Cara’s at Brunwick Place115 N. 10th St. Ste. E101 Fort Smith, AR 72901 479.434.5045
Charm. That’s what Cara’s is really about, we think. A charming little café in a charming little set of shops. Food that’s somewhere between foodie fare and comfort fare. An owner who makes a point to learn your name and never fails to welcome you back or gently berate you for not coming more often. It’s a place that you might have quibbles about this or that, but it’s really almost impossible not to like. They charm you.
Cara’s opened in the red brick old-time shopping center, Brunwick Place, earlier this year. It’s got an appealing atmosphere that manages to be bright and dark at the same time. Deep colors and warm lights, and a casual vibe set the mood.
When Cara herself isn’t back in the kitchen making the magic, she’s out on the floor working the room. Her broad smile and Southern openness combine to engage anyone and everyone in conversation till she’s learned your name, profession and family history, and given you a hug and possibly a taste of something new she just whipped up for the menu.
It’s obvious from her attitude that Cara’s a fan of the film (and/or book) Fried Green Tomatoes. Not to mention she named a star sandwich (offered only as a special, not daily) after it: The Whistlestop BLT.
We like this BLT right well, though it’s not what true BLT aficionados are likely to consider authentic. Besides having the fried green tomatoes, it’s got those fancy salad greens like you find in the $4 bags of European Spring Mix or what have you at the supermarket, bacon (good), and basil-herb dressing, which works for some people and really doesn’t for others. The sandwich is a hit, but if you were to ask Fort Smith Eats for suggestions, we’d suggest adding fried green tomatoes by themselves, with a bit of remoulade, perhaps, to the menu as a side or appetizer. They’d sell like hotcakes.
Really, we prefer the Veggie Stack sandwich. It’s hard to find good veggie main-course options, sometimes, and this one full of portabello mushrooms, red peppers and other vegetables is always tasty.
Sandwiches come with chips, or a side item or soup. Of the several sides offered, one stands out above all others:
Speaking of salads, there are some main-course ones, including the Tomozzaliba (we’re gonna wring her neck one of these days for not giving that dish an easier name). The Strawberry Chicken Salad is a good one.
Pulled pork makes an appearance on several menu items. Probably the favorite is the shreeded pork tacos, which are about $1.75 each unless you hit them on the daily special, when they’re 4 for $5, shown here:
The tacos weren’t what we expected. This is probably a good thing, as the alternative would be fairly boring. They’re smallish soft tacos (4 is still fairly filling) in white corn tortillas, with lots of cilantro and red onion and some sort of white sauce that was pretty good. Next time we’ll order them sans onions.
You’ll notice in the middle of the plate the Taco Soup, the sacred fire around which the pork tacos dance. The Taco Soup tasted great, like Taco Soup usually does. But our problem with it is that the $5 special had the option of just tacos, or tacos with chips and salsa, or tacos with soup. The tacos with soup option was $8.95. Now. Does that look like a $4 bowl of soup?
As for our favorite thing at Cara’s this time of year, that’d be the Sometimes-Soup de Jour, Pumpkin Bisque. It is perfect. Cara’s has a daily presence on Facebook, an e-mail list, and a sign out front all proclaiming the daily specials (Hey, Cara’s, what about Twitter? C’mon, all the cool kids Tweet.). Whenever we see that pumpkin bisque is the soup of the day, all other lunch plans must be put on hold.
Now for the desserts.
Chances are, the degree to which you rave about Cara’s cakes is going to depend quite a lot on how much fuss you like made over desserts. Are you playing on the “Death by Seven Layer Molten Chocolate Orgasm Raspberry Volcano Cake Blast” team or are you the star pitcher for Team “Boozy Bundt Cakes Rock The World”?
If you’re on the former team, Applebee’s probably has something sinfully decadent mass-produced just for you.
If you like your desserts simple, homemade and not drenched in (or actually touched by any) icing, you need to get yourself over to Cara’s quickly. She usually has at least two liqueur-infused Bundt cakes and something a little more splashy, like the Amaretto Brownie Torte. We thought this tasted good, but couldn’t taste the amaretto whatsoever. There’s chocolate and whipped cream and a few fresh berries, so we’re not really complaining too much.
Cara’s cakes tend to have names that sound like Starbucks drinks and/or classic cocktails in the 50’s. The Harvey Wallbanger Cake, for example. Does anyone order those drinks anymore? People sure order her Wallbanger cakes.
The slices of cake are generous. Okay, guiltily big. You kind of don’t feel bad you’re not getting icing, because heck, you’re getting about 1/8th of a cake to eat.
Witness the Venti-sized chunks of cake below. They really are some of the best Bundt cakes we’ve ever had, light and airy, with deeply nuanced flavor. The blueberry one below was rather dry, but that’s definitely been the exception to the rule. They’re characteristically moist. On rare occasions when our karma’s working extra hard for us, we’ve even had them the best way ever–fresh out of the oven and STILL WARM. Oh. Our. Gawd.
Even though the prices are adding up on your meal already, trust us and order a cup of coffee with your cake. It makes Cara’s cakes 58% better. And they were good to start.
So there you go. Cara’s at Brunwick Place. Charmed, we’re sure.