Cotham’s Mercantile, AK
5301 AR 161
That’s what I mumbled to myself as I wheeled my suitcase past the gleaming new sign welcoming arriving passengers at the Little Rock airport.
“Welcome to Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.”
Are you kidding me?
After eight years of President Bill Clinton — and now the prospect of eight more years of another President Clinton — can’t these people just leave me alone?
What happened to the days when they waited until you were dead to start naming stuff after you?
You know, in case it turned out you did something embarrassing. Like molest an intern or something.
While I don’t particularly share Bill Clinton’s affinity for interns and tax increases, I’ll follow the man to Texarkana and back on a restaurant tour of Arkansas.
Say what you will about President Bubba, but the man knows how to eat.
One of Bill Clinton’s favorite haunts (before he and Hillary shook the fertile Arkansas mud off their boots and moved to the green New York suburbs) was Cotham’s Mercantile, just ten miles southeast of what the locals now refer to as “Hill-Billy” National Airport.
In the old cotton plantation town of Scott, Cotham’s Mercantile may be geographically near the state capital – but it’s light years away with its laid back attitude and ambiance.
Cotham’s is a century-old country store perched on stilts high above the banks of Horseshoe Lake — a cut-off bayou that was once connected to the meandering Arkansas River generations ago.
Not much has changed in Scott, Arkansas over the past century. The landscape is still blanketed with fertile farmland horizon to horizon.
And farmers, locals, tourists, and Little Rock politicians alike still creak across the old floorboards of Cotham’s dilapidated front porch in search of an epic Southern meal.
The “Hubcap Burger” is what put Cotham’s on the culinary map.
It didn’t disappoint.
Yes. It really is as big as a hubcap — nearly a foot in diameter.
But this burger isn’t just wide, it’s nearly an inch thick too.
We’re talking over a pound of beef here!
The beauty of this burger is how well it’s constructed – onions, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and burger all held together by an oversized bun actually up for the job.
I briefly considered cutting it in half. My grandmother would’ve considered that the polite thing to do.
But what fun would that be?
Miraculously, I was able to lift the whole thing off my plate and eat it like God intended with minimal condiment spillage.
Although a bit more well done and drier than I would’ve preferred (my waitress never asked me how I wanted it cooked), the meat was still very tasty with plenty of seasoning evident.
But the sides were a major dilemma.
Cotham’s is almost as famous for their fries and giant hand-battered onion rings as their Hubcap Burger.
The menu also offered the option to upgrade my side to fried green tomatoes for $2.75.
I couldn’t resist.
More yellow than green, the generous portion of fried green tomatoes packed a powerful flavor wallop. The tart tomatoes and the crisp cornmeal batter was a perfect Southern treat.
And it was a lot of food.
But not TOO much food. I finished every last bite.
Unfortunately, that meant I had absolutely no room for dessert.
Cotham’s is also famous for their decadent fried chocolate and apple pies. And for its Mississippi mud pie.
Cotham’s left me wanting to come back for more.
I mean, what about Cotham’s famous fried chicken and catfish?
And those towering piles of onion rings I saw at the tables next to me that gave me junk food envy?
Oh well, I’m sure there will be a next time.
After lasting an entire century, Cotham’s Mercantile isn’t going anywhere. It’s the kind of place you feel will always be in your life.
Just like Bill and Hillary. Always there.
Only in Cotham’s case, that’s actually a good thing.
Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.