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While culinary gems like L’Attitude Bistro in Clinton, Coursey’s in St Joe, and Eat’Italian in Greenbier are sprinkled up and down the scenic Highway 65 drive, when it comes to towns, there might not be a more interesting food haven than Leslie. Longtime Leslie favorite Serenity Farm Bread has been one of the most sought-after bakeries in the state for years, and you already know how I feel about the strawberry pie at Skylark Café. Well, it is time to add another spot to the Leslie to-do list—Crooked Gate Café at 408 Main Street.
But what exactly inspired me to make the 1.5-hour drive from Little Rock just to have lunch at the restaurant? Answer: I caught wind that the owners of Crooked Gate Café also run a farm, and the lamb and pork they raise are incorporated right into the menu. Last time I checked, there aren’t too many eateries in this state that can make that claim.
And frankly, this road trip ended up being a fantastic one.
I’m fairly certain you will love everything about Crooked Gate Café, from the sign out front bearing its name with a rusty old, crooked gate behind the lettering to the food served on mix-and-match China. There is a downhome feel about this fast-casual, order-at-the-counter restaurant, which I feel is ideal for the small-town setting.
The focused lunch menu is comprised primarily of sandwiches and salads, along with a smattering of specials like shrimp scampi and a lamb burger. I opted for the Pork Tender Sandwich, which proved to be a fantastic decision. It came with a sizable slab of the most tender pork. Seriously y’all, locally raised meat is just a different experience and typically far surpasses anything you will get at the grocery store. Heck, Crooked Gate even makes their own ciabatta. Who does that any more? The bread, combined with pork, house pickles, mayo, and purple onion, formed one of the more impressive sandwiches that I’ve eaten in a while. I’d make the drive just for the fried pork handheld, but the hits didn’t stop with this entrée.
My daughter’s shrimp scampi, a pile of linguini swimming in lemon juice and butter with an ample number of crustaceans, was also a winner, as was my wife’s turkey sandwich with thick-cut bacon on Serenity Farm Bread sourdough.
If pork green chili is on the menu, order it. In fact, ask for the largest size, then ask for one to-go. It will travel well, even back to faraway places like Little Rock.
Next time (and trust me, there will be a next time), I want to try out breakfast. Word on the street is that it’s awesome as well, and judging by our lunch, I have no doubt the folks at Crooked Gate Café know their way around biscuits and gravy, huevos rancheros, and French toast waffles.
Yes, I typed “French toast waffles.”
Do I have your attention?
Crooked Gate Café
408 Main St (Leslie)
Hours: Friday-Sunday 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
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