July 12, 2010 by wcobserver
By Steve “Fats” Winkler
My Friday night dining companion and I felt adventurous so instead of heading north to Fayetteville for our customary pizza and coke (wine for my companion) we headed south, over Mt. Gaylor to the charming village of Chester, home of the Chester Cafe. Many may know Chester only as an exit off I540 or U.S.71. You have to get off the Big Road for about a mile but the detour is well worth it.
Chester is a third the size of Winslow but the three block row of antique buildings that make up the downtown was vibrating with activity. The Chester Café is on Front Street between the Mercantile (with gas pumps at the sidewalk) and a church where a revival was in session. We parked and went in. It was love at first sight. The sound of clanging dishes and chattering patrons is always a good sign. Plus, I have a fondness for an eatery with a home grown atmosphere. One of the aproned ladies hustling around pointed us to a booth. The cook was visible through the large pass-through window; walls are adorned with old photos of local people. One wall is dedicated to trains. Also displayed is their Culinary Arts 1st Place award for “Best American” in 2007 and “Best Overall” in 2008. The awards are from the Center for Art and Education; The Taste of Crawford County.
I chose the buffet; my companion went for the burger. Neither of us was disappointed. I had heard rumors of a place in Chester with catfish and music on Friday nights. The music, I was told, happened down the road in Mountainburg but they certainly had the catfish. I ate my salad then plated up a few pieces of the famous fried catfish along with a chunk of meatloaf, and of course the chicken and dumplings, then rounded it off with fried okra and some straight-from -the -garden green beans cooked with new potatoes. If you’ve never had the beans and new potato combo (official name unknown) you should. The green beans seem to contribute something unique to the flavor and texture of young potatoes. The burger was the hand made type served fully loaded. Excellent. I’m ashamed to admit that I forget to sample the bread item. I’ll do it twice next time.
While there wasn’t any band for entertainment, the owners and employees more than made up for it. We asked the usual dining guide reporter questions and learned enough to write a couple of feature articles. It’s been a family owned business for eight years headed by Dorothy Pain and Holly Seratt. It’s actually more than a family business. Of those cooking and serving, one was the mayor, one the town secretary and two were city council members. We were warned that they may break into a city council meeting at any moment. What fun. My companion and I spent the next half hour discussing the nature of city politics, public policy, parks, the policeman, the city attorney, and the dogs-running-free issue in a town with a population of 99.
The Chester Café buffet selections may include meatloaf, Salisbury steak, Mexican Chicken and chicken fried steak. Chicken and dumplings are a constant. The Friday night catfish and Sunday fried chicken, all you can eat, buffets are $8. The weekday lunch buffet is $7. They have an extensive sandwich and salad menu as well as dinners. And, yes they have sweet potato fries.
They’re open Sunday thru Friday 11-3 and Friday night 4-8, closed Saturday.
By the way, the menu comes with this: “WARNING: NOT FAST FOOD. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SOMEONE INTERESTING TO TALK TO OR YOU MAY BE FORCED TO GOSSIP WITH ONE OF US!”
Don’t miss this one. Excellent food, good atmosphere and you might meet a new friend at the Chester Café.
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