Three Restaurants Consistently Offer Good Food, Atmosphere, Service
By Rachel Birdsell
TFW Contributing Writer
Today’s review isn’t going to be the typical one restaurant review. Instead, I’m going to write about three Northwest Arkansas institutions that consistently have good food, good atmosphere and good service. I could call it something like the Tried and True Triad — or the Tried and True Trinity if I felt especially biblical, but I’m not really in the mood to name anything today — so you can call it whatever you want. And while you’ve probably visited these three restaurants, there may be a thing or two on the menu you haven’t tried yet.
Food For Thought
I think we all know that if you want a great burger, Hugo’s is the place to go. They offer a variety of burgers cooked to your temp of choice, and they’re always thick, juicy and full of flavor. You can’t beat the Guacamole or Bleu Moon burgers accompanied by a basket of fries. In fact, the fries are so good I think we should all pay homage to them with a National Hugo’s Fries Day. We could have parades and burn effigies of frozen, crinkle-cut fries.
But, Hugo’s isn’t just burgers and fries.
They also offer crepes and chicken salad and quiche — not your typical fare for what’s considered to be a burger joint. The coolest part? The crepes and chicken salad and quiche are really, really good. I especially love the mushroom crepes. Who do you think the first dude was to try eating a fungus, anyway? I think that the elders of the tribe just picked some poor schmuck they didn’t like to be the official tester of unknown foods, and if Ralph died, no biggie because Ralph was a great, big jerk.
If you’d rather have a burrito than a burger, The Flying Burrito Co. can fix you up with a burrito exactly the way you want it. You can also get a quesadilla, rice bowl, taco, nachos or taco salad made exactly the way you want.
All of the ingredients are fresh, and there are 30 of them to choose from. With 30 different things to stick in a tortilla, you shouldn’t have any trouble picking something that will suit your fancy.
If you’re starving, you can try the MOAB, which is the Mother of All Burritos, and it is indeed a huge burrito. If burritos were states, the MOAB would be Texas only it wouldn’t be conceited about being THAT BIG.
One thing on the menu I didn’t know Flying Burrito had was dessert chimichangas. I guess they’re the fried pies of Tex-Mex, and you can choose from apple or cherry — definitely something I’ll try next time I go in.
If you have a hankerin’ for some fried catfish, take a drive out west and get your fill at Catfish Hole. Lest you think that I use the word “hankerin’” on a regular basis, I should clarify that “hankerin’” is reserved for things like fried catfish and banjo music. Lest you think that I really ever get a hankerin’ for banjo music, I should clarify that I don’t. Ever.
But back to the catfish.
At Catfish Hole you can have your catfish fried with bones or without, and you can also get it blackened or seasoned with lemon pepper. But there’s more than catfish. There’s also frog legs, chicken, trout, shrimp and scallops.
Depending on what you order, you’ll receive fries, a baked potato, veggies, green tomato pickles, dill pickle spears and/or hushpuppies. There are days when I think I could just go in for the hush puppies. They aren’t your typical heavy, greasy hush puppies. These are crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. They’re also slightly sweet and are some of the best comfort food I’ve ever tasted.
But the one thing at Catfish Hole that most people probably don’t think to order at a fish place is the steak. It’s been awhile since I’ve tasted their steak, but the last time I did, it was close to being the most tender steak I’ve ever eaten — and I’ve eaten a lot of steak in my life. I’m not sure what they do to it to make it so tender, but you can almost cut it with a fork.
All three restaurants in the Tried and True Trio have great sweet tea.
Atmosphere: The décor at Catfish Hole garners 4.0 whiskered forks. It’s a little too institutional looking for my taste, but where else are you going to experience catfish stained glass? The Flying Burrito comes in second with 4.3 corrugated tin sporks and wins the Best Menu Board award.
Hugo’s is the clear winner with 4.8 vintage, hand-carved sporks. With its basement locale and heavy use of antiques in the décor, Hugo’s is very comfortable and always reminds me of a speakeasy. Not that I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting a speakeasy, but it’s a lot like I’d imagine a speakeasy to be. Minus the bootlegging.
Food: Hugo’s wins again at 4.6 savory sporks that have a slightly smoky taste when you lick them. If a restaurant can produce great burgers and great crepes, they’ve obviously got some good mojo workin’. The Flying Burrito comes in at about a 4.3 foil wrapped sporks shaped like little jalapenos, and the Catfish Hole rates a solid 4.0 cornmeal coated, deep-fried sporks.
Staff: I’ve never had bad service at any of these restaurants. In fact, the service has always been above average. I’m always well attended to, and I’ve never experienced a single grumpy person working at any of the three. They all get 4.8 sporks with smiley faces, rainbows and lollipops on the handles.
Dollars spent: A burrito (with extras) and a drink will set you back about $10 at The Flying Burrito. You’ll spend about the same at Hugo’s for a burger and non-alcoholic drink. The Catfish Hole has offerings that range anywhere from $8.50 for a small catfish plate to market price for the crab or steak.
Chance of returning: I’ve been to all three of these restaurants many times, and I’ll keep going back again and again for some of the best burritos, burgers and catfish in Northwest Arkansas.
If you think I’m missing out on any establishments in Northwest Arkansas, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll check it out and let you know what I think.
Flying Burrito Co.