While we at Rock City Eats tend to focus on the food scene here in central Arkansas, we’ve discovered plenty of great eats all around the state, too. Arkansas’ highways, byways, and small towns are ripe with numerous excellent restaurants, dairy bars, drive-ins, and bakeries of all sort. In this regular feature, we explore some of these places and encourage you to pull over and sample some of the greatest food from “Around Arkansas.” Next up, a classic roadside eatery in St. Joe, AR…Coursey’s Smoked Meats.
Where: 152 Courseys, St. Joe, AR.
Pull Over: I don’t know why most people make the drive down Highway 65, but I do it to visit Eureka Springs periodically…a place near and dear to my heart. It’s a pleasant stretch of road, made even more pleasant by some good eats along the way. One joint getting plenty of attention on this drive is a splendid little meat and sandwich shop, Coursey’s Smoked Meats. You’ll likely see billboard advertisements for miles prior to its arrival, which is a good indication that you should pull over and see what all the fuss is about.
The Story: The smokehouse and store began building a reputation for fine smoked meats back in 1945, when Coursey’s was first opened by then owner, Lynn Coursey. The place originally became renowned for its excellent house-smoked hams, but has since expanded to a wonderful array of smoked products available for purchase. It’s hard to miss the place, really, as you’re traveling down the road. It’s right off the 65 and usually packed with cars, tour buses, and folks dining outdoors on the picnic tables. Inside, it’s a very humble affair, but the aroma of sweet smoked meat makes the entire experience altogether intoxicating.
The Food: If you’re just aching for a midday sandwich, something quick-n-easy to take with you for the drive, stop in for a simple DIY sandwich. They offer smoked turkey or ham sliced to-order with your choice of house smoked cheese. They throw it on white or wheat and you top it off with any of their offered condiments–pickles, mayo, mustard. It may be a no-frills sandwich, but the smoked meats are the real stars here and make it all worth consuming. You can also just nab some freshly smoked meats to go for later use. Ham and turkey, again, are sliced and sold by the pound. Smoked Swiss, American, and cheddar cheeses are worth trying, too. But definitely grab a pound of their remarkable bacon, too. It’s thick-cut and heavy with smoke…and it does wonders on a BLT.
The Price: Sandwiches will only put you back about $5 and they don’t skimp on meat. Smoked ham and turkey runs $8.50/pound, bacon is $7.70/pound, and cheeses run $8-11/pound.
The Verdict: It may just be the best reason to hop off the road if you’re traveling down Hwy 65. Coursey’s is a fine example of Americans putting their heart into something they are passionate about and producing a fine product as a result of it. It’s truly an Arkansas classic.