When Calico County restaurant opened in 1984, the owners endeavored to offer traditional American foods and excellent service in a family-oriented environment. After 38 years of following that same mission, it has endured as a successful Fort Smith staple.
The delightful scent of home cooking wafted through the restaurant as I explored the antique collection on display. Calico County’s warm and cozy feel is an atmosphere that national chains try to emulate, but it’s real and sincere here. The lunch crowd included businesspeople, retirees, military service personnel, construction workers and young families that all seemed to be genuinely enjoying each other’s company while making great memories.
For appetizers, I was treated to two Southern delights: fresh, hand-breaded fried green tomatoes, served with Calico County’s own remoulade, and fried pickles, cooked to a golden brown and served with housemade Ranch dressing.
Calico County Partner Scott Blair advised me that the menu has evolved over the years. He said the chicken-fried steaks are still a favorite, while the restaurant also sells a large amount of chicken and catfish. “We have fed governors, actors, actresses, Mrs. America and other dignitaries over the years,” he says.
Based on Blair’s advice, the chicken-fried steak was first on my list to try. The steak was a twice-tenderized cut of USDA beef that was picture- and taste-perfect. The cream gravy that adorned the fork-tender, top-selling steak only added to its beauty and goodness. I ate bite after bite, eventually making a happy plate with the entrée that included mashed potatoes and well-seasoned green beans.
I asked General Manager and Partner Ryan Kirk if the chicken-fried steak was hand-breaded as he whizzed by while ensuring the comfort of other guests. He paused and grinned, “You won’t find anything that has been frozen here.”
Mother’s Juicy Pot Roast was just that. I took a bite and imagined being at my parents’ home after church for a Sunday lunch. Calico County’s team cooked the pot roast long and slow with secret seasoning to ensure that mama-good flavor. Roasted potatoes and carrots completed the presentation.
Catfish is an Arkansas staple, and Granny’s Fresh Crispy Catfish is a shining example of the right way to prepare and serve it. The USDA, farm-grown catfish is marinated for a few days, trimmed, dipped in a custom cornmeal and fried. I eat a lot of catfish on Let’s Eat visits, and I’ll give Calico County a blue ribbon for their exceptional offering. Creamy macaroni and cheese, homemade coleslaw and secret-recipe hush puppies rounded out the catfish catch.
The restaurant offers themed daily specials that include: Be Good Monday (a lite vegetable plate or small premium salad);Business as Usual Tuesday (lunch portion chicken-fried steak); Seasonal Surprise Wednesday (fried barbeque ribs);Thank Goodness Thursday (turkey and dressing); and Burger Bonanza Friday (hamburger special). Sides and a roll are included with Tuesday through Thursday specials. And, if you haven’t tried fried barbeque ribs, you are missing out! Calico County’s complete breakfast menu is also extremely popular.
Calico County is famous for cinnamon rolls, so I tried one (or two) and concurred with their legendary status. Then, I tried the cherry cobbler. Do yourself a favor when you visit: Order the cherry cobbler, and enjoy it while at the restaurant, and get an order of cinnamon rolls to take home with you. You can thank me later.
2401 S. 56 St., Fort Smith
Monday-Thursday 6:30 a.m.-9: p.m.
Friday-Saturday 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday 7 a.m.-9 p.m.