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During these crazy pandemic days, sometimes a change of scenery provides a brief, yet essential escape from life’s stressors. I am talking about a quick road trip, and it does not get much shorter than the one-hour drive from Little Rock to Hot Springs. With that in mind, some friends and I recently made the jaunt to the Spa City for a morning and afternoon of food fun.
We left Little Rock at 9:30 a.m. and arrived at Red Light Roastery Coffee House within an hour. At the time of this article, Red Light’s inside dining area is closed, and the coffee house is only taking orders via the website, so it is essential to place an order 10-15 minutes before arriving.
Fortunately, the weather offered up a pleasant morning to sit in the coffee house’s front yard, so we found a few seats and enjoyed our coffee under some shade. With my iced coffee and the morning’s cool breeze, it was hard to imagine a more relaxed setting. The coffee itself is bold, yet smooth and an iced is perfect during the summer months. Not wanting to fill up on too much on our first stop, the three of us split a couple gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, finished our coffee, and headed to the next spot. It was time for lunch.
We took our sweet time at Red Light, mainly to relax but also because we wanted to build our hunger for a big lunch. By 11:30 a.m., we were ready to devour some soul food at Emma Lee’s, a restaurant that has been around for about a year and is only a half-mile from Red Light.
All the best food trips are planned to perfection and that includes lining up stops close by each other. Unlike the coffee house, this was my first time at Emma Lee’s. But, it was a restaurant I’d received numerous positive reports on, so I figured it was well worth trying out this trip. And it was. We sampled a little bit of everything, from the fried catfish and pork ribs to side items like macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, stewed cabbage, baked beans, coleslaw, and hush puppies.
We even polished off a small slab of banana pudding for dessert. Make no mistake, this is stick-to-your-ribs comfort food, and it was all delightful, but the fried catfish stole the show. I am talking about crispy, lightly seasoned, cornmeal-battered catfish strips, just begging to be dipped into tartar sauce. As crazy as it sounds, we held back a bit at Emma Lee’s, only because we had one more stop to make.
And that was to Morrison’s Fried Pies. This food truck, residing smack dab in the middle of a parking lot off Albert Pike Road, is home to the best fried pies in Arkansas. I tell no lie. The secret to Morrison’s success is the thick, yet flaky crust they achieve with each pie. Morrison’s isn’t stingy with the filling either.
While I highly recommend the blueberry, raspberry, chocolate, and Key lime pie fried hand pies, my absolute favorite is the coconut cream with its custard filling and shreds of coconut. Eat one at the truck and take a few for later. When you get home, pop the pies into the refrigerator for a few hours. The coconut cream is even better when cooled.
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