Cotham’s Mercantile – An Arkansas Adventure
While on my recent “Retirement Grand Tour” with my sister, Judy, we were so very fortunate to be able to visit with my niece (Judy’s daughter), Jen, and her family in Little Rock, Arkansas. Among the many activities we were able to share was checking out various local eateries and enjoying fun time with her son, Vaughn, who happened to turn 13 while we were there. I am here to tell you that Tillie’s Girls definitely made their mark on Little Rock!!!
Over our three-week visit I was able to check several things off of my “Never Tried Before List”. One thing near the top of this list was fried green tomatoes. This dish has always fascinated me and I figured that the best place for a first taste would be in the South.
I came to be a tomato lover late in life. In fact, I didn’t like them at all until I started growing my own in just the last 5 years or so. When I discovered how great a good tomato could taste I would go out of my way to hunt down heirloom varieties. I’ve been a convert ever since!
One of our adventures in Little Rock involved visiting the Toltec Mounds as a field trip for Vaughn. He is able to earn extra credit in a couple of his classes by visiting historic sights or various activities that are related to what he is studying at any given time. Since Tillie’s Girls are always up for adventure, we made a day of it.
On the way to the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park in Scott, Arkansas, we decided that we needed to have lunch in order to fortify us for our adventure. Upon the recommendation of a friend of Jen’s, we went in search of Cotham’s Mercantile, also in Scott and we were not disappointed.
After driving right past Cotham’s at the strenuous insistence of our GPS, we got ourselves turned back around and parked in a lot across the street. On first inspection of Cotham’s Mercantile, we began to wonder what in the world we had gotten ourselves into.
From the outside, Cotham’s does not look like the locally famous eatery that it most certainly is. The building is quite old and unkempt looking but that is exactly what makes it so charming. Once you step into Cotham’s you are dazed and amazed by the unknown number of things that fill the space. The walls are covered with old time mercantile items, some of which defy description. Bear in mind that Cotham’s did indeed start life out as a store for the local farmers in 1917. Among the thousands of items on display, we recognized, scales, hubcaps, license plates, several stuffed waterfowl, photos, tools, farm implements, display cases filled with all kinds of oddments, and more photos and more tools. I imagine the items that we could not recognize were parts and pieces for farm machinery useful in times past.
After oohing and aahing over all of the stuff, we got down to the serious business of deciding what to eat for lunch. Cotham’s Mercantile is known for its Hubcap Burger, which is indeed almost the size of a small car’s hubcap. It certainly took up about 90% of the plate it was served on based on some of the tables around us.
We decided on a variety of dishes and then shared them around our table. We enjoyed, in no particular order of deliciousness, fried catfish, onion rings, fried pickles, hushpuppies, corn fritters, fried jalapenos, huge salads with tons of fried chicken piled on top, French fries, a small cheeseburger, and the much-anticipated Fried Green Tomatoes. The pickles, jalapenos, and tomatoes were coated in a wonderful blend that included cornmeal and were utterly and truly wonderful. The cornmeal added extra crunch to their deep fried yumminess. The corn fritters were to die for and we could not convince anyone to share the recipe, In fact, one of the waitresses confessed that the cook won’t even share the recipe with her.
In truth the entire meal was not only yummy but more than generous in portion size. We probably could have ordered half of what we did and still been stuffed. Oh well, now we know for next time. As far as ticking the fried green tomatoes off of my list, I discovered that they are a great way to enjoy my newfound love of the lovely little fruit and one that I am looking forward to trying again.
Evidently Cotham’s has become so popular that they now have an outpost, Cotham’s in the City, in Little Rock. I plan on checking them out the next time I find myself visiting Jen.
I’m Shirl and I’m part of the Tillie Moon trio. The other two partners are my sister, Judy (13 years my senior), and her daughter, Jen (10 years my junior). Together we make up one terrific team. Each of us has our own singular talents and skills and what one of us may lack, the other two more than make up for. Read More