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Folks like me, who live in Little Rock full-time, are almost obligated to visit Hot Springs at least once a year. I mean, that fun is only an hour away. With that in mind, I wanted to surprise my wife with a fairly impromptu weekend getaway. As we found out, 19 hours is just enough time to enjoy the Spa City, and per usual, we did our fair share of eating.
If I go to Hot Springs, then Morrison’s Fried Pies is happening. It’s really that simple. The immobile food truck, always stationed in a parking lot at 1333 Albert Pike Road, makes the best fried pies in the state of Arkansas. Thick, crispy crusts, hearty fillings, and a fry job that yields zero greasiness have a way of vaulting this iconic Southern dessert to such a lofty status, so make sure to include a visit as part of your Hot Springs itinerary. Just give the truck a call ahead to reserve pies. Unfortunately, I forgot to do this and was left with buying up the few remaining options: coconut cream and strawberry vanilla cream. Frankly, everything is great at Morrison’s, so this wasn’t really an issue, but I’d hate for you to make the drive and miss out completely because of a sellout.
The fried pies were close to where we were staying for the night—Best Court Cottages. Opened in 1933 and renovated a few years back to the charming dwellings they are now, the cottages are an ideal place to stay in Hot Springs. The location–638 Ouachita Avenue—is a 10-minute walk from the main drag of Central Avenue, so you’ll be close to the action but just a touch removed from the hustle and bustle. At $250 at night (and that included all taxes), the value was there at this clean, no-frills, 3-star motel experience.
And here’s a big-time bonus, Best Court is a stone’s throw from Surfas Culinary District, the store where just about every kitchen gadget, accessory, seasoning, apron, and pan is available to purchase for that special foodie in your life. But they close at 3 p.m. on Saturdays, so I had to get my rear in gear and catch them before closing. My dear friend’s birthday was the following week, and she adores Surfas, so I purchased a few random items within 15 minutes and was on my way. Mission accomplished.
After a little window shopping and a short walk down Central Avenue, we posted up at The Ohio Club’s legendary bar for a beer, burger, and fried okra. My wife loves fried okra almost as much as she loves me, and Ohio’s version put a smile on her face. Why? The wise folks in the kitchen don’t cut up the okra. They’re left whole, which is a brilliant move and one you almost never see. That single patty cheeseburger also hit the spot, but more than anything, just posting up at the bar for an hour was both relaxing and gave us that true Hot Springs experience.
After Ohio, we popped into several more shops, with the end goal of being at Vault by 4:45 p.m. for a very early dinner at the bar. If you couldn’t tell, we enjoy eating at the bar. The service is almost always spot-on, as is the bartender banter, which proved to be the case at Vault. We split a teres major steak, crispy potatoes, and Brussels, which were pretty darn crispy as well. For those unfamiliar with this steak, a.k.a. “the butcher’s cut,” it’s tender but doesn’t come with the price tag of a filet. It paired well with a glass of pinot and the dark, mellow restaurant setting. This was our first time at Vault, and I was impressed with everything about the restaurant, and that includes the menus, which came with installed backlighting. Very cool.
Woke up at 7 a.m. so we could beat the breakfast crowd at Best Café & Bar, the uber-popular restaurant attached to the Best Court Cottages. That meant we could literally roll out of bed and into the café if we wanted. Don’t worry, we walked for 45 seconds, and guess where we ended up once inside the cafe? The bar! There, we attempted (unsuccessfully, but not for a lack of taste) to take down a breakfast burrito and fried chicken Benny. Fabulous breakfast items, but we had hit the proverbial wall with all of our eating. This was my third time at Best Café, and I feel 100% confident in saying that it’s one of the better breakfast/brunch spots, not only in Hot Springs but Arkansas. By 9 a.m., we headed back to Little Rock, content with our 19 hours in Hot Springs.
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