Located just off U.S. Interstate 40 north of Conway, Morrilton is the county seat of Conway County in the heart of the Arkansas River Valley and the home of a treasure, Atkinson’s Blue Diamond Café.
The café was originally opened in the early 1970s and has been owned by Gary and Karen Atkinson, and Earl and Pat Eichenberger since 2004.
“We’ve been at this for 14 years and we have met many great people,” said Karen, who serves as the restaurant manager. “We love serving our customers and being a part of this great community.”
She said the great restaurant staff can often predict what regular customers will order before they say a word. And, I don’t doubt that as on the day of my visit many regular patrons were enjoying lunch and talking to the attentive staff.
The Blue Diamond Café offers many appetizers, but the top sellers are their fried dill pickles and fried jalapenos. Both are made fresh and never frozen. The fried pickle breading recipe was handed down from Myron Sweeden, a previous owner of the restaurant. The fried pickle chips have a great spicy flavor. The order is served with a side of house-made ranch dip that accentuates the pickles’ great flavor. The fried jalapenos had a unique sweet flavor, followed by a spicy kick. These little treats are served with a side of Blue Diamond Café cheese dip that is perfect for dipping.
The restaurant’s cheese dip and salsa were developed by testing recipes with the Atkinson’s church group. “Everyone in our group would prepare different dip recipes, and we would decide which one we liked best,” Gary said.
The Cuban sandwich is a Blue Diamond Café special recipe featuring the restaurant’s on-site-smoked pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on a pressed and grilled hoagie bun. This sandwich sounds different and it is. Different and great!
The grilled chicken wrap is an option that is lighter than a sandwich, but big on flavor. The wrap’s warm, grilled flour tortilla is loaded with delicious cubed chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and spicy ranch dressing.
I had never tried an egg on a hamburger until my visit to the Blue Diamond Café. Wow. The café’s Breakfast Burger is a must-try. The tasty burger was topped with a fried egg, pepper jack cheese, Petit Jean bacon and chipotle mayonnaise on a fresh Kaiser bun. Customers have been known to tell the servers to “bring on brinner” (breakfast merged with dinner) when requesting this tasty creation.
The restaurant proudly serves Petit Jean hot dogs and Italian sausages. A favorite is the Dandy Dog, a Petit Jean hot dog hand-dipped in the restaurant’s secret batter and deep fried until golden brown. I was told it is the ultimate corn dog.
Daily specials are offered at lunch and range from Mexican chicken to chicken-fried steak to chicken spaghetti. Vegetable choices include fried squash, fried okra, corn nuggets, baked beans, a side salad, green beans, creamed potatoes, a baked potato and coleslaw.
The Blue Diamond Café recently began offering select “take and bake” meals for customers to enjoy at home. Karen said they are very popular.
Ice cream treats are huge sellers at the café. Gary enjoyed a banana split when we talked. Karen made me a chocolate shake and a cookie butter shake to go. I consumed both tasty, ice-cold treats with a smile on my drive home, as they were the perfect way to top off a delicious meal.
If you are looking for a diamond in Arkansas, then search no farther than Atkinson’s Blue Diamond Café. They have a little bit of everything and a whole lot of good food!
Dining recommendations? Contact Rob Roedel at firstname.lastname@example.org