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Sometimes it’s the small things that put you on the map. The saying about great gifts coming in little packages strikes true for Suzie’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Pangburn, Arkansas. A favorite among locals, the establishment helps put Pangburn on the map for out-of-towners.
Pangburn is a small town on the Little Red River where community becomes family. On the four nights a week that Suzie’s is open you can bet there will be a gathering of familiar, friendly faces: conversation across the tables, handshakes every time a new customer walks in and lots of smiles, laughter and catching up. It will be a full house inside and outside with front porch seating plus a waiting list for the to-go orders. It’s that good.
A definite staple, this slight shoppe brings in many travelers to see what the hype is all about. During the summer months, tourists make their way to the Pangburn area to nestle in at their river houses and cabins to trout fish and enjoy a slower pace of life. It doesn’t take long for them to find out about the treasure of Suzie’s; going by the shoppe becomes a regular part of visiting in the area.
Suzie’s is operated by a local family: Lynn, Suzie and Ben Bufford. The Buffords started the business when Lynn took his family to the annual Fourth of July celebration in Pangburn. They enjoyed the traditional summer treat in the already existing ice cream shoppe in Pangburn, where the owners had a ”For Sale” sign outside. Lynn saw it and knew right away he would buy it. He went in and told the owners he would be there the next day with paperwork. He saw it, wanted it and purchased it in a very quick turnaround.
At that time, the shoppe only sold ice cream and a few other concession-like items, but Lynn had something different in mind. He added on a kitchen to be able to cook some of his creations to share with customers.
Lynn grew up with two distinct influences in his life: one side of the family being Filipino and learning to cook Filipino cuisine. The other side was country and comfort food representing down-to-earth home cooking. He learned to cook both styles well. When Lynn and Suzie got married, the agreement was for Lynn to do the cooking and Suzie to do the other household chores. The perfect setup has worked out.
Because Lynn is such a talented cook, ordering anything from the menu means getting great food. The small town restaurant offers a variety of fan favorites, but two menu items are worth the drive: the fried rice and the cheeseburger. Their fried rice is a conversation topic around town: all you have to do is mention the two words and a smile creeps across the listeners’ faces with a nod of their head. But the cheeseburger is also worth its own dialogue. Cheeseburgers are formed by hand to the perfect size to fit the bun and require several napkins while eating the juicy, tender, messy and yummy creation. At the end of a hot summer day, a cheeseburger with an old fashioned root beer from the bottle and a personalized ice cream cone from Mrs. Suzie is one of life’s simple pleasures.
My family pops in at Suzie’s regularly to grab a specialty ice cream cone in the summer as a treat. Mrs. Suzie will make sure that each kid is happy and has the best cone they could dream up. She has a personality that can only be described as “genuine southern hospitality.” With her big smile and soft voice, she encourages children to get the toppings of their choice including cookie dough, M&Ms, sprinkles, nuts or a cherry. She personally makes the cones and customizes them to whatever their hearts desire. My 6-year-old little boy says that Mrs. Suzie’s ice cream cones are the best! Of course, he makes sure his is a swirl cone sprinkled with M&M’s and bits of cookie dough strategically placed throughout, with a maraschino cherry to top it off.
If you are crunched for time, my advice is to plan ahead. Our first meal involved a wait time of more than an hour. If you know you are going to eat at Suzie’s, call at least an hour ahead with your order and they will tell you what time it will be ready, then show up and have your meal when you get there. Lynn and Suzie work extremely hard in the small kitchen every evening to accommodate all the takeout and dine-in orders. You can see them scurrying around working hard with a smile to deliver as fast as they can.
But if you do have to wait, your time will be spent by Mrs. Suzie hosting you and making sure your children are happy with coloring books, sidewalk chalk and a stack of board games that she keeps on hand to help keep children from getting antsy.
Enjoy a trip to the Little Red River and Suzie’s Ice Cream Shoppe. If you’re in the area, check out the articles below for some other fun things to do.
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