Southeast Arkansas Recommendation
Tue, 06/3/03 7:18 PM
I highly recommend that anyone traveling through southeast Arkansas with a little time to spare visit The Village strip shopping mall located just off US 425 approx. 5 mi. south of Star City (& then 1 mi. to the west). I'll get to its great eating places in a moment, but first should say this is probably the most unusual shopping center you'll ever visit in that its located out in the country in a pine thicket with all of its businesses being owned by members of the same religious group. Don't fear you are falling into the hands of some far out cult, tho. These are some of the finest people I've ever met & they do not proselytize at all; you have to initiate any conversation concerning their religious beliefs (basically southern Protestant) and then they'll still make no attempt to sell you their religion. It is a real pleasure & current day oddity to shop where people really know their business & are so anxious to serve the customer. It's also pleasant & unusual to shop walking around in a country setting with pleasant breezes, birds singing, beautiful trees and their great fresh smell all around you.The Village has among the, if not the, largest & finest lamp & lighting/electrical supply/contracting firm, jewelry & decorative home items store, and taxidermy shop (with many unusual "critter displays" ) in the state. It also has a large antique store, good bookstore, print-frame-gift shop, upholstery shop, leather shop (specializing in saddle building & repair), china-glass-etc. repair shop, watchmaker, outdoor power equipment sales & repair business, auto & auto body repair shops, pet shop, and live plants & flowers shop (in season). A large furniture store which burned is being rebuilt along with a new custom furniture maker shop. Think that is all but I may have inadvertently overlooked one or two other shops.
Now to the eateries. The Village has several wonderful restaurants & other eating places. The Sweet Shop is an old fashioned soda fountain, sandwich shop, and gift shop, with delicious fattening fountain offerings (I've not tried its sandwiches). The Barbece Shop is The Village's primary "open during the day" restaurant, offering salads, sandwiches, variety of "skillet dinners", and, of course, all sorts of delicious barbecue (if available, its "Scraps Platter" is at least a pound of barbeque scraps and great crispy outside pieces with Texas toast). The Barbecue Shop has recently opened an old fashioned Meat Market. The Bakery offers an extensive variety of all kinds of breads and rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, etc., all made right there, many unique, some old fashioned, and all wonderful. While it is mainly a "take home" business, it does have a few tables where one can enjoy cookies, pasteries, etc. with coffee or soft drinks there in the shop while enjoying the great smells of all the baking in progress. (Evening/dinner restaurants are described below.)
The Village is totally closed on Sundays and Mondays. Most of its retail shops and eateries described above are open 9A to 5P on Tuesdays & Wednesdays (believe The Barbecue Shop is only open 11A - 2P those days), and all the retail shops & above listed eateries are open 9A - 9P on Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays.
The Village's two evening/dinner restaurants are open only on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays from 5PM to 9PM. One of those is The Catfish Restaurant in which I've never eaten but have perused its menu of various catfish and other seafood selections primarily, with some other choices. It offers menu single plates, all you can eat from the menu choices, and carry out dining and does a really big businsses. I've heard it highly recommended. It was the first business established in what is now The Village.
The other The Village evening/dinner restaurant, and to me its piece de resistance, crown jewel of dining, what makes it worth enduring a 90 mile drive home at night through desolate farm lands and river bottoms, is dinner at Layne's Steak House there. Layne's offers Filet Mignon, T-Bone, Rib Eye, Club steaks; various chicken dishes; various seafood (non-catfish) dishes; various & varying specialty dishes; appetizers; a few super sandwiches; great looking desserts (which I've never had room to try); and its star of the show, specialty of the house - smoked prime rib. I love its steaks, but most of the time I have to have the smoked prime rib. It is so flavorful, tender, totally meaty, lacking in fat & gristle that it is defintely the best prime rib I've ever eaten. And if one likes prime rib cooked a little more thoroughly than do most folks (which I do), Layne will cut your serving from the not-so-rare section to begin with and then will throw it on the grill for a few minutes to get it cooked to perfection. My only caveat about ordering the prime rib would be if one dislikes a smoked flavor (not overpowering but certainly distinctive & to me the reason it is so good), he might do better going with a non-smoked steak. All entrees are served with soup or salad, a side of sauteed mushrooms or mushrooms & onions (upon request), and choice of potato or of vegetable of the day, and delicious breads. And the price is hard to beat - small (8 to 10 oz., more than I can eat) prime rib dinner is $13.95; large (16 to 18 oz.) prime rib dinner is $18.95. The various steak dinners are $12.95 and $16.95 for small and large. I just can't praise & recommend Layne's highly enough. The decor is most attractive and the service is superb; its servers are owners and employees of the various The Village retail establishments. While Layne's recently opened a large new dining room (making a total of 5 dining rooms), it's still wise to make reservations, particularly for Fri. & Sat. evenings. While it is only open for dinner Thurs - Sat. evenings, there is usually someone there all day Tues. thru Sat. to take in-person or phone reservations (870-628-5053). Attire is casual, perfect for the shopper or traveler. Layne's has two dining rooms available for private parties during regular hours and will, if at all possible, open on days and at times other than its regular hours for lunches or dinners for private groups of 20 or more if arrangements are made in advance.
For the traveler, while a new motel is under construction in Star City, plenty good motels are now available in Monticello 25 mi. to the south or in Pine Bluff 30 mi. to the north. Star City is a small county seat town in a timbering, farming, hunting, fishing area with a fine new state park a few miles to the east.
I apologize for the length of this posting, but I'm just so enthralled with The Villlage as a shopping or outing destination and with all of its eating establishments, particularly Layne's, guess I just get carried away. And believe me, I have no interest in/connnection with the place in any regard other than as a most satisfied customer who wants to share the uniqueness & joy of a visit there with others. I hope others won't make the mistake I did of hearing of The Village for years but only first visiting there two years ago. Now I can't get there often enough (about 4 times a year and wish it could be more frequently). Hope a number of you have opportunity to enjoy The Village, its unique location and environment, its great shops, its wonderful people & the quality of their service, and the great dining experiences available there. Everyone have a good summer and all kinds of great dining adventures.