The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame inducted its fourth class Monday evening, selecting three businesses from outside the state’s two largest restaurant markets. Ed Walker’s Drive-in and Restaurant in Fort Smith, Murry’s Restaurant in Hazen, and Cattleman’s Steak House in Texarkana make up the Hall’s 2020 class. Murry’s and Cattleman’s both won as first-time finalists; Ed Walker’s won in its second year as a finalist. This is the first year that no restaurants in Pulaski County were inducted.
This was a banner year for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, which saw more than 1,400 nominations coming from all 75 counties in the state. Fans nominated more than 100 qualified restaurants for the Hall of Fame. To be eligible for the Hall, a restaurant must have been continuously open for at least 25 years and be locally owned and operated. A panel of judges worked with the Arkansas Department of Heritage to select the 10 finalists.
Ed Walker’s Drive-in and Restaurant opened in 1946 in Fort Smith. The restaurant is well known for its burgers and milkshakes, but it’s also one of the few remaining Arkansas carhop diners still going. You can eat inside, of course, but the real treat comes from the timeless experience of ordering your meal (complete with a cold beer) and having it delivered to your vehicle. Author Kat Robinson accepted the award for Ed Walker’s Drive-in and Restaurant; the family could not make it due to a member having surgery that day.
Murry’s Restaurant in Hazen originally started in DeVall’s Bluff in 1958 housed in a line of railroad passenger cars. The restaurant burned down early on, and Oden Murry and Stanley Young moved it to its current location in Hazen. Young married Murry’s daughter Rebecca and carried on the restaurant after Oden Murry died. Murry’s was recognized by Southern Living as having the best catfish in the South.
“It’s an honor,” said Young. “Out of all the hard years we put into it, seeing now that it was all worth it. We never thought that we would get anything like this. I’m glad I lived long enough to see us get this.”
Cattleman’s Steak House is only just inside the Arkansas state line with Texas and has been serving the Texarkana community for the past 53 years. Cattleman’s is known for its steaks, which owner Joe Oliver has been sourcing locally since the days his father owned the restaurant. On most visits to Cattleman’s, you can find Joe bussing tables and chatting up guests.
“It’s very rewarding to be honored for the hard work you put in,” said Oliver. “My family has been in it for all these years, and my son now is running the restaurant. This is just another reason we keep it going.”
The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame also recognized Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts as its Proprietor of the Year, the International Greek Food Festival as the Food-Themed Event of the Year, Shadden’s Bar-B-Q in Marvell with the Gone But Not Forgotten award, and The Ohio Club for the People’s Choice.
Of note, only Bruno’s Little Italy has been a finalist all four years for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame.
2020 Finalists (winners in bold)
Arkansas Food Hall of Fame
- A.Q. Chicken House in Springdale
- Bruno’s Little Italy in Little Rock
- Cattleman’s Steak House in Texarkana
- Ed Walker’s Drive-in and Restaurant in Fort Smith
- Feltner’s Whatta-Burger in Russelllville
- Kream Kastle in Blytheville
- Murry’s Restaurant in Hazen
- Neal’s Café in Springdale
- The Ohio Club in Hot Springs
- Star of India in Little Rock
Proprietor of the Year
- Capi Peck of Trio’s in Little Rock
- Matt McClure of The Hive in Bentonville
- Peter Brave of Brave New Restaurant in Little Rock
- Sami Lal of Star of India in Little Rock
- Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts (Little Rock, Rogers, Conway)
Food-Themed Event of the Year
- Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival in Warren
- International Greek Food Festival in Little Rock
- Our Lady of the Lake Church’s Annual Spaghetti Dinner in Lake Village
- Tontitown Grape Festival in Tontitown
Gone But Not Forgotten
- Habib’s Café in Helena-West Helena
- Mary Maestri’s Italiano Grillroom in Springdale
- Shadden’s Bar-B-Q in Marvell
People’s Choice Award
- The Ohio Club in Hot Springs
Hall of Fame Inductees (year of induction):
- Burge’s Hickory Smoked Turkeys and Hams (2019)
- Cattleman’s Steak House (2020)
- Craig Brothers Cafe (2019)
- Franke’s Cafeteria (2018)
- Keeney’s Food Market (2019)
- Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (2017)
- Lassis Inn (2017)
- McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant (2018)
- Murry’s Restaurant (2020)
- Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales (2017)
- Venesian Inn (2018)
- Ed Walker’s Drive-in and Restaurant (2020)