A second generation of leadership is continuing the family tradition of providing homemade, downhome fare at The Country Kitchen just north of Pine Bluff.
After opening in 1953, the restaurant’s country-style menu became a hit with locals and visitors. Current owner Mark McCool purchased The Country Kitchen in 1987 and expanded the menu based on his long-time restaurant experience. Today, his sons Jayson and Jeremy run the day-to-day operations and ensure that the level of hospitality and food quality are second to none.
“All of our recipes are family recipes that have been passed down for generations,” Jeremy said. “My brother and I grew up in The Country Kitchen. Many of our staff have been with us for 20 years or more. We enjoy seeing a third generation of customers come through the door.”
Their experience shows as the servers are some of the most pleasant and attentive that I have met in my travels across our great state. The cook and employees are definitely seasoned and clearly love their jobs, as my meals were top-notch.
The décor at The Country Kitchen is like a visit back to simpler times with tongue and groove pine walls and an open design with barstools, booths and tables. The walls are adorned with nostalgic signs and items.
The restaurant has a full menu that includes hickory-smoked barbecue pork, beef, ribs and chicken, plus steaks,
USDA catfish, grilled salmon, fried chicken, salads, hamburgers, sandwiches and many other options. A full breakfast menu is also available. The Country Kitchen has a schedule of meats and vegetables served for lunch. Specials include fried chicken, meatloaf, fried catfish, smothered pork chops, chicken and dressing, chicken and dumplings, smothered steak and beef stroganoff. The vegetables vary based on the season and special, but there are many options each day.
My meal begins with The Country Kitchen’s Beef Stroganoff, which has a large portion of well-seasoned beef atop a nice bed of egg noodles. I try the creamed potatoes and gravy and the sliced, fried potatoes with the stroganoff. I like them both, but the sliced fried potatoes are extra good! Oh, The Country Kitchen also has deviled eggs. I love deviled eggs, and love theirs!
My chicken and dressing comes served with homemade macaroni and cheese, turnip greens and green bean
casserole. I love this combination; the chicken is tender, the greens are well-seasoned, and the green bean casserole is super yummy.
Next was the Smothered Pork Chop with buttered corn and brussels sprouts. I swear this plate was country-style good. The pork was tender, and the gravy accentuates the taste.
I enjoyed the Crispy Chicken Salad. It featured four large, deep-fried chicken breast strips that are arranged on a plate of mixed greens with shredded cheese, chopped
tomatoes and a boiled egg. A few dill pickle chips added to the great flavor. It was served with homemade ranch dressing (Thousand Island is also made in-house).
I asked my server to surprise me with her favorite menu item, and she sets me up with a Chili Cheeseburger. If you love hamburgers, then give this one a try. It featured a nice-sized beef patty that has just enough of a crust to capture the meat’s great taste and was topped with The Country Kitchen’s homemade chili. I ate the whole hamburger (not kidding).
Pies, cobblers and ice cream are available. I got a tip that the Lemon Ice Box pie is made exclusively by Jayson and Jeremy. They make at least 15 at a time. I also learned that they don’t stay in stock for long!
Although I didn’t order it during my visit, The Country Kitchen does offer quail that can be ordered grilled or fried. I see a return visit in my future. Or, if you try it, let me know what you think.