Hometown restaurants are treasures in communities across Arkansas, and the Polar Freeze in Walnut Ridge is one of these precious jewels.
Jack Allison has owned and operated the restaurant since July 1, 1958. The restaurant’s first owner sold it to Allison and told him to work hard and pay him as he could. Allison installed a jukebox back then and the revenue from its tunes paid the light bill.
“We basically have the same menu and food as when we started,” Allison said. “The Polar Freeze was a teenage hangout for years and years. And, today everyone loves to come back and bring their children and grandchildren to enjoy our restaurant.”
Allison’s love for his hometown of Walnut Ridge and the Polar Freeze is amazing. He lovingly greeted the customers by name and shared stories with many of them on the day of my visit.
“We try to put out a good product and excellent food,” Allison said. “Most importantly, we are always nice to our customers and make them feel comfortable.”
Of course, great food helps a customer feel right at home and Allison, better known as “Mr. Jack,” and his long-time employees are winners in the food area. The manager and assistant manager have a combined tenure of more than 70 years.
“We barbecue only fresh hams, not butts or shoulders,” he said. “We hickory smoke our hams for about 22 hours and make our own secret barbecue sauce.”
I asked Allison how things have changed over the years and he grinned and said, “Definitely the prices.” He said that back in the day a barbecue sandwich was only 35 cents (now $4.09) and soft drinks were less than 20 cents.
He added: “Time changes and so do prices, but our food and service stays the same.”
Allison has an encyclopedia of memories and stories from his experience as the owner of the Polar Freeze, including a time in 1969 when he invited teenagers to demolish an old building on the restaurant site. The enthusiastic teenagers completed their task in less than 45 minutes, to the amazement of observers.
The menu includes a variety of dairy bar sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecue options, but the most popular is the barbecue.
After trying a barbecue sandwich, it is easy to understand its popularity. The tender, hickory-smoked ham is shaved and layered onto a fresh bun and drizzled with a zesty barbecue sauce. The Polar Freeze barbecue is not your typical barbecue sandwich, and the baked beans aren’t either as Allison smokes the beans while smoking the hams. This results in absolutely awesome-tasting beans.
The hamburgers at the Polar Freeze won’t disappoint you either as they feature the fresh, homemade taste you can only get at a hometown dairy bar. Yes, they are as good as you remember, or maybe even better!
The Polar Freeze chili dog is another must-try option as it includes a nice-sized hot dog on a fresh bun covered with homemade chili and coleslaw. After 58 years, the Polar Freeze has the chili dog down to an art.
Of course, the Polar Freeze offers cones, sundaes and milkshakes. Allison fixed me a pineapple sundae and a chocolate sundae. They were delicious and brought back many memories of sharing ice cream at dairy bars with my parents and grandparents.
Dining recommendations? Contact Rob Roedel at firstname.lastname@example.org