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Central Food 9

Only the Classics at Salem Dairy Bar


Salem Dairy Bar is a Benton institution, churning out the classics like cheeseburgers, chili dogs, shakes, corn dogs and tater tots. If you are looking for a healthy, low-calorie meal, it is probably best to keep driving. But if you want to indulge in a few guilty food pleasures, Salem Dairy Bar is sure to please. Luckily for me, I fell into the latter category on a recent Friday afternoon.

Like most dairy bars, Salem isn’t much to look at from the outside. This no-frills set-up with a park bench out front and two ordering windows just behind it shows decades of age, but that’s exactly what you should expect from such an establishment. We found a few folks milling around the counter, waiting patiently for their food. Most people, however, called in orders and sat in the confines of their air-conditioned automobiles with windows cracked, waiting for word.

“White Ford Pick-Up, your order is ready!”

Admittedly, while it’s a fun process to behold—all the shouting, followed by men and women scrambling out of cars–my cohort and I were Salem first-timers and needed to focus on not making fools of ourselves at the counter. We quickly scanned the menus in the window, decided to throw caution to the wind by placing a massive order, and snagged seats at the lone bench. Within 10 minutes, our table was filled with food.

The junior double cheeseburger, although a smaller version of the jumbo, was still a sizable offering and loaded with massive amounts of wonderfully processed cheese resting atop crusty, juicy beef patties. The patty melt was just as good, if not better than the cheeseburger. And while it lacked the traditional rye bread, the grilled onions and mayonnaise made up for any deficiencies. Up next were sides of fried dill pickle chips and onion rings, both with a thick, slightly sweet batter coating ideal for dipping in the accompanying ranch sauce. Each fried item was met with smiles, as was the cup of simple, no-bean chili pie topped with Fritos. Some folks would balk at the lack of sour cream, shredded cheddar, and diced, fresh onion, but I actually enjoyed the chili’s simplicity. We washed it all down with a couple of sodas, followed by splitting a house-made fried peach hand pie.

As you might have gathered, we ordered a ton of food but really only scratched the surface of what is on the menu. Next time, you better believe we are getting the tots, French fries, corn dogs, and fried okra. For those looking for a sweet treat to cool down during the summer months, Salem’s menu includes shakes, ice cream, malts, sundaes, shaved ice, and a banana split. Whether it is savory or sweet, at Salem Dairy Bar, you will only find the classics.

Just make sure to bring your stretchy pants.

Salem Dairy Bar
6406 Congo Rd (Benton)
Phone: (501) 794-3929
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday noon-8p.m.; Closed Monday

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Kevin Shalin is a food writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Sara, and one daughter, Sydney. His oldest daughter, Natalie, is a freshman at Loyola University in Chicago. He started his own blog, The Mighty Rib, twelve years ago while living in Houston. Six months later, he began writing for Eating Our Words, a Houston Press food blog. After a year in Boston, he moved to Little Rock, where he’s been for ten years. During that time, he’s written for publications like Little Rock Soiree, Arkansas Times, AY Magazine, and The Local Palate.

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9 responses to “Only the Classics at Salem Dairy Bar”

  1. Sandy says:

    If you didn’t get ice cream, malts or shakes you missed the best part of Salem Dairy Bar! You must go back!!!

  2. Joy Edmonson says:

    If you didn’t have ice cream, you seriously missed out!!

  3. Shelli Poole says:

    Thanks for featuring this place. It’s a national treasure, do it’s only a matter of time before it’s in a feature film with Nicholas Cage. Also, the tots and okra are blessed foodlets. You must go back.

  4. Ynot says:

    The food is absolutely outstanding but a word of caution about the fries. Be sure and ask for salt packets as they don’t salt their fries at all.

  5. Lynn says:

    I love dairy bars, but this one has other’s beat by a mile! I drive from NLR to get their hamburgers, fries and handmade shakes/ malts! Fan of 30 years and going strong!

  6. […] of a dying breed throughout the country, here in Arkansas, we are fortunate to still have several thriving operations in many of our small […]

  7. […] Salem Dairy Bar | Benton – menu and more  […]

  8. […] no stranger to a good Arkansas dairy bar, having made previous visits to long-time favorites like Salem Dairy Bar, Yellow Jacket Drive-In, Garry’s Sling Blade, and Spradlin’s Dairy Delight in […]

  9. […] have eaten at a lot of dairy bars throughout Arkansas, and I have to say, Salem Dairy Bar still makes the best burger out of them all. The junior double cheeseburger is the best option if […]

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