September, 2006: Just a few notes about some of the places I dined at while in Hot Springs:
Exchange Street Cafe
107 Exchange Street
Hot Springs, AR 71901
While out walking along Bathhouse Row, it was a warm day and when I got hungry, I wanted something filling but not hot and heavy. When I saw their menu outside the entrance, I thought this is exactly it – their “Endless Lunch” where for $7.99 you can mix it up and get all you can eat of your choice of tossed greens or potato salad, with homemade soup and sandwich. You have to walk up a flight of stairs to get there, but it’s definitely worth the climb!
Manager Terry Miller (far left), said she makes all items on the menu fresh every day, so the selections change daily. She grinned when she said they almost named the restaurant the “Nothing Fried Cafe’.” Her vision was an “Old World Style with Southern Flair.” The combo definitely works! Her famous chicken salad is made frequently since it’s a local favorite – ordered here by a couple of regulars being served by cute & friendly Emily, a family friend. Her tomato basil soup is another often requested item. I tried that and her egg salad sandwich on croissant with a cool salad and it was so delicious – the perfect ticket to get me back out on the street for more sightseeing! As for the “Nice Lady Desserts,” ask her about the “secret” ingredient that keeps her carrot cake dense, moist and one of the most tasty I’ve ever had. Terry has lived in Europe and left the security of a government job to settle in Hot Springs 10 years ago. She said she learned life is “not about money, but about quality of life.” Why Hot Springs? Her reply “I live in a National Park with the cleanest thermal water in the nation – it’s a small town with a worldly feel and great history since the 1500’s.” She also runs the Abelard Inn, a Bed and Breakfast with only two rooms – another family affair tended with loving care. I really enjoyed meeting Terry – another woman not afraid to go for her dreams and make them come true on her own terms – you go girl!
505 Albert Pike
Hot Springs, AR 71901
501-623-9665 or 866-622-5273
Bill Clinton grew up in Hot Springs, and he said McClard’s Bar-B-Q was his all-time favorite BBQ place. You can trust him on this one! Scott McClard (standing) fixed me up with samples of everything I wanted to taste. As a Texan, I warned him I was picky about my BBQ, but I have to tell ya – I have never had more tender or tasty meat in my life. Easily cut with a fork, the brisket and pork were perfectly complemented by a spicy sauce that also satisfied the Cajun in me. The two seated here are hand rolling one of their most popular items – tamales made with their chopped beef – so good I could have eaten a dozen except I also tried their ribs, beans and coleslaw, and I was so stuffed by that time, I contented myself with buying a few bottles of their sauce for me and family members. Scott says the ribs & fries (real potatoes of course) and tamale spread seem to be the local favorites, but I betcha you can’t go wrong with anything you order here.
I got a kick out of reading how the McClards began to make their mark on the Hot Springs eating scene over 75 years ago and how they came across their now-famous priceless secret sauce. Check out their website for this tale and the many other reviews from far and wide.
Panda Chinese Restaurant
3620 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, AR 71913
Chinese buffets are among my favorite places to eat out – I like being able to pick and choose exactly what and how much I want. If buffets aren’t your style, you can also order from an extensive menu here. I asked the assistant manager, Kai, what were their most popular dishes. He said most people say they have the best egg rolls around. I had already decided that after a taste of one, but it was hard to choose my favorite between that and the spring rolls. He also said the shrimp, veggies & mushroom dish, the chicken broccoli and the catfish reel them in all the time. On the lunch buffet there were several seafood choices available, and at night they feature snow crab legs. Not being a seafood fan myself, my favorite was the spicy Szechwan beef. Go say hi to Kai!