Yes, the place has had a wildly varied set of locations over the years in that it was originally located downtown and spun off into several locations after the original restaurant shut it’s doors in 1960 — Hot Springs, Fort Smith, McCain Mall in North Little Rock and the gone (but not forgotten) University Mall in Little Rock. Today, you’ll find the restaurants Little Rock locations at Franke’s in Market Place at 11121 N. Rodney Parham, Franke’s Downtown at 400 Broadway — also the location of “Sack It” by Franke’s.
It goes without saying that a restaurant with the history of Franke’s has lasted all these years for a reason. Franke’s, simply put, serves what you could loosely define as Southern cooking and more accurately call Arkansas cuisine. The cafeteria-style layout of the place means you get to shove your tray down the line, see everything available and try to resist the urge to grab all the food you see and spend yourself into bankruptcy before you get to the cash register. One with a little self control will find it’s possible to eat well for around $8 and eat like a horse for twice that.
What does Franke’s offer? You’ve got fried chicken, ham, fried and baked varieties of fish and a number of assorted entrees. While there are plenty of tempting entrees at Franke’s the king of them all is the roast beef — it’s slow-cooked to the point where one can easily cut it with a fork and is served hot and swimming in its own gravy. Throw in a couple of servings of home cooked vegetables — purple hull peas, green beans, carrots and the like — and you’ve got a substantial meal.
Ah, but there’s more. You’ve got various salads (traditional green ones, regional favorites like macaroni salads, etc.) and a selection of breads that is nothing short of impressive. Yes, grab those yeast rolls all day long, but at least try the fried corn pone. It’s got all the goodness of unsweetened cornbread, but the dough is fried in the shape of a disk rather than baked and comes out dense and great without butter or whatever else you tend to put on cornbread.
Ah, and then there are the deserts. Kids have gravitated toward the curbed Jello for years, but there’s more than that available. If you’re open to suggestions, try the egg custard pie or the very good sweet potato pie (another regional favorite).
Yes, variety is key at Franke’s and most everyone can find something they like. Want something else to like? How about the best customer service to be found anywhere. We’re talking about people who go out of the way to make diners feel welcome and hustle around helping customers get set up at their tables and making sure no one’s stuck pouting at an empty glass.
If you’re in central Arkansas and you’ve never paid Franke’s a visit, then shame on you. If you’re visiting the area, make sure to stop in and experience a wonderfully unique restaurant that is one of the best in Arkansas or anywhere else.
Oh, and make sure to visit Franke’s on the Internet.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.