Sometimes you meet people who truly love what they do. This is the case with David and Michelle Smith, owners of T’s Place in Pine Bluff.
The couple will celebrate 28 years together in July. T’s Place was originally Ann’s Café, which opened in 1997 with David’s mom, Francis Ann Kelley, running day-to-day operations. David, Michelle and other family members helped run the thriving business. In 2017, David and Michelle assumed ownership of the restaurant, renaming it T’s Place. You can ask them what the T stands for when you visit.
The restaurant, nestled in a retail mall area, is easy to locate. Once you enter T’s Place, you will be surprised by the large space which is decorated with antique advertisement signs. My favorite décor item is an antique wooden telephone booth.
During my visit, I briefly spoke with loyal customer Skip Capshaw. “I love the buffet, the hamburgers and their breakfast,” he said. “This is a great place to enjoy a nice Sunday meal.”
As I talked with Mr. Capshaw, a steady stream of customers picked up takeout orders, and the restaurant’s telephone rang constantly. Somehow, David and Michelle prepared me a large group of items to sample while serving customers with smiles and sincere “Thank yous.” They made it look so easy.
Breakfast is served all day at T’s Place, so it was very important to try a few breakfast items. I don’t know the secret, but the pancakes were some of the fluffiest and best-tasting I have had. The flavorful western omelet certainly didn’t disappoint my taste buds either. I loved the fried eggs with sausage, grits and biscuits. T’s Place knows how to make a good Southern breakfast.
Daily specials are posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page (tinyurl.com/tsplace). The meat specials vary, but include Parmesan-crusted chicken, smoked ribs, chicken and dressing, fried chicken, chicken spaghetti, chili mac, grilled pork chops, smoked pork loin and many others. The vegetables are as varied as a one-acre garden. T’s Place specializes in fried cornbread, a style I first tried while traveling in south Arkansas years ago. Try it. I promise you will wonder why it took you this long to discover it.
Michelle prepared a chicken-fried steak plate for me, and I was so glad she did. The huge, golden piece of fried
goodness was topped with white cream gravy and served with mashed potatoes, lima beans and homemade macaroni and cheese. I was told that this was a favorite of electric cooperative linemen from across Arkansas who assisted nearby C & L Electric in April power restoration efforts. Hey, hard-working linemen definitely know what is good, as I agree with them.
I tried the meatloaf with mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas and macaroni and cheese. Meatloaf is a true comfort food, and T’s Place makes it with love. A little love always means it is extra good.
Upon the recommendation of Mr. Capshaw, I tried the cheeseburger. I agree with him; T’s Place serves a mighty
tasty burger. Next, I tried the excellent house club sandwich. To my joy and surprise, it was served with hand-breaded, homemade onion rings! The sandwich was good, but the onion rings were outstanding. My final item was a true Southern staple, a fried bologna sandwich. I’m talking hand-cut in thick slices, fried just right, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and served between two pieces of golden Texas toast. Sometimes simple is best. I ate the whole sandwich with a few onion rings and smiled with happiness after enjoying the combination.
Go see David and Michelle at T’s Place, and be prepared to leave with a satisfied appetite and new friendships.