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Many dairy bars throughout The Natural State continue to stand the test of time, churning out simple eats to an audience primarily comprised of small-town loyalists. On a personal note, these places were a welcome sight during the height of the pandemic, a time when I was not exactly enthused about stepping inside a restaurant. The dairy bar made it easy. Pull up, park the car, and grab my food at the window. Pleasant weather meant I could hang out and gobble up my treats on a bench, all while soaking in the particular town’s vibe. Lonoke, England, and Sheridan all come to mind. There are others.
Several months had passed since my last dairy bar experience, but a recent road trip with a car full of kids provided a perfect opportunity to check out Diamond Drive-In in Clarksville.
No McDonald’s for our crew. Sure, fast-food chains located just a stone’s throw from the interstate can make things easier when you’re on the road, as dairy bars are often found in the heart of town. You have to work a bit to find them, but that’s A-OK with me.
So here we were at Diamond Drive-In. It certainly looked the part. Every dairy bar could use a little TLC and Diamond is no exception. Decades will do that to a building, but let’s face it, the dairy bar patina is what draws us in like a tractor beam. We love the faded paint and chipped signs.
Upon entering, I was immediately ready to order a jumbo cheeseburger and tots, but at Diamond, the jumbo is actually called the Wow Burger, which I believe weighs in at a ½-pound of beef with all the regular fixings. The Wow is everything you want from a diary bar burger, as are the tots. Perfectly crisp and fried to a golden brown, these tots were glorious and overshadowed the crinkle-cut fries.
My favorite item? The Pizza Steak Sandwich. Although the handheld leaves a lot to be desired visually speaking, it is the quintessential dairy bar guilty pleasure. A breaded, pre-frozen, formed patty is deep fried, then topped with a couple of dabs of marinara and shoved between a hamburger bun. It’s a glorious mess. Trust me, you want this sandwich in your life. Wash it all down with a vanilla shake and call it a day. Hey, you knew I had to get a shake.
Keep an eye out for other popular items, like the chili dog, fried pickles and mushrooms, fish sandwich, Philly steak sandwich and a variety of shakes, floats, and sundaes. Diamond even has dinner specials with butterflied shrimp, chicken strips, catfish, fish & chips, and “broasted” chicken. Expect a warm atmosphere, fast, friendly service, and reasonable prices. Our table of four pigged out for under $40.
Judging by the steady stream of customers during our visit, it looks like Diamond Drive-In is as popular as ever. Here’s hoping it is still around for several more decades.
1206 W Main St. (Clarksville)
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Thursday & Friday 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Saturday 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Closed Sunday
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