When Ed and Karen Lumpkin opened Batesville’s Whistle Stop Café in 2018, they envisioned a small sandwich shop to serve workers from the adjacent production facility. However, their vision quickly expanded due to the restaurant’s immediate popularity.
“Our soft opening turned into a packed opening,” Ed said with a smile. “Word of mouth spread the news of the Whistle Stop across town. We have been busy ever since.”
Ed, who has a construction background, worked with Karen, who previously managed the gift shop at the local hospital, to quickly expand the restaurant from 28 to 99 chairs and add a cozy fireplace. The menu also grew to include a broad selection, all-day breakfast and extremely popular daily lunch specials. Community groups hold weekly meetings at the Whistle Stop, as they consider the restaurant their restaurant. One group often arrives at the restaurant before the doors officially open and have been known to brew the coffee.
According to Karen, her large family includes five children and 10 grandchildren. She said cooking at family gatherings assisted her in cooking in volume at the Whistle Stop. She and the staff prepare the menu items with the freshest ingredients. Daily entrée specials include Chicken and Dumplings, Meatloaf, Baked Ham, Mexican Chicken, Pork Tenderloin, Skillet-Fried Pork Chops, Hamburger Steak, Spaghetti, Roast Beef, Chicken Enchiladas and others.
My sampling of Whistle Stop fare commenced with classic Fried Green Tomatoes. If you are familiar with the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes,” then you clearly understand how this appetizer became a house specialty. Plus, the restaurant is located adjacent to railroad tracks, just like the Whistle Stop Café in the movie. The huge order of piping hot, golden-fried discs was excellent.
The Let’s Eat visit occurred on Meatloaf day, so I was treated to a nice serving of homemade Meatloaf with delicious fresh squash casserole, (real) mashed potatoes and stewed cabbage. I’m sure that each daily special is as good as this platter of culinary comfort. The Meatloaf and all the sides were downhome tasty.
There are many sandwich and salad options also. The Hamburger was excellent, with great attention to detail, down to the grill-toasted bun. The crinkle-cut fries were cooked perfectly.
The café offers a full, made-to-order breakfast menu all day. It includes classic specialties like Omelets, Eggs, Biscuits, Gravy (white and chocolate), Pancakes, Waffles, Hash Browns and even a 12-ounce Ribeye.
I enjoyed a great slice of homemade Pecan Pie as we were wrapping up our visit. Other perfect-looking, made-fresh pies that day included Coconut and Lemon Ice
The bustling establishment’s wonderful team includes daughter-in-law Becky Lumpkin, 44-year waitress veteran Beverly Wilkerson and others who ensure that hospitality is as warm and good as the food at the Whistle Stop Café.
“Our customers are like family,” Karen said. “The community has embraced us, and we have embraced them. Thank you to everyone.”
Dining recommendations? Contact Rob Roedel at firstname.lastname@example.org.