Calico County2401 South 56th Fort Smith, AR 72903 479.452.3299 calicocounty.com
Really, we almost trip up that step into the doorway about every time. But after you get into the restaurant, you sense the casual-ness, you smell the cinnamon rolls, and you’re seated quickly. The décor … well, it’s kind of “sensory overload,” but in a different way than Pho Vietnam. It’s old Americana, stuff you see at “nice” flea markets: retro tin food cans and serving trays covering the walls. The walls themselves are made of the 1960s/70s wood paneling that yuppies who buy older homes remove ASAP. (Full disclosure: we’d remove it too. Are we yuppies? Perhaps. Or maybe we just like sunlight. We’d tear out any shag carpeting too.)
Nuttin fancy here. This place serves “Kuhn-tree” cookin’. Calico almost seems to pride itself on the over-the-top homey-ness. But, it’s what you expect; this restaurant doesn’t change with the times or current fads. Its staid demeanor is calming even. And, really, if you’ve lived in Ft. Smith any time at all, you’ve eaten at Calico County. More than once. More than twice. And the atmosphere remains the same, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s usually busy, too, so there is a lot of dining noise. It’s family-friendly, so expect some kid-noise, too. And, avoid it on Sundays after church. VERY busy.
Not pricey but not cheap either. Burgers & sandwiches range from $6-$8.50, as do the “Lite Portion” entrees. “Traditional”-size portions, however, are going to be $10+.
OK, 2 words: Blueberry pancakes. They are fat with plump, fresh blueberries, and they are fat themselves — big enough to cover a plate. We’re never able to finish them, but oh how we try.
Can we write about Calico and not mention the famous cinnamon rolls? Of course not. You’re served complimentary cinnamon rolls before your food even arrives — which a Calico newcomer likely will consider odd, as you might think a cinnamon roll would be best at meal’s end. And, if you prefer, they stay warm until you’re finished with your food. That’s the best part about them — they’re warm like just outta your Granny’s oven. They’re sweet goodness on their own or — hellooo, decadence — slathered with a little bit (ok, ALOT) of butter.
Thank you, Calico, for getting WITH IT on the Internet! Calico has a Facebook page AND is venturing slowly into Twitter. Woot!!
We love Twitter, as you guys know — it’s where we started our food-ventures. We’ve been sorely, shorely disappointed at the LACK of Fort Smith restaurants on Twitter. So, WTG, Calico!
Their drink glasses are smaller than they used to be. Used to, you’d get a LARGE (plastic) cup of tea/soda/lemonade. And while the glass isn’t tiny now, it’s not that Big Gulp-ish size that we liked. Hey, we don’t like to run out of our drink. And the waitresses are often too busy to check on refills as regularly as we like.
Why. Oh why. Do they NOT give you plates for the cinnamon rolls? Sure, they’ll bring them if you ask. But we’ve seen too many newcomers discombobulated by not only getting cinnamon rolls they didn’t order before the meal any hour of the day but also by getting them in a basket full of butter, teensy napkins and a knife, but NO PLATE. Does everyone just silently succumb to this barbarism? It is time we rise up and take a stand.
So dudes (and nice waitress ladies): When serving hot baked goods to people who may be slathering them with butter, give them friggin’ napkins and appetizer plates. We are not monkeys.
Most of us.
What to order:
If you’re a fan of the big, “Kuhn-tree”-style breakfast, as we are, you don’t want to miss Calico. They do breakfast right, every time. Eggs are cooked as you order them, and the breakfast menu is substantial. We like the “make-your-own” breakfast plates; you choose “one from each column” of foods like “bacon/sausage/ham steak/pork chop/chicken-fried steak/NY strip.” Yes, those are just the protein options! Another fave: Spicy Potatoes. Skillet-fried potatoes with bits of onion, green pepper and a little bit of heat.
For the truly “Kuhn-tree” lovers, Calico does grits. Hey, it’s not a true Arkansas breakfast joint if grits aren’t on the menu. But, grits are one of those country staples too few places do right. They throw some half-cooked barely palatable grainy substance on a plate and tell you it’s a fine Southern tradition. No wonder they get a bad name. The grits at Calico County are a little overpriced ($1.70 for a side) but have at least always been fully cooked.
And while it sounds weird as heck and we don’t know that we’ve seen turkey on a breakfast menu anywhere else, the lighter option of Calico’s Egg White Omelet is surprisingly good and filling. It’s got some egg whites, turkey, bell peppers, and white cheese, and comes with a nice side of fruit and toast. We’ve been known to order it even when not doing the post-cinnamon-roll-binge guilt thing.
For lunch/dinner, you can’t go wrong with Genne Lee’s Vegetable Special. You get a choice of five (or 4 on the Lite side) veggie or side dishes, like the melt-in-your-mouth Pot Roast Carrots. (For real–we paused with each bite to savor them). The green beans certainly have that “bacon-grease” flavor like Mama used to make. The yeast roll that accompanies it, while dense, doesn’t even need butter because it’s flavorful on its own.
For all the carnivores out there, get the chicken-fried steak, slathered in white-gravy glory. It’s hearty, it’s filling, it’s good enough to stop all table conversation while you enjoy it. The batter for all things fried at Calico (a lot of their menu is fried – even CORN!) is seasoned well and flaky, not greasy.
The small salads are plenty big enough for the average appetite, and the regular-sized ones have been known to do more than one person in. Best bets are either the classic chef salad or one of the chicken breast varieties. We usually go for the most indulgent fried chicken salad (Yes, we know. SO out of character.) but hear the grilled and blackened chicken toppers are equally satisfying.
What to avoid:
No real complaints here, but we found the Broccoli and Rice Casserole to be salty. Enough so that we won’t waste time with it again.
We’re also going to go ahead and say don’t order the Chicken Livers. Not because they are poorly done, though. We wouldn’t have any way of knowing that. Just avoid them because they are liver, and therefore are inherently foul and disgusting and we don’t need anyone perpetuating the idea of this as an actual food.
What, are our childhood scars showing?